For so many of us, high school was the be-all and end-all of our adolescent concerns. You just can't help but be laser-focused on making it to graduation in one piece. But, there's a big wide world waiting for you once those lightning-fast four years are up, and passion projects are one way to add skills, confidence, and accomplishments to your professional tool kit before you're out in the world.
If the increasingly elaborate TikToks are anything to go off of, your generation has big ideas, and passion projects can help bring them to life.
The Scope of a Passion Project
A passion project is any type of activity that has a clear start and finish and often involves learning new skills and implementing them in a targeted way. Generally, passion projects aren't something you're being assigned at school, but you might have heard murmurings of them on your way to and from class.
For many people, the whole point of a passion project is finding something to do with your time that involves something you really love. For example, if you love road-tripping and have a bevy of chickens you adore, you might upgrade their chicken coop to an Instagram-worthy 50s-inspired chicken motel.
For others, it's a way to explore potential career options. If you've got an inkling you might want to work in mechanical engineering, trying to build a small-scale robot is a great way to get real-life practice in the field and see if it's something that sparks your interest.
Passion projects are a broad concept, but that means they're big enough to fit everyone's needs. Whether it's to satisfy personal curiosity, one-up the competition in your admissions essays, or get hands-on experience with fields you might want to work in, they're an amazing way to put your limits to the test.
Passion Project Ideas Perfect for Teens
It’s perfectly normal if you don’t know what you’re passionate about yet. Not every passion project has to speak directly to your soul. Like ships in the night, they might just be an activity you try once and never pick up again. There’s beauty to be found in just doing it at all.
Need a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing? Here are five rock-solid passion projects you can try:
Build a Miniature Diorama of Your Room
Your childhood bedroom won’t stay that way forever. Instead of using old polaroids or digital files to preserve your setup, manifest a physical snapshot by building a miniature diorama of your bedroom. Build small furniture out of cardboard, toothpicks, and dowel rods. Hand-sew tiny replicas of a few outfits and throw them on your fake carpet. In a decade or two, you’ll love getting to look back and reminisce.
Paint a Watercolor Illustration of a Place You Love
Watercolor is one of the more approachable types of fine art because the transparency feels less like you’re making a huge commitment to the canvas with every brush stroke. Learn to build up shadows and how to use the transparency to establish the foreground from the background.
To make this project more personal, choose a subject that you love. Paint a beloved family member’s portrait or recreate a photo from a family vacation. Let your feelings guide how you illustrate the scene.
Sculpt & Bake a Clay Jewelry Set
Jewelry making isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ve got to dodge high heat, tin snips, and pointy metal rods. But if you love accessories and want to take a step up from beaded friendship bracelets, try clay jewelry. You can cut and sculpt polymer clay into all sorts of fun shapes and designs. Then bake the clay in the oven and attach the earring hooks or backings, and voila! You’ve got a whole new earring collection.
Document a Field Guide of the Creatures You Find
If you love the great outdoors and proudly show off your collection of National Park stickers, then one idea for you is to make a field guide. Field guides are used to document things you see in the wild. Take samples, pictures, and notes about the animals, critters, and flora you come across. Think of it as a mix of immersive environmental science and scrapbooking.
Launch a Little Free Library in Your Area
Not all passion projects have to be something self-motivating. There are so many important causes to support, and working on things to benefit humanitarian and environmental efforts can also be the driving factor behind a passion project.
For example, you could follow the process to start a Little Free Library. These small library boxes are self-contained free libraries that give people access to literature when they otherwise might not have the resources to acquire books on their own.
Even More Passion Projects to Spark Your Interest
Being indecisive is far more common than you think. If you feel like your brain's blue screening and you just can't conjure up something to do but you want to try out a passion project, don't fret. We've got even more ideas that may spark your interest.
- Rebuild a classic car: Granted, you might want to start small and take each milestone on the car as you go since most rebuilds take months to complete. But if you've got an eye for mechanical work, it might be an awesome way to get started.
- Bind a few old books: There are multiple different types of book binding, but an easy way to get started is picking a few old favorites off the shelf and rebinding them with new covers.
- Try replicating an artwork in a museum or gallery: Make like the dedicated artists practicing their skills on the gallery floors and bring a sketchpad to a museum or gallery nearby. Work on replicating your favorite pieces in a style that speaks to you.
- Organize a toy drive: Playing with toys can be so important for young kids' development, and you can use your time to organize a community toy drive by connecting with local groups, asking businesses to donate, and scheduling pick up and drop off.
- Take up a new stretch and fitness routine: Take physical training and conditioning up a notch by commiting to a measurable routine. This could look like trying out a new class at the gym or working on mastering a new series of stretches at home, for example.
- Learn to read a children's book in a new language: You probably won't be able to master a secondary language in a few months, but with a dedicated effort you might be able to read an entire children's book on your own.
- Make a family cookbook: If you've got grandparents or parents who are phenomenal cooks, you could take down some of their best recipes and make a family cookbook. Future you will be so glad you did.
- Read through an author's entire catalog: If you love reading, you'll enjoy the challenge. From classic lit to books that are hot off the presses, the specific catalogs are up to you.
- Build a custom computer: If you're in the gaming scene, you know how elaborate custom computer builds can get. If you want to work your way up to something iridescent and fantastical, you've got to start somewhere.
- Make a digital portfolio: If you're a burgeoning makeup artist, designer, writer, or are working in an artistic space, documenting your work is so important. Take the time to compile photos, write process descriptions, and more to pad out a digital portfolio. You can even use these as references for future work or for university admissions.
- Direct a short film: With how advanced phone camera technology is today, you can make short films with the lowest budgets in history. So, commission a few friends and hit record.
Tips to Help You Get Started
Starting anything from scratch can be daunting, and we don’t blame you if you’ve procrastinated on passion projects in the past. This time around, use these tips to help you get started:
- Set an end date. If you establish a day you’d like to have your project finished by, you’ve now got a metric to build a schedule around.
- Check the internet for tutorials. If you have an idea of something you want to do but don’t know what it entails, look for tutorials. YouTube is an awesome place to walk you step-by-step through something.
- Consider starting small. Maybe completing a 20,000-piece jigsaw puzzle shouldn’t be the first idea you tackle. Start off with reasonably small ideas, because being able to finish them will give you confidence to try out harder ones in the future.
How Passion Projects Benefit Teens
High school is the perfect time to tackle a passion project. You’ve still got tons of creative juice flowing, and if you’re lucky, you’ve got a lot of downtime on your hands. If you’ve got a hankering to stretch your limits and bring something to life, here are a few reasons to jump right in.
They Teach You How to Finish Something
So many people struggle to finish things. Home renovations go half-complete and that musical instrument starts collecting dust after a few months of picking it up. Humans love to start things, but we don’t really like finishing them. A passion project is a great tool to teach you as a young adult to set a schedule and commit to finishing something you start.
Since the stakes are so low, you can focus on getting to the finish line rather than on how well you’ve performed in the race.
They Can Give You a Boost on University Applications
If you’re applying for university or trade programs of any kind, they want to know all the skills you bring to the table. Sure, you’ve performed well in school, but they look to see you showing drive, passion, independence, and creativity elsewhere.
Use your passion project as a testament to your value. Give the people reading through your application a sense of who you are and the things you can accomplish outside of the classroom.
They Help You Learn & Practice New Skills
On-the-job training is the best kind, and you’ll get serious practice when working on a passion project. Wood carving, checking for studs in the walls, understanding electric wiring, and being able to understand perspective in fine art are all examples of things you might learn how to do while working on your project.
When you set out to start with, you never really know the unexpected lessons coming down the line, and they sure don’t disappoint.
Passion Projects Are Time Well-Spent
At the end of the year, you probably feel a bit like we do — remorseful over all the things we didn’t do and regretting all the hours we spent endlessly scrolling. If you’re stuck in a rut, use a passion project to pull you out. There really is enough time to get things done if we buckle down and see them through to the end.