At the Center for Teaching & Learning, every student engages in what is called Passion Project. This time each week, selected by the classroom teacher, allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school.
Passion Project was inspired by the search-engine giant, Google, who allows it’s engineers to spend 20% of their time to work on any pet project that they want. The idea is very simple. Allow people to work on something that interests them, and productivity will go up. Google’s policy has worked so well that it has been said that 50% of Google’s projects have been created during this creative time period. Ever heard of Gmail or Google News? These projects are creations by passionate developers that blossomed from their their 20-time projects.
Passion Project was also inspired by the book Drive by best-selling author, Daniel Pink. In a blog post he writes about how the Google-time projects are also used in other corporations, sometimes referred to as "Genius Hour." Each week, employees can take 60 minutes to work on new ideas or master new skills. They’ve used that precious sliver of autonomy well, coming up with a range of innovations including training tools for other branches.
These same principles apply in the CTL classroom environment. The teacher provides a set amount of time for the students to work on their passion projects. Students are then challenged to explore something to do a project over that they want to learn about. They spend several weeks researching the topic before they start creating a product that will be shared with the class/school/world. Deadlines are limited and creativity is encouraged. Throughout the process the teacher facilitates the student projects to ensure that they are on task.