We attended our daughter’s I-search Open House last night. Initially, I was reluctant, skeptical. And it was crowded. I don’t do well in crowds.

After finding our daughter’s station, we explored and I began to see something I hadn’t thought about – spark. I talked to one young lady about homeschooling. Another young man told me all about the prospects for people living on Mars. The impact of colors, concussions, and chocolate were all popular. I learned something about the cassowary (an Australian bird that reminded me of the one in Up). What I hadn’t anticipated from the students was such passion, such spark. They talked about their subjects with such relish. So, why?

The ability to choose their own topics helped. As did having the time to become experts on them. Getting the common opportunity to share their knowledge with the community.

But what, and isn’t this what matters most, did they learn, aside from, probably temporarily, their content?

Public speaking / presentations?

Research skills?

And how do you know?

And how do you get that spark in the first place? When I’ve asked my students what they would study if they could choose the topic, the responses are generally things like shoes, food, music, fashion, etc.. Where do our interests come from? Our passions? Our spark?