Passion projects

“Passion-Based Learning” was introduced at Portland Secondary College last year and is already a core course at the school. “We are one of six schools that have partnered with the Australian Learning Lecture (ALL) Passion Index project in order to combat disengagement and underachievement by unlocking students’ passion within a learning environment,” Ben explains. Passion-Based Learning is one of the new classes introduced last year as part of the project.

“The class attempts to allow students to learn based around their passions,” Ben says. “We spend time exploring what students are passionate about, what their strengths are and how they like to learn. They then combine this information to design a project they will pursue. The project needs to teach them something and ideally solve a problem facing themselves, the school or the community.”

Students implemented their Passion Project throughout the autumn semester, which culminated in a Passion Fair at the end of the year. Students from Ben’s class prepared reports on their projects.


Nature by Meg

This semester Portland Secondary College has just ended a very happy Project Based Learning class. Its Year 9 students excelled at their passions and came out with wonderful projects, telling what their passions were. A Year 9 student under the name of Meg has been chosen to speak of her passion and how it went.

Meg was in the 9F PBL class and she completed a fabulous project called “Nature on a Canvas.” Meg laughs about her project name, “It is basically its name, nature on a canvas.” The project was made up of two canvases: in the middle of the canvases were four figures, fitted in pretty, nature-made dresses. Meg claims that the figures were four girls from her school, all in her year.

Meg chose to do this project because, “I wanted to do something with both my passions, nature and art,” she explains. Meg was very happy with the way it turned out and she is already planning to do more projects like it. Mr. Heenan, the Project Based Learning teacher says that the class’s projects were excellent. At the end of the semester the class was involved in a fair, showing off their passions, it was a big hit amongst all the children and adults that came to see.


Saving the giant panda


Diabetes by Charlie

I’ve always had a small passion for wanting to make a difference for my five year old sister, Daisy and her type 1 diabetes. I found this project was a great opportunity to give my idea a try and put a smile on my sister’s face.

At first I had to give a hard think as to what I should do to help raise awareness, I thought about having a day where everyone dressed in blue, but then asked myself, “What would they learn from dressing up?” So then I came up with the idea of a survey. The idea was to get Year 9 to do the survey and then go through a series of activities about type 1 diabetes, to help them learn. I would then get them to do the survey again and see how much they have progressed.

Unfortunately, not many Year 9s participated in my survey and hardly any did it a second time like instructed, but I’m happy that some classes at least went through with the activities and hopefully learnt some new things.

On the 19th of June, at Year 9 assembly, I did a speech on my project stating what Type 1 is: “Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means at some stage my sister got a cold or flu and her immune system triggered as it should to kill off the virus. But instead of stopping there it decided to turn on her pancreas and kill it as well. As we know the pancreas is what produces the insulin therefore causing type 1 diabetes.”


Experiments with origami and the stages of drawing cartoons


Sea Turtles by Gabby

During the past 10 weeks I have been working on my Hawksbill Sea Turtle project which included making a hand sewn model of a sea turtle, making a Facebook page to raise awareness and making a research poster. I chose to do my passion project on this because it combined two of my passions: Sewing and Marine Science. I am passionate about sewing because I like sewing with my Nan and you can be as creative as you want. I’m passionate about marine science because I want to be a marine biologist when I’m older. I spent the majority of the term working on my hand sewn model of a sea turtle. While I was working on my sea turtle I had many new opportunities to learn new sewing skills that I could benefit from such as new stitches and new “cheats.” The turtle took seven weeks to complete and there were a lot of ups and downs to it, some of which were easier to fix than others. The second and third part of my project were pretty easy which were just remembering to post things on my Facebook page and getting information to put on my poster. Overall this project was a positive experience because I got to work on something I’m passionate about and I got to talk with my friends about their passions.


Meet Benjamin Heenan
Cohort 2017, Leadership Development Program

Ben taught Humanities Portland Secondary College (PSC) during the Leadership Development Program. Moving from Sydney, Ben was excited to learn he would be teaching in South-West Victoria, primarily for it’s wonderful natural beauty and close proximity to Antarctica. In his spare time he enjoys surfing/ice-breaking and managing year 9 students at PSC.

This story was originally published in Stories From Our Community (Summer 2018). View the entire magazine online here.

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