Tailoring Your Lessons For Passionate Learning

 

“The goals of passion-driven education is to preserve and perpetuate the senses of awe and excitement all young children inherently have, fuelling a lifelong love of learning.”

Connor Boyack in his book Passion-Driven Education (p. 128)

 

Children are naturally curious! Alternatively, the world is full of learning opportunities and puzzles to be solved (Griffith, 1998). This means that children usually have personal interests that they are exploring and questions that they are inquiring about.

Children might lose their curiosity as they grow if they are not provided with stimulating opportunities to explore their passions and interests. While some known figures (Bill Gates, Steven Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg) have pursued their passion in their personal time, others (Walt Disney and Henry Ford) left the modern education systems to focus on their passions (Boyack, 2016). Albert Einstein says “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

 

Does one’s passion need to be pursued beyond school time?

 

Pursuing one’s passion does not need to be separate from the school learning program. A child’s interest is not a useless distraction, as explained by Boyack (2016). In fact, Boyack explains that “a successful method of education must incorporate a child’s interests” (2016, p. 124).

The BC curriculum allows for a large extent of flexibility when it comes to planning a lesson or a unit. Based on the big ideas, content and curricular competencies, teachers could creatively craft their lessons based on the students’ interests allowing for a more personalised learning experience.

Additionally, with more time spent at home amidst remote learning, students have more time to experiment and explore topics of their own interest in their personal space and time.

Also, more age-mixing occurs at home with people of a broader age spectrum (siblings, parents, relatives and acquaintances) thus learning within the zone of proximal development occurs as students interact with individuals that have knowledge and skills beyond themselves.

Connor Boyack explains in his book Passion Driven Education: How to Use Your Child Interests to Ignite a Life Long Love of Learning how he managed to foster his son’s passion for Angry Birds by relating different subject areas to it.

He also provides several examples in his book of how a child’s interest could be tackled through various subjects, allowing the student to learn about it interdisciplinarily. Two examples are described below:

1. Animals
A passion for animals could be stimulated through:

  • History: list of extinct species and the cause of their demise, study the predator/prey relationship to discuss the dominance of weak nations by powerful nations
  • Languages: write a journal of family pet (behaviors, habits, physical activities), volunteer at the zoo and write a blog, write a story of world dominated by animals
  • Science: explore binomial nomenclature, dissect a frog, explore how animals adapt to the environment
  • Math: calculate statistics of population of animals in different countries, estimate counting animals in a video or real life
  • Art & Creativity: create animal sock puppets, woodwork to build a birdhouse, design obstacles for a family pet

2.Cooking:
A passion for cooking could be stimulated through:

  • History: explore how diets have changed over time, how people harvested & preserved food in the past, and how pilgrims cooked while on the move, review wars by studying diets of soldiers
  • Languages: read and write; recipe cards, blogs, shopping list, food journals with daily intakes
  • Math: utilize units of measure, calculate the cost of meal, cut food into various shapes (geometry), plan for a week’s food and calculate the money
  • Science: study the effect of temperature and humidity on food, study chemical reactions that affect food, study recent inventions used to increase shelf life of food, introduce kingdoms of life
  • Art/creativity: possible activities include best dessert decoration, most colourful salad, fancy meal invitation, painting using juices.

 

 

What might teachers do in the classroom?

 

Class activities and projects could be based on students’ interests (e.g., horses, cooking, animals, car, cartoon characters) or a contextually- relevant social problem.

Let’s imagine a student or a group of Grade 4 students interested in ‘gardening’. How could we possibly integrate their interest in several subjects allowing them to pursue their passions in depth within the realm of school curriculum?

First, explore the curriculum for that grade. Use this interesting search tool to view the big ideas, content and core competencies for subjects of interest in the BC curriculum.

Looking at the subjects (social studies, math and science) with ‘gardening’ in mind, several opportunities for fostering this passion emerge!

Social studies: in relation to the history of the local community and of local First Peoples communities, students could explore how farming and gardening have changed over time and how food and medicine gardening continues to be a culturally relevant practice.

Mathematics: students could explore their backyard garden or visit a nearby garden, and count different species of trees, compare fractions, and hypothesise the number of a certain species in the larger park (maybe through counting species in a smaller group then estimating that figure through multiplying and dividing, exploring the perimeter of regular and irregular shapes, exploring polygons, exploring increasing and decreasing  patterns pf flowers or trees.

Science: students could explore how plants respond to light, touch, water and gravity; or local changes caused by Earth’s axis, rotation and orbit, specifically how plants respond to the seasons (e.g., dropping leaves).

 

Similarly, if another student is interested in ‘cooking’, possible suggestions for these subjects include:

Social Studies: students could explore the history and changes in meal preps in local communities and local First Peoples communities, and to what extent the change in meals has been impacted by colonisation of First Peoples societies.

Mathematics: students could calculate recipes for hypothetical large dinner preparations, could design patterns in meals, calculate the probability of a certain pizza ingredient/vegetable not being present in a slice, or explore perimeter of irregular shapes such as bagels or pretzels.

Science: students could explore the forms of energy involved throughout cooking (thermal, chemical…), energy transformation that occurs through cooking, effects of temperature on particle movement, the importance of senses and responses in the kitchen, phases of matter included in the kitchen, and the effect of temperature on particle movement

An example of how an interdisciplinary unit for secondary school students could be prepared is available here.

Guest Post: Nashwa Khedr, EDCP graduate student, project assistant 2020

 

References

Boyack , Connor. (2016) Passion Driven Education: How to Use Your Child Interests to Ignite a Life Long Love of Learning. Libertas Press.

Griffith, M. (1998). The Unschooling Handbook: How to use the whole world as your child’s classroom. Crown Publishing Group.

Rosen, M. (2014). Good Ideas: How to be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher. John Murray (Publishers).

 

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