Opportunity: The Heart of Passion-Based Learning

Blog Series, Learning, PreK-12, Smart Teachers

“If someone offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes—then learn how to do it later.” –Richard Branson

Truth be told, I don’t recall a single life-changing worksheet I ever received, I struggle to remember any riveting multiple-choice tests, and most memories of collaboration can be reasoned out to be nothing more than social time framed around mediocre assignments. However, I do vividly recollect three highly creative opportunities from my educational years.

#1. My high school Biology teacher, who was an amazingly disciplined and efficient educator, assigned the quintessential frog dissection and skeletal display. The assignment was seemingly normal on the surface, but it offered a creative opportunity: a student could exhibit his frog’s skeletal structure in any unique manner as long as it was labeled and classroom-appropriate.

The result?

I turned in a display of a bleached white skeleton that was adorned with tiny red, black, and white Classic Air Jordans and a mini-basketball clutched in its right hand. Apparently, the energetic and stylistic amphibian felt a little jumpy and majestically leapt from a free-throw line in flight for a hammering dunk. After all, it was 1989, and I guess all species wanted to be like Mike.

#2. Perhaps one of the most energetic men I ever knew, my 10th grade World History teacher allowed us to form our own teams and determine how we would demonstrate knowledge of the assigned subject matter. He gave us ample time and hardly no rules. Ahhh, freedom.

The result?

A team of five spirited classmates used a then modern Panasonic Camcorder, which now would resemble a small car atop someone’s shoulder, to tape a talk show replete with two commercials. To this day, I can still conjure up all sensory details when I think back to the night we actually recorded the talk show at my friend’s house. And how did the class react to our video presentation? Well, it wasn’t The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, but it was pretty darn cool. Education, and a lot of laughter, filled the air that day.

#3. Possibly to see if her students actually understood a particular genre of literature, one of my college English professors provided an opportunity to write a short story that was rich in all things Southern.

The result?

I turned in a rather lengthy short story that somehow merged one of my all-time greatest loves, baseball, with a previously unknown love… creative writing. Like belting a hanging curveball over the left field wall, I knocked the assignment out of the park and found myself at home with writing.

I am forever grateful to these teachers for all they instilled in me, and these creative opportunities now constitute the very heart of one of my favorite projects offered to students in Studio 113: The Crucible Passion-Based Contract.

Here are some of the recent opportunities and the results:


Kory had never written and performed his own song. Ever.

The result?

“The Crucible Song,” written by Kory H., was performed live in front of his peers AND in front of the whole world via Periscope and Twitter. Be sure to see the end and the concert-like atmosphere.

“The Dr. Dhil Show”

In order to write their own script and perform a live talk show, this team of eight students pleaded for permission to exceed the contract’s stipulation of only three students per team.

The result?

Twenty-plus minutes of “The Dr. Dhil Show,” which featured musical entrances and three commercials. Oh, yeah. Don’t forget that it was broadcast live. In fact, two separate classes and one performer’s parent watched the talk show live on Periscope via Twitter.

An Artistic Survey Book

Jasmin wanted to experience forgiveness, one of the many lessons from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

The result?

A survey book that artistically displays responses from various people about the topic of forgiveness. Even after almost twenty years of witnessing amazing projects and presentations, this creation is one of the most thoughtful and inspiring projects I have ever seen.

Dry-Erase Animation

These three students wanted to merge their love of astronomy and drawing with characters from The Crucible, but they had never even heard of video editing.

The result?

Ten-minutes of dry-erase animation that ensued from a camera mounted to a ceiling with bungee cords and a first-attempt at video editing with Movie Maker Live. Wow! Talk about tackling a bunch of firsts in one project!

A New Soundtrack

This student wanted to merge his knowledge of The Crucible themes with his passion for great music lyrics.

The result?

A very articulate presentation of five news songs for The Crucible. Also broadcast live on Periscope via Twitter, this presentation even impressed an English teacher from many states away. Something this happy student definitely appreciated.

Analytical Artwork

Creating and analyzing art is a passion for Raven.

The result?

A drawing whose beauty is exceeded only by its depth of analysis.


A Grateful Educator

The students answered.

The result?

The opportunity for me to witness talented students engaged in learning by connecting their interests and passions to literature.

And I am forever grateful for that opportunity.

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John Hardison

John Hardison

John Hardison is an interactive facilitator of learning and blended learning specialist at East Hall High School (Studio 113 & EPiCC) in Gainesville, Georgia. By creating a flexible class where literature creatively comes to life on a stage with students as the stars, Mr. Hardison focuses heavily on creativity, interactive structures, and student choices. In the past 18 years at East Hall High School, he has taught AP Language, American Literature, World Literature, and Applied Communications. Through original learning structures and a shared classroom concept, students are inspired to connect literature with their own talents and interests. Mr. Hardison shares his classroom concept and interactive structures by presenting at professional conferences and upon request by various schools. Look for John at ISTE and follow him on Twitter at @JohnHardison1.