What’s your Awesome? Passion Project: The First 2 Weeks

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    –  Heidi Yamada's (left) 4th grade students do Internet research on Chromebooks with Technology Coach Theresa Fox (right). –


    This fall, Heidi Yamada's 4th grade class is using Google Chromebooks to bring technology to her student-driven Passion Projects at Laurel Elementary in California. She writes a regular updates for students' parents to keep them in the loop, and to give them a glimpse into classroom activity. From now until December, we'll share Mrs. Yamada's updates so you can follow their progress, and get insights into the challenges and rewards of using technology in the classroom. We hope you'll enjoy seeing these Passion Projects develop on Intel Engage, and in the Intel Engage Newsletter.

    “Create something that will make the world awesome!” (from Kid president’s “Pep Talk”) is Laurel’s 4th grade goal for Deep Dive this trimester. Our Deep Dive time happens in our classroom for 50 minutes twice a week. During this time, students research and complete Passion Projects: an inquiry project based on their passions.

    The topic they choose to does not have to be tied to the grade level content, because so much of what they do fits the curriculum.They will be learning research skills, refining their organizational skills, reading nonfiction articles, developing questions, writing, preparing a project and then presenting their work to make a change.  This change can be as big as saving the endangered Red Panda, or something personal like discovering ways to eat healthier.  Most importantly, their passion for their ideas will drive their own learning. -No teacher needed!

    We began our journey with a little “Pep Talk” from Kid president. We talked about what might be “your awesome?”  We then went into the structure of how our Deep Dive time will be used by watching “Genius hour for kids.” Each student was given time to think about what they really care and wonder about. They wrote their passions on sticky notes and we collected them on a poster to be shared and to inspire all of the 4th grade students. Each color represents a different class. For students who were not sure of their passions, we also made a “Things I wonder about” poster. We realized that sometimes things you wonder about can lead to great passions and can change the world!


    – Students explored their interests, and potential Passion Project topics, using sticky notes and butcher paper. –

    Students then honed their passions down to three to five ideas. Students who had decided on their passion, thought of backup interests just in case their idea didn’t take them on the path they had hoped for. From there, students wrote about why they chose their subject and created an essential question that would drive the research. We defined essential questions as meaty, researchable and possibly life changing. The students thought of questions that could change their own lives, add depth to others, or impact the world! As long as they cared about their topic, it was game!

    We have just logged into our Chromebooks and then into Google Classroom where “Deep Dive” Passion Projects 2.0 is being housed for the next time we meet. We look forward to the research, digital citizenship, and using Design Thinking to decide on a medium to present our work to the public. The journey will be tough at times, but we will always remember what Albert Einstein said about great ideas coming to life and that it takes, “One percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” We are ready to sweat!!


    Learn more about Mrs Yamada's classroom in Tech in Education Profiles: Laurel Elementary School.