Last school year, I stumbled upon a remarkable project called Genius Hour. What I thought would be a fun exploration of learning for my eighth grade students has turned into an innovative community-building experience.
Some of you may be furrowing your brows in confusion, asking your screen, “well what is this Genius Hour she’s talking about?” For the yet-uninitiated, Genius Hour is a form of problem-based learning where each student chooses his or her desired topic of study. They can start out with a burning question, an interest, or a topic they wish to explore. Sounds like fun, right? Well it is! Luckily, if you choose to employ Genius Hour within your classroom or school, there is a flurry of research, articles, and resources supporting its relevance and academic purpose. While it is fun, if you do it right (and, trust me, that’s not too hard to do), your students will learn more deeply as a result. By providing student with the opportunity to reconnect with their sense of learning for the sake of learning, they will each grow to become experts in their areas of study.
After I did Genius Hour once in my classroom, I shared my experience at our first District-wide EdCamp in October of 2014. Then an elementary school principal contacted me, asking for guidance with helping some of his teachers explore Genius Hour. Then a friend of mine, and fellow teacher tried it in her classroom. Then I presented on it to teachers at a few different in-house professional learning days catered to pre-selected cohorts of teachers wanting to develop more innovations at their schools. The proverbial snowball effect. How appropriate with it being winter right now. Besides, everyone loves a good snowball.
I was recently asked to serve in support of a few super-excited and courageous educators as they presented to their principal, assistant principals, and academic coaches on their desire to do Genius Hour. I could not have been prouder of these ladies charging forth to bring this level of self-directed instruction to their Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade students.
The ladies began their presentation with opening questions and ended with those same questions, and a stylistic flourish. The conference room erupted with applause. They smiled, I snapped a photo of their impressive display, and offered to help them as they continue on this path.
In my district, there are two kinds of people: those who support students (teachers) and those who support teachers. I am humbled and inspired daily by being invited to support such amazing teachers uncover their areas of innovation and genius.