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Passion is the New Focus

Students should spend their time and energy exploring their passions via content and projects (both individually and collaboratively)

Photo of Connor Vande Wege

Written by

I am a.....

  • Founder

Tell us about your idea

Students would focus on (1) what am I passionate about (2) how can I pursue that passion and as a result, learn more about it and meet people who share that passion.  The teacher would give the students a few resources to consume content that addresses what different people do, what jobs are, and what subjects exist.  Then based on quick survey questions (ex - scale of 1 to 10 how much did you enjoy this subject) the teacher can schedule time to talk with student about their passions.  After conversation the teacher and student are aligned on passion of student and they determine projects the student can do to either expand/explore a new passion or strengthen/master an existing passion.  

This will keep students engaged

This will not require testing (not an enforceable action right now yet the most important ability to the current education system which main focus is test-taking)

This will reduce student anxiety by giving them something to do which is meaningful

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Class time is 100% dedicated to lecture or in-the-classroom activities. We should technology to connect students to people and social events going on out-side-the-classroom. The classroom is limited to teacher and school resources. If we open up kids will gain exposure to insight and inspiration that will help them be better students, people and one day, workers.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

I have been working on an idea to help kids find or create jobs that are aligned with their passion so that they can have "work" (something you do because you enjoy doing it and pays you money to live) versus "job" (something you do because it pays you money to live).  In order to do that kids need to know what they are passionate about and since school doesn't dedicate time to that and parents tend to focus on grades (so they can go to college) or working jobs to be able to put food on the table, passions are not a priority or possibility.  I am working with students now to help them discover and utilize their passions through the company I founded (Sity).  The idea I suggested is one of four ideas my company is working on and I felt it is most aligned with challenge.

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

I was living in San Francisco but since COVID-19, I was let go from work and not able to afford my lifestyle. So I moved in with my parents (Concord, CA) and decided to go full-time with my business idea since it is uniquely positioned to help students in this current pandemic and no companies are hiring at this point. I am involved in Bay Area Education Non-profits for Education due to my work with Full Circle Fund. The last organization I worked with was Tandem and Urban Ed Academy.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Karen Sorensen

Hi Connor-- I believe in passion based learning also, but the problem with that is passion is unique, its individualized. How would you determine the students passion? What age group are you looking at? Recently, I working with a group of autistic middle-school students in a math class in South San Jose. The teacher had a project based assignment where they could take their passion, make a product, and show how that related to math. The overall class struggled with this assignment, first since they had only been spoon feed assignments through presentation, worksheets, exit tickets, and assessments, they could not creatively think what they were passionate about as a collective. They could not see the link between math and what they were trying to create. It was hard for them to focus on even pitching there idea. The teacher had to put the project on hold because the class was just not ready to explore their passions through the lens of math. This group that I worked individually with was the only one that dug right into it. Loved it, knew right away what they wanted to do, since they had the ability to obsess about something. One of the students obsessed with making little tiny drawings of people, we created a animation with those drawings. The other worked as a group and where obsessed with transportation, and made a complete tank. When starting a business you should look at niche markets maybe the route of Special Education for Autism and passion-based learning might be something to consider. These parents are willing to pay. Also, there is a new edtech company that recently got funded called Primer, its using passion based learning for homeschooling market. They are looking for employees, Best of luck and may the passion be with you--Karen

Photo of Connor Vande Wege

Hi Karen! Thank you for reaching out and sharing your experience with me.

I would love to follow up and hear more about your experience in education. You bring up a very interesting scenario that I have not been exposed to before or considered. I love that! I will do my best to answer your question through the lens of a generalized approach.

(1) The age range I focus on is 10 years (4-5th graders) and older. My experience and research show 10-year-olds are able to determine "I like this" (want to do more) and "I don't like this" (no more for now). So I suggest starting there and working with all kids their age and older. Starting as young as possible is key to give times to trial and error explore before they are asked to make major decisions like major, internship and job.

(2) I am still developing "best practices" for determining a student's passion but this is what I have thus far. You expose kids to many different types of passions (subjects and activities) and professionals (people who do their passion at the highest level - science, art, business, government). If they like it then they do more and if they don't then they stop or do less. I am creating ways to measure this in a deep way and can get into details if you want. But the concept is you let the students follow their intrinsic motivation which is the best compass. As you said, many kids do not know what they are passionate about so they can not be asked once and expected to know. I wouldn't pair a class subject with a passion at first (if ever). First kids need to know what they are passionate about. then once they know they should pair it with other things they may be passionate about. After that happens I would ask them to find ways to apply/combine their passion with the course material they are required to take. The one subject that I believe to be the exception is History and the way I would apply it to make it an exception is to have the student learn about the history of the thing they are passionate about.

What do you think? What do you agree with and disagree with? What would you change or add to?


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