This time last year, my students took the stage to talk about their yearlong Passion-Based Learning assignment: the Be About It project. In just a few weeks, some of those students will hit the stage to talk about their projects again, only this time it will be at ISTE and I’ll get to share the stage with them! Alanis reflected on her Be About It project experience for me last year and as we prepare for ISTE, I’ve asked her to do it again. From her fingers to your eyes, the importance of Passion-Based Learning:
I’ve forgotten most of the things that I learned last year. All those late nights of studying and memorizing pretty much went out the window. I probably couldn’t solve a piecewise function if my life depended on it. But the one thing I did remember from last year was the Be About It Project (BAI). The BAI was a project where we could do anything we wanted. We had no limits, no rules, and most importantly, no step-by-step direction. All we had was the end goal of producing something. Looking back, it was pretty intimidating. As an honors kid, everything in school has always been mapped out by very detailed and precise directions. Before this project, I was never given this type of absolute freedom. Now, I find myself thinking outside the box with projects. I search for loopholes in the directions in the hopes of making the project a more accurate reflection of me. Constantly, I am trying to find new ways to approach assignments that have most likely been given out for years. Some teachers love this creativity while others…well the others are not the biggest fans. But they’ll eventually come around.
My personal BAI was writing a short story and sending it out to free, online publishers. My short story, The Final Sunset, had received Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Editors Choice by Teen Ink magazine at the time of the project. I was completely content with that, seeing that it was the first story I had ever released to the public. But in November I received an email from Teen Ink with the subject line of “Congratulations!”. I opened it to find that they decided to publish my story in their print magazine! My little story was now being blasted to hundreds of schools and subscribers alike. Currently, the online version of the story has over 1,050 views.
I haven’t really stopped writing since the BAI. The project helped me to realize that writing is my one true passion. While I love drawing and graphic design, my heart belongs to the pen. Teen Ink recently awarded me with a VIP membership, which is only given to writers who provide them with consistently great pieces. My poem “third period physics” was also given the title of Editors Choice last month by the magazine. Stepping away from Teen Ink, I had won my town’s local VFW essay contest and placed third in Ocean County with it. I am also working on a chapter book of poetry, which will be completed by the beginning of July. It is around 21 pages and consists of over 15 poems. Hopefully, I’ll be chosen to have it published for free through Button Poetry’s annual publishing contest.
A year later, the BAI still proves to be the most influential project of my high school career. It helped me realize that writing is the thing that I want to do for the rest of my life. Without this project, I might be looking into law schools, getting ready to waste thousands of dollars on a degree that I am not passionate about. To any teachers who are considering doing a Be About It Project or something similar: please do it. We students need to learn how to think for ourselves and find out who we are. Giving us numbered lists and directions will not help us to achieve that. Passion-Based Learning like the BAI is more than a project, it’s a life experience.