Spark an Interest; Ignite a Passion

LRNG Innovators began in 2014 and launched its third challenge in the beginning of 2017, inviting educators to imagine engaging ways to help young people explore their interests, thereby igniting a passion that can lead to college, to a career, or having a positive impact in the community. We sought proposals for programs, curricula, or projects that actively help youth discover interests connecting the spheres of their lives, both in and out of school, and provide potential future opportunities.

Connected Learning research demonstrates that all young people benefit from opportunities to follow their interests with the support of peers and mentors and that give them the time and space to create work that is meaningful to them. With support from the National Writing Project, John Legend’s Show Me Campaign, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Collective Shift (, the LRNG Innovators challenge supports teams of educators in designing, testing, and sharing solutions that build the future of creative and connected learning today.

View past recipients and read about their projects—see the 2017 LRNG Innovators challenge grantees below:

Restoring Race Cars, Restoring Relevance
Grass Valley, CA
Through a unique, interest-driven partnership with classic race-car restorer, James Long, and Bitney Prep High School, teachers will expand a program in which students rehab, remodel, and sell donated cars. This work will happen through the expansion of existing classes along with related trips to automotive museums, restoration shops, technical colleges, and, yes, junkyards and old barns. Students will gain access to tools and resources that will enable them to participate in this restoration program and engage in additional program opportunities, such as weekend intensives, summer courses, and visiting lectures. The program will design opportunities for students to take what they have learned out into the community and share their passions with national audiences.
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Linked Learning with Maker-Centered Education
Oakland, CA
Educators will expand project-based learning and Maker Education throughout school and the community, including the school library space and students’ families. As a small public school in Oakland, California, embarking on a culture shift, these educators are moving away from whole-class, lockstep instruction, and toward small-group, personalized learning with differentiated instruction based on students' interests and needs. In the expanded MakerSpace, the school community will be invited to come tinker, explore their interests, and make, in collaboration with expanded project-based learning opportunities throughout the school. The school library will extend access and equity by making available take-home Maker Kits that include books and hands-on activities that students can make on their own or with their families. Read More ›

Kids Presenting Passion Projects Making A Future for All: Connecting Passion To Profession
Owingsville, KY
After engaging in a wide range of opportunities to imagine diverse professional paths and investigate their personal interests and academic work, the students at Bath County Middle School in Owingsville, Kentucky, will design, develop, and create passion projects. The students will work both inside the classroom and out in the community to learn skills that support their passions and professional futures. Working collaboratively with near peers in high school, students will create a range of multimodal projects, from websites to video games to podcasts. The year-long investigation and creation process will culminate with a block party showcasing the projects to local elementary students and the wider community. Read More ›

Project Make It Happen
Northville, MI
Project Make It Happen will provide students with the tools, technologies, and resources to execute large-scale, interest-driven design projects. Students will participate in a survey course to gain exposure to an array of maker tools, then prototype and execute original designs using the tools that inspire them most. Flex Tech High School Novi and The Village Workshop, a community makerspace, will partner together to engage students in projects that will nurture their love for making and build transferable skills so students can excel in related design fields. Students will also visit a university makerspace to learn about making in a college and career context. Project Make It Happen will create permeable classroom walls and expand the school's network to include local makers, university professors, and community artisans. Read More ›

OneCity Stories Kids Working OneCity Stories: Multimedia Composing for St. Louis Youth
St. Louis, MO
OneCity Stories invites high school students from different demographic areas throughout Greater St. Louis to use various tools—the pen, the microphone, the camera, the stage, and their own inspiration—to shape the future of the city. OneCity Stories provides a space for local youth to connect with one another and a forum to expose all St. Louisans to perspectives that transcend neighborhood boundaries. Teachers connected through the Gateway Writing Project will partner with local professionals in print and digital media, radio broadcasting, and filmmaking to immerse youth writers in real-world writing and provide outlets for publication, ultimately validating their voices and giving them access to a range of audiences. Read More ›

Green Is the New Pink: Young Women Environmentalists in Action
Oxford, MS
Green Is the New Pink will support young women in grades 8-11 to tap into their interests through environmental research and problem-solving. They will learn citizen science procedures linked to career pathways in environmental science and conservation alongside teachers associated with The University of Mississippi Writing Project, the University of Mississippi Field Station, and the Audubon Society’s Strawberry Plains. Each student will develop a project that will affect her local natural environment and then present her work at a public event on the University of Mississippi campus. More Coming Soon...

Philly School Media Network Philly School Media Network
Philadelphia, PA
The Philly School Media Network will engage students from three Philadelphia schools—Edison High School, George Washington Carver High School, and Henry C. Lea Elementary School—in media literacy and collaborative inquiry into issues affecting their communities. Throughout the year, students will make their voices heard by contributing to a locally printed and online publication that will feature audio, video, and multimodal entries hosted by the Philadelphia Public School Notebook. They will be supported by journalists and writing teachers and have opportunities to submit their work to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Notebook’s Journalism Awards, and the School District of Philadelphia’s Technology Showcase. Read More ›

Social Innovation Leadership Sabbatical
Nashville, TN
The Center for Personalized Learning (CPL) at Knowledge Academies provides students with opportunities to pursue their interests as they connect to college, community, creativity, and culture. During the 2017–2018 school year, the CPL will pilot student Social Innovation Leadership Sabbatical with the mission to empower youth to create and implement culturally-responsive solutions to issues in their community. The Sabbatical begins with a community issue studied in an academic class (Contemporary Social Issues, Environmental Science, or Journalism) and then springboards from there into a Meet Up digital learning experience to identify all students interested in connecting the classroom experience to real-world opportunities. Partnered with Belmont University’s Enactus entrepreneurship club, students will employ IDEO’s human-centered design model to facilitate the creation and implementation of a student-generated solutions. Read More ›

Kids Writing in Community Choice and Voice: Agency and Audience in a Resilient Rural Texas Community
Bastrop, TX
The Choice and Voice project supports student-centered practices district-wide and resists a prompted, teacher-centered writing curriculum in K-4 classrooms by providing student choice at every level, from materials and seating to interest-driven topics and exciting publication formats. Throughout the writing process, students will participate in a supportive, inter-campus wiki writing community. Students will collaborate with the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce, Library, and Parks and Recreation department, and will use multimedia presentation tools to publish their carefully crafted writing for local and global audiences. The amplification of elementary students’ voices through innovative publication in public spaces will demonstrate that Bastrop, Texas, public schools are at the heart of their community and that Bastrop community stories, passions, and convictions are at the heart of their public schools. Read More ›

Let 'Em Shine
Charlottesville, VA
Energized by recent community debates over local Confederate monuments, The Let ‘Em Shine project invites students to help unite the community by creating a symbolic “monument” that tells a broader story and honors the rich cultural history of Charlottesville, Virginia. The monument will be a collection of digital artifacts that showcase voices through virtual reality 360-degree movies, interactive apps, documentaries, original songs and lyrics, and other student-selected formats. Middle and high school students will collaborate with community leaders and corporate sponsors to conduct field and academic research as they design and develop these artifacts. Read More ›