In a surprising turn of events, it turns out that students are human beings!
Human being get deeply invested in the things that interest them. If left to their own devices, people work hard for the thing they care about. This is the whole philosophy behind Passion Projects and Genius Hour.
A major objection that many teachers (including myself) have to the "let them explore and play" philosophy is that we teach specific subjects with specific content requirements. If given free reign, how many students would choose to study the reproductive cycles of trees or properties of exponential functions? A few, but not many.
Some might argue that it's a reason why we need to re-examine the purpose of school in general and content specifically.
Since I am just a lowly grunt on the front lines, I don't get to have a loud voice in those policy decisions and I don't get to choose content.
I DO get to choose how I present and assess that content.
Up to this point, I've had minimal buy-in for my assessments, no matter what they were. The closest I have come was the sun model project.
So I'm taking a page from one of my colleagues. I am offering a menu of choices for assessment. Today, I went through the list with them, explaining how it works and answering whatever questions they had. Students who have been checked out, or actively indifferent, were asking great questions and making plans for which assignments they wanted to work on.
This is going to be a stupid amount of grading for me, and I'm probably going to hate myself, but if it gets the kids interested and even excited, I'll take that hit.
Naturally, I'm concerned about follow-through, but I think if I set deadlines and regularly check in with them, it SHOULD be alright.
I'll end this post with drawings from my students. Apparently, they believe that Hitler could teach physics to a manatee.
Or perhaps it was the other way around...