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Julia, a Grade 10 student, holding the African drum she headed herself with a piece of goat skin.
May 2, 2017
Grade 10s Free to Explore their Passions through Personal Projects
A group of students and teachers gathered around Julia, a Grade 10 student who was holding an African drum. “This is a Nigerian style of drum called an Ashiko drum,” she tells them. “I headed the drum with a piece of goat skin soaked in the bathtub and tied it on myself. You can actually tune the drum with these ties. It was a pretty intense process, but it was fun!”

The drum is Julia's Personal Project, a self-directed assignment for Grade 10 students that is the culminating task for their IB Middle Years Program. What a special day: The AWC Gym was full of Grade 10s showing off their Personal Projects, the results of a six-month process where students create their design, guided by their own interests and supported by a teacher who serves as their Project Advisor.

“Personal Projects are an opportunity for students to exercise their love of learning,” explains Personal Project Coordinator Jennifer Boisvert. “The project should come from something they are passionate about. A lot of students tell me that the Personal Project gave them an opportunity to take on a certain challenge that they otherwise may have not explored. Julia’s drum is a perfect example.”

The Personal Project initiative incorporates integrative thinking tools from the Rotman School of Management. These tools help students identify needs and then think through a design solution to the problem.

One such tool is the pro-pro chart. People often weigh the pros and cons when faced with a difficult decision. In contrast, the pro-pro chart identifies the best things about two possible models to create an even better third model. This year, Grade 10 student Nicole used this method of thinking to combine the best elements of the European, Chinese and North American wedding dress to create one affordable dress that expressed her global perspective. “I saw an incredible amount of creativity in this year’s projects,” Ms Boisvert says proudly.

She hopes that the Personal Projects will extend into student’s future lives or, at least, be remembered as a major achievement.

See some examples of the students’ projects on our Facebook page.

Personality Deconstructed
Nicole asked, "What makes up a person's personality in different environments?" Each mask represents a different component of a personality, such as conflict, balance, and relationships.

Tracking Revolutions
Honor became interested in revolutions from a podcast. For her Personal Project, she created graphs to track historic revolutions for different criteria (such as internal versus external conflict), "I learned about how revolutions work, where they appear and why."

A Redesign for Ontario Place
Grace came up with a redevelopment plan for Ontario Place with more room for parks, water sports, retail and restaurants.

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