Let them loose! What’s the worst that could happen?

The fourth grade team at our school recently started a project that really embodies the ideas about “messing around” that are presented in Living With New Media. They call it Maracuja because it’s Portuguese for Passionfruit and the kids are given Wednesday afternoons to mess around with topics that they are passionate about. Clever, right?

Brazilians find other ways to get creative with passionfruit

While not all students are passionate about messing around with technology, it seems that many of them are and the freedom to create anything they want excites them. Learning about websites, coding or photoshop are all the more engaging for these students when they are given time and opportunity to create (and the pressure of grading is off). You can really see how their passion time works right up at the top of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, with the higher order thinking skills being activated.

I will work on finding some examples of their projects to share…

Back to the Living With New Media book (and the neat video that hits the big ideas of what we are reading) I can’t help but think about a short film that I saw a few months ago while I was doing some of my own hanging/messing around. The film is titled “Noah” and it gives us an insight into 17 minutes of the life of teenager that clearly spends quite a lot of time connecting with others online. The film reminded of the book for a couple of reasons:

  1. We see what Hanging Out (more so than Messing Around) might sometimes look like for our high school students. It’s an honest glimpse into the bedroom of a teenage boy so it’s no surprise that some of it is NSFW (not suitable for work)
  2. We can see how a couple of young film makers did some of their own geeking out to produce this creative film.

Find yourself 17 minutes and check out the video and accompanying story. Again, you are putting yourself into the life of a teenage boy so consider yourself warned!


7 comments to “Let them loose! What’s the worst that could happen?”
7 comments to “Let them loose! What’s the worst that could happen?”
  1. Thanks for sharing the “Noah” video. I hadn’t seen it before and it’s a great look at “continuous partial attention” that afflicts people (all people, not just teens) these days!

    I look forward to seeing some examples of the passion projects that students at your school start working on. Are you implementing this idea in your classroom as well?

    • Am I implementing this idea in my classroom? No. Am I fully aware that I should be? Yes.

      My seniors are in IB internal assessment hell (their words) but I really could be giving this a good go in 9th grade. I’m a little bit limited with freedom as there are other sections taught by other teachers and our assignments need to be somewhat aligned. Excuses, excuses. I’m working on it. They are working through a pretty open statistics project (think Maths Studies Project), which is already a big leap for what my students are used to in a maths classroom. Perhaps the next task could be a passion project?

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Yes, it is clever. It is very strong of you to let your students mess around with topics of their own and have yourself step out. Some of us feel like that kind of activity is a waste of time and that it is going to take time off of important classroom lesson time that we designed for the kids.
    I noticed that when it comes to computer games and messing around with them, we teachers assume that every student loves it. It is interesting that you mentioned that some of your students were not passionate about it. May be they are more passionate about messing around with dust, books, toys, insects…

    The exciting thing about going on computers for kids is the fact the they are free, self-directed decisions are made and knowing that they are not being graded for it. Who doesn’t love freedom and be in control of the game?

  3. Thanks for sharing “Noah” with us all Ange. Like Clint, I hadn’t seen this before either – and I’m glad I have (I’m the proud parent of a 12 year old boy ……..)

    Looking forward to seeing some of the projects you are doing with your students – a school I recently worked at, had a passion day and the passions were very interesting and broad to say the least. I’m not sure just how successful the day was in terms of “geeking” out and I’m not sure just how authentic the “passion choices” really were for the students. I’m still filtering through all of the insights and information from the students and the teachers who took part.

    • I recently connected with a maths teacher (also in Brazil) who has been working on Passion Projects in his maths classes for the last few years. We had a good conversation via skype and we will have a face-to-face next month when he visits our school for the AASSA conference. I am also interested to hear about how much geeking out really happens. Maybe you need to just take a risk and get it started with the hope that over time the students start to do the same? I know that the first time we had tenth grade students embark on the MYP Personal Project there were some questionable choices. But give it a couple of years and the students start to see that the sky might just be the limit.

  4. Thanks for sharing that video. I watched 9 minutes of it…and I think I got enough of the drift…

    Social Media is an extension of whatever is going on with an individual. Teenage years are so emotional, insecure, and full of angst. You can see that all pouring out in the video. The turmoil is amplified because the chaos is more public than it ever was before. Every little mistake is recorded and shared.

    Having a strong family and their love and support goes a long way in helping teens cope with the turmoil. If we can keep the communication channels open and the conversation going… it’s doesn’t have to be so negative.

    I’m a Mom of a 12 year old and a 14 year old boy. This encourages me to keep on pressing on, talking, teaching, and supporting.

    Thank you for sharing that video.


  5. I love these passion project, genius hour ideas, or whatever it is we want to label this free time allowed for exploration. My students are also so excited about it. I love the teen video. Talk about multi-tasking skills. Wow. You brought up a really good point about the freedom and giving the students time. I think this is so critical, because so often, they are looking for an exact end result or a grade, etc. Never free to just let the creativity flow at it’s own pace. I feel really lucky that I am allowed to allow my students the time to do this. Can’t wait to see how it pans out in the classroom and what comes from it.

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