Genius Hour: Favorite Time of the Day

Genius Hour: Favorite Time of the Day

by Audrey Anastasia & Jennifer Donovan, TJS Learning Specialists

"Are we having Genius Hour today?" From the day we introduced Genius Hour to our classes, students asked this question frequently and with great anticipation.

Genius Hour is a concept inspired by companies like Google and 3M that give employees 20% of their work time to pursue their own ideas. Post-It Notes and Gmail were invented by employees pursuing their passions and channeling creativity during this time. With those results, it's no surprise schools are bringing these ideas into the classroom.

Genius Hour at TJS

When we found out we were both going to make time for Genius Hour in our classes, we decided to work together. What we found was unbridled enthusiasm from students who wanted time to pursue their own questions, interests, ideas and ways to make a difference.

It's About the Process

It wasn't easy for every student or group to choose a topic. Changing topics and narrowing their scope was all part of the process. Students developed the ability to assess where they are, where they're going and how they'll get there. At The Joy School, we're always looking toward junior high, high school and college. Even though each student or group's topic was unique, every project required kids to exercise a number of important skills. Students go beyond their usual commitment to a project when they get to define the topic and the way they communicate their findings.

One group of students came up with a presentation on the history of desserts, then asked if they could invite other classes to watch. These students made invitations, created a slideshow, decided who would speak for each slide, wrote out note cards and more, figuring out what needed to be done along the way.

While learning to navigate these unstructured group dynamics, students came across some conflicts. It can be hard not to get involved as a teacher, but the kids solved these problems on their own.

Students also felt safer making bolder choices because they chose what success looked like. There was much less risk for failure. Because everyone did something different, students saw the value of learning from each other's projects instead of comparing or competing.

Skills Used During Genius Hour

  • reading
  • note-taking
  • researching
  • brainstorming
  • planning
  • revising
  • being creative
  • leading
  • presenting
smiling student holding a pointer up to presentation

Great Things Can Happen

In recent years, fitting Genius Hour or passion projects into schools has become a movement. The idea is this: if we pursue topics we are deeply interested in, great things can happen.

Sometimes the great thing is an invention or an innovative idea or initiative. Sometimes the great thing is how we feel about ourselves and our learning, how we learn to teach ourselves new things and the inspiration we feel for other projects. Sometimes the great thing is how we are seen by others when they find out about our ideas. Sometimes the great thing is learning from fellow students.

Everybody Is a Genius

Albert Einstein famously said, "Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid." Sometimes our students are judged by what they don't know. Through Genius Hour, our students came to see themselves as leaders and experts on their topics. They saw that people were very interested in finding out about how their unique minds work. As teachers, we saw strengths in students that we had not seen before. Some students are walking a little taller now. We were happy to see them work independently and claim responsibility for their own success

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