Inspired by Google Corporation’s initiative to inspire creativity where employees are given 20% of their workweek over to inspiration, the Sandy Creek 12th grade English department decided to provide a similar opportunity for its students.
The 20-time project allows students 20% of their class time to work on and explore one topic of their choice.
Students pitched their ideas to a committee for approval earlier in the year and spent time researching and working on their projects throughout the remainder of the year.
The topics were far-ranging, from creating a youth basketball league for young girls to help get youth involved to help support to coding and developing a website focused on origami and much more.
Thirty-six students enrolled in the 12th grade English class participated in the program.
Teachers Shelbie Pelton and Sheena Cornell, used a guided discovery approach to learning and encouraged students to choose a project based on their own personal interests.
Time to work on their projects was set up every Friday during class, but many students found such passion for their project they spent time outside of the classroom working on it.
As the students continued their work, they were asked to blog weekly about their progress including what roadblocks they may have faced and what successes they had obtained.
This communication allowed the teachers to track student projects and provide a support network for the students.
The blogging also allowed for feedback from fellow students, industry professionals and teachers.
Jamie Washburn and Mikayla Belaus, varsity basketball players on the Sandy Creek team with six graduating seniors, were inspired to jump start interest in their sport among young girls in the district by organizing and coordinating a girls’ youth basketball program.
They worked together to raise money, secure gym space, buy T-shirts and basketballs for the participants, schedule, advertise, plan and develop the instruction for the different grade and skill levels of the girls in the program.
Their youth basketball program had 35 participants.
McKenna Guarasce turned her love of reading and books into a project that evolved into a website that featured a wide range of book-inspired options such as tattoos, T-shirts, discussion forums and reader reviews aimed at teen readers.
Her involvement in the project ignited a passion for the topic that she was inspired her to change her career path to library science.
Guarasce also reached out to authors and others in the publishing industry as mentors for her project.
She also inspired others around her who noted the passion with which she tackled her project and her love of books which in turn inspired others to begin reading.
Some projects began as one thing but evolved into others such as the project undertaken by Skylynn Salzmann.
Her original idea was to make a movie, but worried that the undertaking was too large so she narrowed her focus to special effects makeup.
Like Guarasce, she reached out to professionals in the field, sharing some photos of her work.
Through her network of contacts, she secured an internship with a director where she will be the second makeup artist on a Zombie movie being filmed this summer.
The students presented their projects to the school in a TED (technology, entertainment, design) format and submitted to the teachers an annotative bibliography.
The project, according to the teachers and the students, allowed them to take ownership of their own education and provided them an opportunity for self-educating, an important skill in preparing for college.
For the teachers, it was a very rewarding experience as they watched the students grow and develop a passion for their project, calling it the “proudest moment in my teaching career.”