POWELL, Tenn. — Every spring, as the school year comes to an end, Kayla Ross, a fifth-grade teacher at Copper Ridge Elementary School, gives her class an unusual assignment.
Find something you're passionate about it, research, and develop it.
She says it's a lesson out of Google's playbook.
Every week, Google employees take what's called a 'Genius Hour;' 60 minutes to work on a pet project or develop new skills. The idea is that if you let people work on something they choose and are passionate about, productivity goes up.
Ross does the same with her Genius Hour class assignments.
"It's an amazing way to be free to create power points and websites, video games and posters, whatever they want to do. It's a way to show their passion," Ross said.
One of her students created a mechanism to help people with paralysis play soccer, another made a stand for an iPhone, and fifth-grader Mollie Addison Turner created something to help children more than a thousand miles away.
"My cousin was born in Haiti and was adopted. I knew he came from a poor part of Haiti," Turner said about the inspiration for her project.
When she found out White Stone Church was raising money to build a children's sports complex a few miles away from where her cousin was born, she knew she wanted to help.
►March 2010: Haitian orphans find lifeline at Tenn. church
"I feel really bad for them and feel like they should have everything that we have. They should be able to play sports because I know they really like soccer," Turner said.
For Turner, the assignment became more than a school project. She set up a functioning donation website using GivingFuel.com to help White Stone Church in their fundraising efforts to build a complex complete with sports, religious ministry, and after-school programs.
"Yes, it's about her and the project, but more importantly she’s thinking about those girls and boys at the orphanage, and that just makes me so excited to be her teacher," said Ross, who was thrilled to find out Turner wanted to help children in Haiti, a cause that's close to her heart. "I went to Haiti when I was in 9th grade with that same church. We honestly didn't connect the dots until she was more into it."
Turner's website is up and running, and she's been communicating with White Stone Church about her project. She hopes one day she'll be able to visit Haiti as a missionary. In the meantime, she focused on raising money.
"I just hope this gets them a lot of donations," Turner said.
To see Turner's website, click here.