AUSTIN (KXAN) — A school assignment called the ‘Passion Project’ is exposing the impact current events are having on Central Texas kids. It’s taking both classroom and home conversations into a tricky territory.
“We’re trying to get them to be solution oriented and to think of ways they can take what they love and what bothers them and to solve some problems in this world,” said Candi Scott, a fourth-grade teacher.
In Scott’s class students just completed their passion project. It combines what they love and something that bothers them. Students ran the gamut of subjects.
“One of them engineered a vending machine for homeless dogs,” said Scott.
Others poured their passions into current events, like researching the COVID-19 vaccine or exploring the foster care system.
“I kept asking her almost everyday, ‘Can I help you with the project?’ I did want to know what it was about and where she was going with it,” said mom Sue Ellen.
Ellen’s daughter, Chloe, narrowed in on the word ‘hate.’
“To actually read what she’s writing and what she’s feeling deep inside — it’s heartbreaking,” said Ellen.
Chloe wrote a poem for her passion project.
“You don’t know my dad, so why do you hate him? He’s funny and loving. He teaches me to be respectful to everyone, and never to see color. I love spending time with him, but lately he seems like something is wrong with him. He’s quiet and always thinking. He’s not as happy as before and it makes us sad. He leaves every night to protect you even though you hate him,” Chloe wrote in her poem.
Chloe’s dad is a local police officer. He teaches his children that an ‘us versus them’ mentality doesn’t stand in their home.
“We don’t pick one side just because we’re on this side. If it’s wrong, then it’s wrong,” said Ellen.
“Because a couple of police officers made a mistake, they think every police officer is the same way,” said Chloe.
In Scott’s class, she welcomes open discussions.
“When Chloe shared her project, one of the students asked where it came from, why she wanted to do that, and Chloe had to have the conversation about George Floyd,” said Scott. “It’s hard; it’s delicate. You worry about putting ideas into their heads sometimes, but I think they are putting ideas into each others’ heads. It’s real, and we don’t want to shut it down. We want to have real conversations.”
That’s exactly what a YWCA of Greater Austin child counselor recommends.
“Sometimes with children, it’s asking them rather than telling them,” said Eva Escobedo. “What do they think people are afraid of? What might they be afraid of?”
Escobedo recommends having an open discussion with your children and giving them the space to critically think about the issues hitting home.