If you were a high school student and could study anything you wanted for two weeks straight, what would you want to learn?
That was the question posed to the nearly 250 teenagers at Imagine High at the start of the school year for their “Deep Dives” assignment, which just ended. It was a two-week project where students took a break from their regular study schedule to devote 100% of their school time to focusing on a single subject they were passionate about.
“This idea of delving into topics for longer periods of time and giving students a chance to explore in depth is very research-based,” said Janet Carroll, program director at Imagine High. “It’s really about how people learn. People don’t learn in a scattered way, they actually learn by delving into a subject and having time to process and experience it. »
Most students signed up for teacher-led sessions like songwriting, video game development, animation, outdoor survival, baking, face painting, and theater costumes.
“The variety was so different, there was something for everyone,” said director Brooke Haller. “No one was disappointed”
They connected with community partners such as local pastry chefs, college staff, and video game developers to make Deep Dives a success.
Approximately 30 children have undertaken their own self-directed passion project.
“They were the craziest because they were so different,” Haller said.
A child who plays the guitar recorded an entire album, another explored the history of military uniforms and painted detailed clothing on small figurines.
“It was the coldest two weeks, but at the same time, I think it was the most productive two weeks,” Haller said. “The mood was so calm, but there was so much going on.”
Grade 9 student Kesler Thomas, who said he has had an “innate” passion for chemistry since he started studying it at Chilliwack High School in October, recently transferred to Imagine High.
Kesler chose to study biochemistry for his self-directed Deep Dives project, particularly as it relates to drug addiction and addiction relief through applications of chemicals like opioids. He is also interested in cancer research.
He came into contact with Peter Awram of Worker Bee Honey Company in Chilliwack where he used a nuclear magnetic resonance machine which measures bonds between chemicals with magnetic force. Awram uses it to detect fraudulent honey, but it’s useful for many things.
“He was helping me out with a few measurements and some fructose samples and basic stuff, but it’s definitely an introduction and it will help me get into later topics and more intense stuff,” Kesler said.
He has forged ties with UFV and UBC and hopes to be able to take college chemistry classes within the next year or two.
Another student spent the two weeks sewing a garment for herself.
Grade 10 student Isy Oberst made a Victorian-style dress from start to finish with a crinoline.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to immerse myself more in something that has always interested me,” she said. “I’ve always been very interested in period clothing and why they wore what they did and how historical events impacted clothing.”
It was quite a project considering she had only sewn an apron at age eight and a kaftan dress which involved cutting out a neckline and sewing the sides.
“She set the bar pretty high for herself,” Haller said.
Isy found a website that sells recreated historical clothing patterns and purchased a pattern for a Victorian dress from 1780.
“It was definitely ambitious,” Isy said. “It was a bit stressful and I surprised myself at how quickly I got through it.”
She finished it two days early and wore it all day on the last day of Deep Dives.
What happened at the end of the two weeks “just blew our minds,” Haller recalled.
They had an exhibition day where everyone at school showed off what they had completed on the last day. Children who had never sung or played an instrument before gave concerts in front of the whole school. There was a “high caliber” bake sale, kids playing video games designed by their classmates, extravagant theatrical makeup and more, Haller said.
“What we left was the kids were incredibly proud of what they did…and kind of surprised themselves,” she added.
And it’s not just the students who had a blast.
“I saw how happy the students were, but I also saw how happy the teachers were,” Carroll said. “Teachers got involved in projects that were part of their passion so that the enthusiasm and excitement…it was wildly successful.”
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