IMG 45011Implementing the middle school model at Osseo Area Schools’ four middle schools has allowed students in all advisory classes to experience enrichment and challenges in new ways. For example, when four 8th grade advisory teachers at Maple Grove Middle School (MGMS) were searching for a way to inspire, challenge and engage their students they drew inspiration from two big businesses known for their innovative culture. Companies such as 3M and Google have encouraged their employees to spend up to 20 percent of their work time on passion projects outside the realm of their job descriptions. The freedom to do this resulted in such things as Post-it Notes, Gmail and Adsense.

Several weeks ago, advisory teachers at MGMS kicked off the concept, called “20 Time,” by showing students some clips from “Shark Tank,” a popular reality TV show where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential investors. Students were then challenged to come up with their very own ideas for a project with an outcome of producing some kind of product or achieving some sort of goal. Based on personal preference students worked solo or in small groups.

Up to four times a week, students in Heidi Johnson, Mike Herdan, Emily Sevenz and Brian Ploessl’s advisory hour were able to use the time to pursue their 20 Time project. While students were busy pursuing their passions, they were also learning how to set goals, research, organize, manage time, create, problem-solve, communicate, and in some cases, collaborate with others. As the 20 Time project timeline drew to a close, students presented their projects to the rest of their class.

“We were blown away by the students’ motivation and creativity,” said Johnson. “They far surpassed anything we would have imagined.”

She said some students have continued to work on their projects beyond the end of the in-class project because they are motivated to continue expanding upon what they learned. 20 Time has also been a perfect way to model lifelong learning as the four teachers also worked on their own 20 Time projects along with their students.

According to AJ Juliani, an innovation specialist and a 20 Time in education pioneer, 20 Time offers differentiation and personalized learning at its best. While teachers help to challenge each student to learn at their pace and ability, every project differs and offers unique learning opportunities.

So, what happens when you tell students they can dedicate a portion of each day to learn about anything they want?

Check out some examples of how students at MGMS spent their 20 Time:


Lauren and Sahitya were inspired by a desire to help others. They combined this with painting and crafting skills to create cards with inspirational quotes on them as encouragement for hospitalized children. Over spring break, they delivered their creations to Children’s Hospital in St. Paul.

Sahitya said she found herself looking forward to the daily opportunity to work on her painting and the cards, which kept her excited about coming to school. Lauren said that it made school more fun to be able to have some time to work on whatever interested her.


Aerial implemented technology to solve the problem of forgotten locker combos or jammed lockers. She developed a way to unlock a locker with a smartphone by attaching a peripheral that sends a signal to the locker. Called E-Lock, Aerial has a patent pending for her invention and a confidential agreement with a company that has expressed interest in buying her idea.

Aerial said prior to this experience, she sometimes experienced anxiety in having to speak in front of others. By giving presentations on her product, she has gained more confidence and communication skills. She said it also was great that even if she was having a bad day, she knew at least for a portion of the day, she could look forward to working on something she was passionate about.


Josh took advantage of his 20 Time to launch a consulting company that provides insight and education on Generation Edge, also known as Generation Z or Post-Millennials. His objective is to help companies integrate this knowledge into aspects of their work such as employee recruitment and marketing strategies. His clients include Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Red Wing Shoes, and Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis. His company is called Deciding Edge.

Josh said he appreciated having the time to work on something he was already interested in while in school. It helped keep him engaged and provided him the freedom to express his entrepreneurial spirit.


PHOTO (left to right): Aerial Egler, Sahitya Bondalapati, Lauren Buendorf and Josh Miller.