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CFES Uses Passion Projects to chase dreams

posted May 17, 2017, 11:43 AM by Miranda Ferguson   [ updated May 17, 2017, 11:47 AM ]

CFES Uses Passion Projects to chase dreams

PENDER COUNTY — “Genius Hour,” a concept originated at the technology powerhouse of Google, has made its way into the AIG program at Cape Fear Elementary.

In Google’s “Genius Hour,” administrators encourage their workers to take 20 percent of working time to think about, research and present their passions to an audience, as long as the idea could advance the company.

AIG coordinator Mary Strong initiated “Passion Projects” after learning about the project through a district professional development where AIG teachers shared ideas they were using with their students.

“So many people wait until they retire before they start pursuing their passion,” Ms. Strong said. “The Genius Hour and Passion Projects are designed to get people pursuing their hobbies and passions at any time in their lives.”

Several months ago, Ms. Strong gave her students the opportunity to think about their passions; about what they wanted to do in life. She encouraged them to follow and research their dreams, and ultimately share them with others. This project-based inquiry might possibly be the catalyst that could lead to a rewarding career in a field that sparks passion in a person. During Science Olympiad, CFES student Corinne Eaves competed in an event called “Pump It Up,” which was all about the heart. She was intrigued and started researching the heart, the different parts, the functions, and the diseases. She decided she wants to pursue a career in cardio-thoracic surgery. To have this passion as a fifth grader, to know what you want to do at such a young age, will do well to guide and motivate her as she continues her schooling.

Others in Ms. Strong’s group have similar goals or passions. Hannah Hall’s interest in playing the piano began during music class with Ms. Myhill. Students had been playing the recorder, and Ms. Myhill had taped a faux keyboard on the wall. She explained to the students that the keys translated from the recorder, and that if they knew the song on the recorder they could play it on the keyboard. The first song she learned was “Hot Cross Buns.” Hannah’s grandmother has a piano in her house, and within a month, she had learned several songs including Old McDonald, Amazing Grace, and Ode to Joy.

Layna Nixon’s passion is basketball. She wanted to know how she could be a good three-point shooter, so she asked her dad, who is a former high school player. He showed her the correct form, where to shoot from, and practiced with her. Layna wants to follow this passion to “help her team win games.”



Rachel Robinson has been dancing since she was one-and-a-half years old. She has always known that she wants to be a dancer, and wants to own her own dance studio. Through the Passion Project, she realized she wants to get better, to improve her dance ability, “no matter what it takes…I want to express myself through movement and not just through words.” She asked her dance instructors what she could do, and researched various web sites, using this information to work out at home and to have physical activity outside of dance class.

Nathalie Escalante has a rather unusual passion. She likes unusual facts! “I usually just read about them and remember them, then I can include them in casual conversation.” Some of her unusual facts include:

  • Banging your head against the wall burns 150 calories an hour (don’t try this at home!)
  • Pineapple is really a bunch of tiny berries fused together
  • Some frogs use their eyes to help them swallow
  • Purple was derived from the Latin word for shellfish

When asked where this wealth of unusual information will get her in life, she replied, “I have no idea what I want to do, but maybe it will help me if I decide to be a writer.”

Ms. Strong invited Cheryl Hardie Holt, a fellow Pender County employee who has pursued her interest in the field of art, specifically mixed media. Ms. Holt came to CFES to talk to the students about the process of pursuing your passion.

Ms. Holt has always had a passion for art, but it was more of a hobby as life got in the way. Now that life has settled down a bit, she felt pulled, through a variety of circumstances, to pursue her passion. After a trip to the mountains, she began researching mixed media and experimenting with different mediums, finally making the big step to putting her work on Facebook, where it has been so well received that she is motivated to make her art more of a full-time passion. Cheryl realizes that it is a continuous learning process, so she seeks instruction and opportunities to improve her art. Her motto is “Luctor et Emergo,” which translates as “Suffer and Emerge.” One has to go through the painful process of failure before emerging stronger and better. Ms. Holt took this a step further by taking advantage of an opportunity that arose when John Westbrook, owner of the Burgaw Antique Place, renovated part of his store to accommodate artists who needed a place to showcase their work. Ms. Holt showed the CFES students some of her art, explained her passion for art, and encouraged the students to follow their passions.


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