Courtesy Alyssa Manche and Anika Sikka
Before the shelter-in-place order, kids in elementary and middle school were rushing from soccer practice to painting, almost missing trumpet lessons. Now, the closure of many extracurricular activities has left students struggling to find activities to keep them busy at home.
Freshmen Alyssa Manche and Anika Sikka combined their love for teaching and the need for more educational opportunities to create a global organization called The Passion Project, operating primarily in the United States, and in parts of Europe and Asia. The organization provides elementary and middle school students with over 40 free online classes to explore quarantine-friendly extracurriculars.
“We thought that these classes would be a great way to connect high schoolers and younger kids during a time where there is not really that much going on for either,” Alyssa said.
Ranging from animated design lessons to public speaking to storytime, the 30-minute Zoom classes cater to the diverse interests of students. Due to their large classroom environment, the group classes allow students to feel a sense of normalcy they wouldn’t otherwise experience during the shelter-in-place. In a time of social isolation, the online classes also give children a social space to connect with peers their own age.
“There are some kids that come to every single recurring class on our website,” Anika said. “They become more comfortable with one another and get to meet new people from around the world each week.”
After classes, the students can display their work through the website’s gallery.
“Every time they make something, they’re so excited to share it with everybody else,” Alyssa said. “It’s just so cool to see how they’re really participating and getting something out of what we’re teaching them.”
Jennifer Hsui, a mother with three children in kindergarten, 4th and 7th grade who attend the classes regularly, says that The Passion Project has not only kept her kids occupied, but helped fill the need for more educational tools during the shelter-in-place.
“Ever since the shelter-in-place began, the schools that my children attend have not been able to deliver consistent, synchronous teaching, and there has been very limited interaction with some of the teachers,” Hsui said. “Against this backdrop, I have been amazed at the ability of all of The Passion Project instructors to deliver online teaching in a way that is engaging, fun and educational for my kids.”
Her 12-year-old son Matthew Hsui asserts that the organization has opened up the door for him to build new skills in a comfortable environment.
“Passion Project is a lifesaver!” Matthew said. “It gives us something to do and we get the opportunity to try new things.”
In an effort to create a learning space for children during the summer, the organization plans to host a virtual summer camp running four days a week. Campers are split into separate age groups and can choose between three sessions. Each camp day is filled with a variety of popular mini-classes where students can learn foundational skills in activities of their choice.
With the uncertainty of campuses re-opening in the fall, The Passion Project will continue to provide interactive, educational classes to help students to find their passions.
“Since it’s looking like there will be a lot of online learning in the fall, we’re planning on continuing with our online activities and adding more activities on our website to continue offering something for these kids to do,” Alyssa said.
Alyssa and Anika look forward to expanding their educational program to include many more unique classes despite their workload as teachers and organizers.
“Getting positive feedback from both parents and students just proves that all our hard work paid off,” Anika said.
To learn more about The Passion Project, visit passion-project.org.