Encouraging Student Passions with DK Books

From fly tying and whips to architecture and Lego, passion projects don’t just provide educational value, they fuel students to take control of their education.

Passion Projects, or how we have come to refer to the independent study projects that my children have pursued over the years, are an excellent opportunity for middle and high school students to invest in themselves.

Encouraging Student Passions with DK Books @EvaVarga.net Many thanks to DK Publishing for providing these books to us for review. Please see my full Disclosure Policy for more details.

Passion Projects build a sense of ownership, improve communication skills, help develop research skills, and encourage entrepreneurship. It is not unusual for children to also have a variety of interests.

My son, for example, is passionate about Lego, Minecraft, aeronautics (as well as container ships and trains), and music. Some weeks he will devote his leisure time solely to music theory and composition. The following week, he’ll move on to Lego and spend hours building models and redesigning his Lego city.

This summer, I wanted to find a book for each of my children that not only complemented their interests but also really inspired them to take their passion projects to the next level. DK Books provides a wonderful selection of books providing inspiration to middle and high school students.

Lego Architecture: The Visual Guide

For my son, I selected LEGO Architecture: the Visual Guide by Philip Wilkinson. The book comes in an extremely durable slipcover with glossy matte finish and Lego artwork.

Each of the twenty-two offerings in the Lego Architecture line get their own section. Each also includes interesting information about the design and  many photographs of the complete piece, each from different angles. Footnotes provide additional tidbits about the design process.

You also get photos of the real architectural structure the Lego set was patterned after. There is a side by side comparison of the real thing with the Lego version, and also a history of the building and its chief designer(s).

My son has poured over this book for hours on multiple occasions. He shared, “Mom, this book is really cool. It helps me get an idea for how I want to design my Lego city buildings.”

Sketch Book for the Artist

For my daughter, I selected Sketch Book for the Artist by Sarah Simblet. My daughter has always been interested in art and in recent months has devoted considerable time to improving her drawing skills. She has watched video tutorials on YouTube, taken online illustration classes, and worked diligently in her own sketch books.

She has been delighted with Sketch Book for the Artist. The book shows many of the author’s works and is also beautifully illustrated with inspirational and exemplary works by significant artists from the Reniassance to the current era.

A variety of mediums including pencil (graphite), pen and ink, chalk, etc. are well represented. The reproductions are great and help create new ideas and directions. The author also gives tips as well as suggested exercises for improving your own skills.

Encouraging Student Passions with DK Books @EvaVarga.netGetting Started

Passion Projects work well in a public or private school classroom as well. Here, students are asked to complete a mini-research project on the topic of their choice and are given an hour each school day to work on their projects. This hour is sometimes referred to as the Genius Hour. Because the topics are selected by the students, they truly enjoy the research process and presenting their findings.

Getting started is easy. Ask your children or students about the passions they already have:

  • What do you want to know more about or learn how to do?
  • How does that passion inspire you when things are tough?
  • In what ways can your passion inspire others? Who do you want to help?
  • Can you be inspired to learn more about another’s passion?

Encouraging Student Passions with DK Books

Whatever topic your child chooses to pursue, you’ll surely find resources and books from DK Publishing. Whether their interests are related to art, cooking, or super heroes, you’ll surely find something for everyone.

Independent Study Projects: Learning Science While Exploring Interests

Science is about learning and solving problems. Ask a question, research, collect data, analyze the data, and communicate the results. As students engage in independent study projects, they are doing exactly that.

There is no limit to what types of projects students can explore. Students can choose to write original music, design a hybrid car, create lessons to teach others computer programing or coding, knit a sweater, research how other cultures define beauty, and more.

independentstudyEven my daughter, who in the past has chosen fly tying as her independent project. Along the way, she found instructional books or videos, followed instructions, made mistakes, diagnosed the problem, and tried again. These strategies are the cornerstone of science.

By giving students time to learn what they want to learn, you give them a chance to experience what adults are expected to do every day at the workplace or at home. They discover that learning for the sake of learning is a wonderful experience that should be enjoyed as they head out into the real world.

These real-life learning experiences give students (and teachers) the time they need to be innovative, and it makes learning as enjoyable as it should be.

Where Do We Start?

Ask students what they would like to learn about. Some students may be overwhelmed with possibilities and take a few weeks to decide. Others will change their minds after a little research. But with guidance and encouragement, students can identify a topic that interests them.

Once they’ve chosen their topic, students then set a goal, make a plan, and choose a method of documenting their plan, research, and progress. Some will blog or keep a notebook, while others prefer to track their progress with a Pages or Word document.

How Do We Stay Focused?

To assure students stay focused, a few simple rules can help:

  • Your project must involve new learning
  • Your project must be safe
  • You should be able work on your project at least once each week
  • You should document learning while working on your project
  • You should plan to spend the whole year working on your project
  • You will give two presentations on your project – one at the end of each semester

passionprojectIn our homeschool, we set aside time each Friday for independent study projects. However, they often work on their projects throughout the week. At times, it is even difficult to pull my son away from his projects to get other tasks completed. I can’t blame him. Who wants to take out the trash when you are focused on weaving a 12-plaited paracord bullwhip ?! {click the link to watch a video}

We also provide the kids with an opportunity to share with us the progress they are making during our monthly Family Five Share. They are expected to share examples in at least five areas: reading, writing, handcraft, music, and memory work.

Build Life Long Skills

Independent study projects also provide students with opportunities to connect with others – to learn from their peers and from adult mentors. Through my daughter’s interest in fly tying, she developed relationships with other fly tiers who took her under their wing (pun intended).

In some circles, independent study projects are referred to as The Passion Project or Genius Hour. Google allows it’s engineers to spend 20% of their time to work on any pet project that they want and thus they use the term 20-Time Projects. Whatever you choose to call them .. get started today. You will love the autonomy that students develop through discovering their passions.

 Our goal as educators should be to create lifelong learners.  Independent study projects are a huge step towards that goal.