Sunday, March 23, 2014

Passion Taking Root

Digging into a Passion

Last summer at EdCon 2013, one of the more interesting ideas floated by students was the concept of students creating their own electives.  Roughly based on Google's "20% time", it would allow students to create a course of study built around their own areas of passion.  The administrators in attendance were genuinely excited about this idea, and Sandra McGonagle at Blach wasted no time in putting this in place.  (Think about the timing for a moment- EdCon was held after the end of classes for the 2012-13 school year, yet in the fall of 2013, Sandra and her staff managed to get this up and running.  That in itself is impressive!)

So what has come from this?  Well, let's take a look at one student, Michael B. is an 8th grader at Blach who happens to be interested in botany.  Michael has been using his independent elective to explore this passion in greater depth.  Recently, he sent out a note via the weekly Blach newsletter to collect materials and build a living wall (a wall covered with plants.)  He wants to install it at Blach. Here's Michael's mock-up that he used in the approval process: 

Recently Michael and his parents visited the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco.  Apparently Michael has some admirers there as well.  Michael engaged in a discussion with some botanists there, and shared his website (Michael's Blog) with them.  They were so impressed that Michael will be interning in the Highland Tropics Gallery this summer, working directly for the botanist in charge of the gallery.  

It might be easy to think that Michael is just a "plant guy"- but he's not.  I'm told that he is involved in numerous school activities including the math team and yearbook.  As a parent of two teens, I already have tremendous respect for an 8th grader who puts together the effort and organization needed to complete this project.  For Michael to complete this project, while still remaining deeply involved in his other school activities (math team, yearbook co-editor, etc.)- well, that's an impressive young man.  

I'm thrilled that we've played some part in facilitating his deeper dive into a subject that holds his interest.  I'm thrilled when I see things like this in our schools.  This is what education is supposed to be about - inspiring students to go beyond the classroom, and learn even more.   If you ask Sandra about this, she'll undoubtedly be modest in her reply, but this is exactly what make LASD such an exciting place- our staff, our parents, and our students all work together to help each child explore their passion.  Well done, everyone!