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Passion Project Symposium a success

By Staff | May 26, 2017

(Submitted photo)

Thirty-two eighth grade students in Kyle Vareberg’s English 8 class participated in the Passion Project Symposium last Wednesday, May 17.

“I love this event,” Vareberg said. “It is the best type of final I can give students, as they have to use all skills in their arsenal. They are speaking, listening, writing, researching, reading all standards in Language Arts courses. I think this is the most practical project they’ve done for me.”

Beginning May 1, students prepared projects focused on their individual passions to display and present to judges who scored the projects based on creativity, organization, and level of preparedness.

Judges were community members, invited by Vareberg to participate.

RHS Principal Jared Blikre felt the symposium was very successful. “Mr. Vareberg does a fantastic job organizing this event. He puts a lot of time and energy into making this project-based learning activity fun and engaging for all students,” he said. “This activity empowers students and allows them to be innovative and creative. They get to research something that really sparks their interest. It’s very exciting to visit with the students as they share their passions and the things they’ve learned along the way. There’s certainly a lot of pride put into each project. We certainly hope to see the event continue in the future, as it’s a great learning opportunity for kids.”

Mandy McNeff was also one of the judges at the symposium who felt the event went over well. She was excited to learn about how tubes are made, healthy eating alternatives, differences between basketball and running shoes and differences between computer graphics.

“I was delighted to be a judge,” she said. “It is so awesome to see how excited the students are to present their passions, and I think it’s such a valuable experience for the students to practice presenting and speaking in front of others specifically in front of adults who they may not know. What a great life skill to start working on.”

This was Cathy Jelsing’s second year as a judge at the symposium, which she greatly enjoyed.

“Overall, it’s such a good experience for the students to conduct research, present it in an interesting way, and then passionately explain what they have learned to others,” she said.

Her favorite projects both were focused on basketball, one on the physics of dunking and one on the history of the game. “I’m not a huge basketball fan, but I enjoyed learning from the students about their passions for the sport and how it’s played,” she said.

Five “places” were awarded to students’ projects, with the difference between first and fifth place being just 1.1 point.

“Many of the projects scored phenomenally well. There was not a lot of separation between the top scorer and the rest of the students. This is tribute to the variety of passions they delivered on. They truly all spoke about something personal and unique to them,” Vareberg said.

With Vareberg leaving at the end of this school year, he hopes that the symposium will continue on in future years.

“I can’t help it the day they present, I always have a smile on my face,” he said. “I think the kids receiving a chance to talk about their passion is extremely important. It comes down to my remembering something about education in general I teach students, not content. Remembering that makes me realize how valuable this project is.”

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