How can we unleash the initiative and creativity inherent in all children? How can we harness students’ desire for independence while supporting them in learning what it takes to reach a goal? How do we create an environment in which students can explore their ideas as well as the critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, systems thinking and other 21st century skills they will need to succeed in life?
For Upper School students, Acera’s answer to these questions is an approach we call Inquiry, Making and Passion Projects (IMPP). Developed and refined over several years – and coordinated by Computer Science and Games Specialist Danny Fain – our IMPP program provides students with the freedom to generate their own projects and experiment with different essential skills. At the same time, mentors provide the scaffolding it takes for students to not get lost in possibility, stay productive, and actualize their goals.
Every week, students have two separate blocks of student-led time to define and follow through on a passion project. Mentors and content coaches are available to advise on students’ independent projects. These adults may be specialist teachers at our school – in subjects like life sciences, computer science, engineering, and the arts – or practitioners from fields such as journalism, robotics, medicine, or economics who come on board to support a specific project.
Teachers and mentors provide feedback, and then students develop a prospectus that organizes next steps via a timeline and project plan. With the help of their mentors, students document their work to record obstacles, observations and milestones, and to provide the backbone of a final reflection they write, draw or film at the end of their IMPP project.
Their efforts are celebrated twice each year at Acera’s IMPposium, a culminating event during which students present their projects to the broader Acera community. Watch the video below to see a recap of our Spring 2023 IMPposium!