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Fraser Schools and Genius Hour: Where Student Passions Come to Life!

There’s a movement happening in classrooms all over the world…and it’s called Genius Hour!

Kids spend around 15,000 hours in elementary and high school, but how much of that time is spent developing the imagination? Creativity and innovation are crucial career skills, but our educational systems don’t enable students to develop their natural creative powers.

Luckily, teachers have discovered Genius Hour to foster the power of students’ imaginations. Genius hour is class time set aside for children to explore their passions and creativity. Students can choose what they want to learn during a set period of school time. They are challenged to explore a topic and do a project about it to share with the class, school or world.

Genius hour has many roots but it is based on a Google business practice. Google employees are allowed to spend 20% of their work time on projects that interest them (provided the projects have the potential to advance the company). Gmail and Google News are results of this practice.

Genius Hour is aligned with the theory of intrinsic motivation. When students have a say in their learning, they become much more engaged, their confidence is boosted and the entire learning process becomes fun. When students are allowed to be creative, they are more motivated, better learners.

Teachers love the sense of autonomy that students develop during Genius Hour. It’s a step toward creating lifelong learners and could be one of the most impactful things educators do in their classroom.

Teachers often use three rules for Genius Hour projects:

1) There must be a driving question
2) The project must involve research
3) The project must be shared

Dayna Taylor is a fifth grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School in Michigan. Her school provides iPads to all students in grades 3 through 12. They started using itslearning in the fall of 2014.

Dayna has been holding Genius Hour regularly during the past school year. She basically follows the three rules outlined above. Her students use itslearning discussion boards to share project proposals. They post their ideas and fellow students respond with constructive comments and questions.

Dayna sets aside an hour a week for research and work on Genius Hour projects. Her students have chosen topics spanning from animal shelters to baseball in India. When they finished their projects, they present them to the class.

Dayna explains Genius Hour, “It allows students who do not share or participate in regular curriculum class discussions a way to show themselves off, in a sense. It gives them a voice they may not have known about. It also allows me to make connections with students and show them I truly care about what they care about – their passions. Students take ownership of their learning and thus are self motivated to learn and grow.”

She continues, “It is a huge step to let go of the style of teaching where the teacher is doing all the work and students are quietly doing what they are told. The biggest jump for me was the pure organized chaos that sometimes goes on during Genius Hour. It is louder than normal and is a little and dishevled, but they are all working, thinking and engaged in something they want to learn more about – their true PASSIONS!”

Dayna’s students are extremely enthusiastic about Genius Hour. One of them, Kitana, reported, "It was amazing, wonderful and surprising!"

Eisenhower Elementary School is in the beginning stages of using itslearning, and Dayna is excited to see its potential for use during Genius hour. “I’m starting to upload films that were part of presentations to itslearning so students can revisit. We’ve also done reflections and self-evaluations. Some students have decided to do the traditional poster presentation but many have included digital pieces like PicCollages and iMovies to share what they have learned throughout this process,” Dayna reports. “I've realized these students can really do this and possibly make a difference in the world with this thing called Genius Hour.”



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