Country School Students Engage in Passion Projects
Inspired by her grandfather, Michaela Troy of Madison has devoted her time to photography, taking seascapes such as this one of Chittenden Park in Guilford. (Michaela Troy )
Country School 7th Graders are presently engaged in a Passion Project, a unit of study inspired by the 20-Time Project. The premise of the 20-Time Project is simple. Students devote 20% of their class time to work on and explore one topic of their choice. The 20-Time Project asks students to create their own questions, do their own research, and form their own conclusions with their learning. 3M started the project in the 1950s with their 15% Project which resulted in Post-its and masking tape. Google is credited for making the 20% Project what it is today, resulting in Gmail and Google News. Middle School History Teacher Heather Butler first considered launching the Passion Project last year. Thanks to COVID-19, the project began in earnest this spring. Butler’s Passion Project reflects The Country School’s Mission, requiring that students connect their 20% pursuit to helping others, building community, strengthening oneself, or building global awareness. It encourages students to be independent, innovative, and communicative, skills that provide them with the foundation to become contributing members of a team. To get their creative wheels spinning, Butler asked her students a host of questions: What do you like to do in your free time? If you could help others in the community, whom would you help? What does your community need? What could you do that would make you proud of yourself? Equestrienne Molly Prior of Guilford has been riding for eight years with hopes to be in the Olympics one day. Her passion project about equine health and injuries allows her to work with Jill Walter Robenson, Molly’s trainer and owner of The Guilford Riding School. “I am really enjoying the project because I am learning more about something I love and it is helping me to help the horses.” Inspired by her grandfather, Michaela Troy of Madison is studying ocean photography. Nadia Goodman of Old Lyme sought the help of alumnus Joseph Coyne ‘15 of Madison who is on the sailing team at Georgetown University and has coached sailing for several summers as she writes and illustrates a manual about rigging a 420 sailboat. Luke Piagentini of Guilford is creating football instruction videos for kids. Luke spoke with Will Levis '14 from Madison, a quarterback at Penn State, about his favorite sport, football, and the path Will took to arrive at Penn State. Meanwhile Joshua Reichard of Guilford went straight to Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz with his plan for an improved rail system for the state of Connecticut. Epitomizing The Country School’s Mission, this Passion Project “honors students’ creativity, sense of wonder, and intellectual curiosity; nurtures every student’s unique role in the community; and empowers each to serve the common good.” The Class of 2021’s vision, despite this time of distance learning, is clear and bright. Who knows how the Class of 2021 will benefit others with the ideas created during 20% of their class time? Founded in 1955, The Country School serves students in PreSchool-Grade 8 on (and presently off) its 23-acre campus in Madison. The Country School is committed not only to a vigorous academic curriculum but also to an education that encourages global citizenship through deliberate programs and activities designed to encourage students to embrace differences, explore new perspectives, and find common ground in an increasingly interconnected, complex global community. Learn more about The Country School at www.thecountryschool.org.