Passion projects certainly varied from student to student. The questions were as varied as the uniqueness of each student. One student explored, "How do designers find inspiration in creating new styles?"; while another explored, "Why dolphins live in pods? Although all the essential questions were different, there was one thread that linked all the projects - it was opportunity to explore. Explore essential questions, passions, research, reflect, refine ideas, collaborate, connect and comment.
In order to find answers to questions, students must take on an inquiry stance in their research and exploration. Instead of just researching a topic, students brainstorm an essential question. This means one that is not too broad that it's challenging to find the answer, but not so narrow that the question can be answered in one or two Google searches. As students brainstorm and refine the questions that will guide them in the search, they explore the possible sources to help guide them in their quest. These sources maybe digital, such as internet sites, on-line encyclopedias or databases. Or finding the answer may require interviewing experts, experimentation or creating. The key is that although the teacher and teacher librarian can assist with finding the answers and making sense of the information, the search is student driven.
This is what makes Genius Hour so powerful. This is why it ignites a student's passion. It is their time. Their time to learn what they want to learn and make sense of the information. Even if the student doesn't find all their answers, they've learned an important life skill. What's the skill? The importance of taking risks, exploring their own passion and that learning for the sake of learning is definitely worthwhile.