Igniting Critical and Creative Thinking


Distance Learning combined with Passion Projects provides your students with an independent study they will love and be motivated to complete. During this time when you are scrambling to find engaging activities for your students, I recommend using Passion Projects.  They spice up your lessons and meet both the academic and social-emotional needs of your students at the same time. This blog post is my second in a series about Passion Projects. In this blog post, I am going to show you how to use Passion Projects through Distance Learning.

Why Use Passion Projects During Distance Learning?

Distance Learning is a challenge for many teachers. We are having to learn an entirely new teaching platform. We’re struggling to keep students excited and engaged in online learning. It’s hard enough to meet all the academic needs of our diverse students online, but we’re also facing students who are dealing with social-emotional issues. Our kids feel isolated and depressed. They miss their friends, teachers, activities, and clubs.

Passion Projects to the rescue! These projects are one of the best ways to keep students engaged and excited about learning.  A bonus is that they address many of your students’ social-emotional needs. Passion Projects have an immediate buy-in from the students because they are centered on a topic each student is very interested in.  They complement the core curriculum because they integrate reading comprehension skills, note-taking skills, and writing skills. More than just learning research skills, Passion Projects promote creativity and innovative thinking. Students develop self-awareness, self-management, and responsible decision making. They are learning essential life skills such as planning, persistence through overcoming obstacles, problem-solving, time management, and personal reflection.

What Are Passion Projects?

Passion Projects are student-driven independent studies. They are based on individual student interest; therefore, differentiation is built in automatically. This is an opportunity for your students to investigate a burning question they are passionate about answering.

The steps in a Passion Project

This graphic illustrates the 7 steps to completing a Passion Project.  

Because the project is based on their own passion, students don’t lose interest in their project.  Throughout the entire project, they take ownership of the process.  Your students will identify an area they are passionate about and develop a burning question about that area that they want to answer. Next, they will conduct research and create a product to present to an audience. Finally, they reflect upon the Passion Project process, their product, and their presentation. Your students become creators rather than consumers of knowledge. They are in charge of their learning. Teachers are a “guide on the side,” NOT the “sage on the stage.” They assist students to ensure they stay on track, find appropriate resources,  problem-solve if they get stuck, and provide feedback throughout the process.

Want a FREE distance learning lesson from my Discover Your Passion Project Unit? Click here

How do Passion Projects Work with Distance Learning?


In a traditional classroom setting, students usually work on their projects one day a week for approximately one hour. They may take up to 12 weeks to complete.  Teachers often call this time Genius Hour.

During distance learning, students can work on their projects for more than an hour each week.  In fact, many of them will want to spend all their time on their project.  Depending on how much time students devote to their project each week, they should be completed in 3-6 weeks.


Finding resources might be a challenge, but the teacher can help with this.  Student interviews with experts are limited to phone, email, or online interviews. If libraries are open, students should be able to find resources there.  Your state might have a virtual library where students can access encyclopedias, magazines, and photos.  Many zoos and museums have virtual exhibits the students can use. Students will read magazines that are available online.  Also, there are videos on YouTube or TeacherTube students can view.  A word of caution about YouTube. You have to be careful to screen the videos first and to make sure the information is accurate.  You might also check out the many educational videos available online through your local PBS network.

Teacher meeting with student online about Passion Project


During the Passion Project project process, you give students feedback and confer with them regularly.  Through individual conferences, students receive feedback on their progress and areas where improvement is needed.  The best way for you to do this is with an online conference. You set up a meeting with each student once or twice a week.  Apps such as  ZOOM, Skype, and Google Meet are great for individual conferences.  Students need to be able to contact you to ask a specific question.  Many online learning platforms such as CANVAS have a button students can click to ask you a question.


Even with distance learning, students can still present their final project to an audience.  If the audience is not your classroom, your kids can join a class from another grade in a ZOOM call and present their projects online. They can video their presentation. If a Passion Project is a written product, students can share it through an online learning platform such as CANVAS. Teachers need to be creative in helping students discover ways to share their products with authentic audiences.

To learn more about Passion Projects, view my post – Discover the Power of Passion Projects.

Passion Projects during Genius Hour unit

You can check out my entire Passion Project Unit with 7 detailed lesson plans in both traditional classroom and Google Slides format.

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Resource to implement Passion Projects in Distance Learning

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hey y'all

I'm Susan!

I’m Susan Morrow and I help overwhelmed teachers create thinking classrooms where students discover the joy in learning and achieving.

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