LIVINGSTON, NJ — Sixth graders at Mount Pleasant Middle school were presented with the question “What do you do with an idea?” on their first day of Gifted & Talented (GT) classes this year after reading the book of the same name by Kobi Yamada. They were then given the unique opportunity to take their ideas, questions and interests and turn them into a passion project.

After submitting a passion project proposal to GT/Enrichment teacher Erin Carabello, the sixth graders conducted independent research on what they had always dreamed of studying. Students were encouraged to create presentations and products that used multimedia components while teaching their peers about their passion project topic; and their topics were as diverse and varied as the students themselves.

Students engaged in learning about everything from nuclear energy to fashion to procedural generation, from human relationships with pets to neuroscience and memory, from learning the Japanese language to communicate with extended family to calligraphy and genetic mutation, journalism, programming to the cognitive benefits of art. Students created websites, Brainpop videos, board games, models, clothing, computer games, novels and more.

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One student put it best when he reflected on “why [he] was so determined” throughout the experience, which the school described as being vital to promoting curiosity and creativity in the GT students.

“This project gave me so much creativity, so much opportunity, that I gave it my best to make it amazing,” the student said. “And that’s what I think all school projects should have. Rules just limit the student’s ability, but when it’s not, it changes everything.”