• Seventh Grade Students at Fort Couch Middle School Complete “Passion Projects”

    Mrs. Lauren Ghilani, social studies teacher at Fort Couch Middle School, had her students complete “PassionPassionsPicture1 Projects” during the last week of school. She modeled the activity after Google’s policy to provide employees 20% of their time for independent projects.

    Students were asked to answer the following seven questions/statements, which served as catalysts in the brainstorming process of their “Passion Projects:”
    1. List all of the things you’ve ever wanted to do, physically, but have never been able to.
    2. List all of the things you’ve ever wanted to do, mentally, but have never had the chance to.
    3. What are some of your current loves? Likes?
    4. How do you like to spend your time when you aren’t in school?
    5. If you could read/learn about anything in the world, what would it be? What do you wonder about?
    6. Think of some ways that you can better yourself.
    7. Think of some ways that you can better your school and/or community.
    PassionsPict2 According to Mrs. Ghilani, “Our role as educators is changing. Information is now at our fingertips, so we must look at content and what we teach differently. It is our duty to foster critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, and technological literacy. There is no better way to cultivate 21st century skills than through real-life, authentic experiences where students choose what they want to learn about.”
    She summed up the vision for the activity with a quote from Anthony J. D'Angelo, “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.”
    A consultant-based work-day was held on Tuesday, June 9, and a student presentation day occurred on Wednesday, June 10. An inspirational keynote presentation was given by U.S. Olympic Gold-medal sailor Ms. Anna Tunnicliffe. She shared her own personal story - the “passions” and “goals” which led her to achieve fame in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Other consultants who volunteered their time to assist on the projects included Mr. Matthew Madia, Bridgeway Capital (nonprofits); Mr. Robert Petrini, 2005 USC graduate employed at Deloitte Consultants (construction/finances); and Ms. Annette Vybral, Washington County Humane Society (animals), to name a few.
    Projects will be shared for the public during the Fall Open House in September 2015. 
    In addition to Mrs. Ghilani, the following staff members assisted in spearheading this unique educational venture: Mr. Andy Lucas, Mr. Brad Wilson, Ms. Jennifer Cramer, Ms. Anne DeGerolamo, and Duquesne University student teacher Ms. Lauren Francioni.

    Top right: The Consultant-Based work sessions for the “Passion Projects” were kicked-off by guest speaker Ms. Anna Tunnicliffe from the U.S. Olympic Women’s Sailing Team.
    Middle left: Demonstrating the plan of their Passion Project, Katie McCurrie (left) and Ashley Joyner pitch their Book Nook. They created a website where they will share their reviews on the books they read.
    Bottom right: Ryan Junko wants to become a graphic designer. Here he is with a few samples on a websitePsssionsPict3 he created with software engineer Vineet Singh.
    Bottom left: Jacob Yakima played his saxophone as his “hook” to get the student audience’s attention.