HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The 8th grade students at Holland Middle School are bringing their passions to life. During school hours, they’ve broken up into interest groups to make a difference in their classrooms and community.

The students can choose from a variety of different interest groups: construction, mental health, nutrition, finance and technology. They then work to solve a driving question by doing hands-on work and creating change.

“I think any teacher would say it really means the world because this is what real life is,” said Bill Boerman, the STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — teacher behind the class.

“We get to do something that we actually enjoy and really want to do, so we feel more motivated to get our work done instead of just doing a run-of-the-mill assignment,” said Cassidy Russell, an 8th grader and member of the mental health interest group. “I wanted to join the mental health group because I’ve struggled with a lot of mental health before, so I feel like it’s important to make sure to keep the mental health at HMS up if we can.”

The group is currently designing shirts for the schools’ basketball teams, hoping to unite them as one.

“So that they can feel like they’re all one basketball team instead of being separated into the two separate ones,” said Russell.

Lilyana Harris Ballman is also an 8th grader and a member of the school’s nutrition interest group.

“I like cooking and I like to make food healthier so it’s better for you,” said Ballman.

“It’s fully student driven and needless to say, the interest level is pretty high,” said Boerman.

Boerman says the goal is to keep students inspired and instill in them real life skills.

“Even as a student when I was in school, I’d frequently say, ‘Why am I doing this? Why do I do this?’ I never get that question in this class,” said Boerman.

He hopes to show them that even at a young age, they can always make a difference.

“Seeing that, seeing their excitement and in a sneaky sense as a teacher they’re learning math, science, and engineering and everything along the way is fun to watch,” said Boerman.

The students in the construction group are also working on a Holland-themed cornhole board by painting it and sewing the bags. They plan to auction it off in early December.

All proceeds will support the school’s greenhouse and STEM program to make resources for interest groups like these ones possible.