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Sustaining Passion: The nuts & bolts


In our breakout session today, we discussed quite a bit about how to sustain passion in learning environments so I thought it might make for a good ongoing topic in the forum area.

One way my colleague, Cynthia d W and I accomplish this is by creating experiential learning environments where people start off thinking they are in a passive, didactic teaching situation, but by suddenly being thrown into a learning environment where they are expected to be up and out of their chairs, actively participating in their own learning, they suddenly realize that something "different" is happening and they tend to wake up and be more attentive to every little detail in the room.

We cultivate a culture of asking questions, and we model that as we try to limit "giving answers" and instead answer a question with a question of inquiry - asking questions that insist our participants think more deeply about what they might already know, whether innately or through previous learning. Once learners realize that they are in a safe space to explore asking questions, answering questions of their peers, and experimenting with taking ownership for their own learning, the passion part of the equation comes out naturally. When we see a learner having an "Aha!" moment, it's incredibly satisfying for us as the facilitators, but it's also what I believe ignites the passion for continuing on an active learning path. We have people come up to us after sessions, or during an optional evening enrichment session, and reiterate what they learned that day, but in a way where they are bouncing back to us whether they've got it right or not. When we meet those unspoken requests for confirmation with deeper inquiries, and the student suddenly realized that the answer they've been seeking already lies within them, it's a really powerful moment.

Passion doesn't ignite in everyone, and it also doesn't ignite in everyone at the same time. We have people who report weeks or months after a learning event, that they suddenly got something deep that they didn't realize they learned during the event. And that's okay. One of the aspects of passion in learning is that we have to be okay with, and open to the fact that not everybody learns at the same speed, and one session might have very different take aways for each learner in the room, depending on where that person is in their learning journey.

So how do YOU ignite passion in learning environments? Grab a coffee and let's discuss!


Shari, you have raised the philosophical question that underlies a fulfilling life. How can we as educators/parents/peers /mentors nurture and sustain passion - in others as well as within ourselves? How can we inspire and sustain a lifelong interest in learning/growing; develop the willingness to explore new ideas and ventures; continue to feel engaged and find happiness in our lives; and have enough fuel to rekindle the passion and rejuvenate when we need to overcome failures and obstacles along the way and pursue future ventures.
And to the nuts and bolts- what is in this passion toolkit ((no specific order- just a brainstorm)?
1. Interactions with passionate-others. (In Japanese Lesson Study a mentor is called a knowledgeable other.) Passion ignites passion.
2. An interest- inventory that mines for student interests and helps students learn more about themselves (self-realization)
3. A smorgasbord of experiences- a tasting of variety of topics, ideas
4. Student-centered opportunities to dive deeper into a topic of interest, explore resources, work with peers/mentors
5. Sharing your passion with others (with same passion as well as with broader group to ignite others interest in topic.) (Leads back to #!)


As a senior citizen, sharing my passion becomes "leaving a legacy." I was lucky enough, as a child from humble beginnings, to be part of a program, "Ideas in Motion," that believed everyone is creative, creativity is important, and diversity is a great thing! My colleagues and I are now writing books and programs to pass along these life-changing (and vital for today) ideas. I believe you sustain passion by acting on it--as much as you can--wherever you can--all life long!


I am really enjoying your posts, but I feel like they are tantalizing tidbits that are making my mouth water for more substantial bites! Can you tell us about this "Ideas in Motion" program you were involved in as a child? Where was it, who created/sponsored it, what did it involve, do you have any photos of it, etc. You can never share enough with this group as we are fairly hungry learners!


Thanks, again, Shari!

The "Ideas in Motion" program began at Baylor University Theater and then moved to Trinity University in San Antonio. Paul Baker was the Director of the Theater and he had a course called, "Integration of Abilities." Students could take the course as an "arts" elective. Many who did changed their majors and life trajectories--including my mentor, Jearnine Wagner, who, with Baker's wife, Kitty, started an after school program for children with the same idea--helping people find their creative strengths. They wrote a book about the program, "Our Theatre: A Place for Ideas." I was a college student and was listed as first contributor to the book (as Cindy Ridgeway). I have seen the book still on the web but the price was fairly high. In the program, we did not just put on plays. We did hundreds of improvs, studied many different subjects and ideas, explored all kinds of recycled and arts materials, and created art and projects of all kinds. I joined the program in 1952 and continued sharing the principles behind it my entire life. One of my strong talents seems to be facilitating others--so I became a teacher in the program at 15 and paid for my college tuition as the program's assistant director. (As I am now 71, there are many more chapters to this story--but I'll stop for now.) If you want more, look at, which describes a book we wrote last year for parents on nurturing creativity. The book is rich with images and the site contains some of the blogs we have posted.


Thanks for that appetizer of your life! I am intrigued even more as some colleagues and I are in the initial stages of designing a "theater for development" capacity building learning curriculum for social change agents. Do you have anything else documented that you might be able to share with me/us? I'll check out your link in the meantime.



Check out both websites: and Then let me know a little more about your needs so I can ascertain what else would be appropriate to share. Are you on the MIT Media Lab staff? Are you involved in a new initiative?

You can write me at if you wish.





Although currently I work with early childhood, I have an after school secondary curriculum I wrote and piloted some years ago titled, "Social Survival." This curriculum uses drama, music, art, etc., to involve young people in exploring topics such as violence, communication, conflict, emotion and control. Unfortunately I only have a hard copy of it and it would need updating. If you are interested, we might be able to work out some kind of collaboration or consultancy.