They say that students never care what you know until they know how much you care. How do they know you care? By your listening intently to them talk about their interests, and letting them incorporate those interests into their classroom work. I had one student who absolutely loved graffiti art, so I showed him examples of brilliant contemporary street art, then I gave him a can of spray paint and a wall. Actually, he had to take the initiative in consulting the principal, finding a teacher to offer their wall, and coming up with the idea. Then as a tiny team, we made the sketches, and went to work.
Luckily, the science teacher was ready for a change from his large, off-white wall with a sun and the equation for photosynthesis. I took my three students and we painted that wall black, around the sun.Then we recreated a sketch of the color system in chalk on the wall. We made a paper stencil to match each chalk planet, and hit it with a little spray paint. The biggest challenges were creating ventilation (fans and open doors), making sure surfaces were covered before painting (and quickly wiping down those that weren't), and finally dealing with the equation coming through the layer of latex and spray paint. We still need to go back and do a few more layers on Jupiter for that one to be fixed. I want my students know that I believe their ideas are worth pursuing even if they sometimes seem far-out.