Passion Projects in Middle School Language Arts

Middle school students have solidified topics and research questions for our Passion Project Unit, which allows students to cultivate research skills while exploring their topics of choice. The week began at The Library Center, where students checked out books that somehow connect to their chosen topics. The goal was less about source acquisition and more about engagement, so students could choose any text, even novels that touch on their topics. Mr. Joe, one of the library staff members, delivered a helpful demo to seventh and eighth graders on using databases like GALE and EBSCO to acquire credible online sources. Greene County students can use their library card numbers to access these resources even when they are not physically at the library. I provided a similar demonstration to sixth graders on Thursday, so they, too, know how to find database sources.

Next, we learned the art of concept mapping–that is, intentionally brainstorming an array of diverse questions that cover the scope of a chosen topic. After, students narrowed to ten, intentionally worded research questions. They focused on varying not only content but question structure (who, what, when, where, why, etc.). On Thursday, students practiced professional email etiquette by emailing a teacher whose subject area connects with their topic of choice. These student-teacher partnerships could help generate ideas that students can use to drive their research.

Although this unit is primarily about the process of research, students will eventually have the opportunity to teach their peers about their passions. Parents and guardians, I invite you to strike up a conversation with your student about his or her topic. It has been refreshing for me to see how excited they are to learn about their individual interests.