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Anything? Really! Student Choice and Voice in Inquiry

When I first describe our #HavPassion research project to students, I get this quizzical look. "I can research anything? Really?" Really!

For the last eight weeks, my tenth grade students have delved into the origins of the word passion, explored what it means to have grit and persevere through initial stumbles and failures, and ultimately share their passion with readers and audiences outside of the classroom.

Today after school, I listened in as Skylar interviewed someone form the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education in order to learn about how one gets into this field of study. Earlier in the day, TJ pulled up curriculum outlines for computer programming language courses and computer science classes taught at a high school in Washington. He mentioned that he was going to try contacting a principal from the school to help with his current research. He thought he was just going to be building a computer from scratch (which he did), but then he asked the question, "Why don't students have the opportunity to do this is school?" So this weekend, he put together a course proposal and research curriculum guidelines and state teaching regulations which he plans to share with our principal and hopefully the school board. Jillian connected with Duckworth Labs and with professors to learn more about growth mindset and its impact on student success in the classroom. Juliet was excited when her free book arrived after she connected with Ed Lebetikin, store owner and teacher at The Woodwright's School (if you are a fan of PBS, you might be familiar with this show). We tweeted best-selling author of Born to Run and running advocate Christopher McDougall when Abigail started to research how to prevent running injuries. He's making a visit to our school next month! Students have been taking cake decorating classes, shadowing landscape business owners, composing scores for orchestration, conducting and teaching middle school band students, and so much more. And all the while students have been blogging, sharing their research and their reflections with students both around the country, as well as those around the block.

As my tenth graders selected their topics and looked for mentor texts and experts to interview, we also connected with fifth grade students in our district completing a very similar inquiry project. Using Google Hangouts, elementary library Christina Brennan and I connected our students, encouraged them to share their inquiry interests, and then we connected our learners further using collaborative Google docs.  My high schools students read through her students' initial questions and research findings and commented back to the fifth grade students, sharing research strategies and connections. My students moved from finding mentors to being mentors.

We have come to our final week for our #HavPassion inquiry projects. When I shared this with students on Monday, I had groans. But they were not groans complaining about having a week to work on research. Instead, they were groans hoping for more time. Students want to do more, read more, blog more, connect more. Now they are saying, "We can research anything! Really!"

Next weekend, some of my students will be joining Christina and me as we present at EduCon on the mentorship relationship forged between our two groups of students. My students aren't being graded for their presentations. In fact, they are joining me after our class together has come to a close. But this is what passion-based learning inspires. Student and teachers building a community of learning that extends well beyond our physical classrooms and beyond the boundaries of one particular class.

Cross posted at jenniferward.org

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