Minnetonka's authentic and real-world learning experiences help students find meaning, engagement and deeper learning no matter the topic. Here is one such example from Minnetonka Middle School East:
Nicole Berwanger, Sixth Grade Teacher at MME
"Sixth graders at MME spent two months last spring exploring, creating, and presenting a "Passion Project." Students selected a topic and then learned how to do primary and secondary research to explore it and used multi-media—video, PowerPoint, or Google Slides—to create a final presentation that they delivered in front of their class.
The project themes varied, unique to students' interests. From in-depth reports on a celebrity or sports figure, to learning what it takes to start a bakery, to understanding their family's geographic origin, students used web searches, watched YouTube videos, contacted experts, and did interviews to gather information for their project. They learned how to find answers to their questions, how to draft a professional-looking correspondence when reaching out to experts for information, and how to manage the success or disappointments throughout their search for answers.
For their presentations, students learned how to connect to an audience, pace their delivery and work on their voice, and use multi-media skills to engage listeners. I can't overstate the importance of real-world learning and how much deeper the learning is when the subject matter applies to their real lives or interests. When students explore something they are personally passionate about, and at the same time you're able to teach them skills that will serve them throughout their lives, that's when the real connection happens and you get them to buy in."
Katherine Chang, Class of 2023
"When our class first learned about the Passion Project, a lot of students, including me, were nervous about freestyling our own projects all the way through—from picking a topic, to the research process, to the presentation. By the end, though, I loved the freedom of doing my project and presentation any way I wanted to. I chose J.K. Rowling as my topic because I love reading, and I lean toward fiction and fantasy. I also love to write and have authored some short stories.
So, in researching J.K. Rowling, I wanted to learn all about her—her history—including her childhood and early career and then how she became such an accomplished author. I watched video interviews of her online, I read articles on her, and I wrote her a letter. I never did hear back, but I checked the mailbox every day. It was a great project because we learned how you get the information you need to tell the whole story and how to be persistent and thorough in doing that.
I also learned that people aren't always what they seem and that there's a lot under the surface. Like, J.K. Rowling ... she is this really successful, world-renowned author, but when you dig deep into her history, you see her early years were tough, and she had to work really hard to get to where she is. The thing is ... everyone has a back story, everyone has more to them and more you can learn from them. You just have to find it."