Genius Hour – Year 5

This is my 5th year doing Genius hour and it never gets old. Ever.  If you don’t know what Genius Hour is, you can read about it here and here.  But the long and short of it is; Genius Hour was taken from Google.  Google used to give 20% of its employees’ work time to working on a project of their choice.  Gmail, google talk and google news all came out of this time.  Post it’s also were an idea that sprang from being able to explore.

Schools have picked up on this and are doing what is known as Genius Hour and/or 20% time. In my third grade classroom, it is done every couple of weeks.  Students have to hand in a paper three days before stating what they are going to do.  This is not a study hall.  They need to be prepared and have all materials, books, computers, etc. ready to go.  I could have 20 students doing 20 different projects all at the same time, so they need to be responsible for their own start up. The time flies once they start, so we don’t waste time gathering materials.

Over the years, students have studied everything from black holes to animals.  One student was inspired by my daughter’s talk on South African animals and began studying them.  Students have created cardboard planes, bracelets, mosaics, and butterfly books.  They have read, done science experiments, and written information to convince parents to buy a dog (twice).  We have taped hockey sticks, taken apart skateboards, coded our own games. The list over these past five years goes on and on. The choice is theirs so the projects/learning is as unique as they are.

I was once asked how does this meet the Common Core State Standards.  My reply is that it smashes it.  Students are reading, researching, writing notes, creating books and more. They are finding information from a variety of sources and comparing and analyzing.  For those creating, some are using instructions they need to read and follow.  Others are using their engineering skills and trying, evaluating and redoing. They are focused and passionate.  I have never, not once, not at all, ever had a behavior problem during this time.  Ever.  That tells me something.

Also, we when are done, we present.  Students love hearing about each other’s projects.  Many inspire each other to try new things the next time.

Yes, I truly believe this shatters any standard/curriculum from any subject matter. However, it is so much more than than.  We are an active learning community.  We can learn from each other.  We can learn on our own.  It is exciting and fun.



We Had Ourselves a Day

As a teacher, as a student, as a learner, as a college graduate, as a human being, there are days where you just have days.

There’s no other way to describe it except just by saying that Monday was one of those incredible, unreal, wow-I-can’t-believe-I’m-here, kind of days. We went on a field trip to Eco Park Diamante to see up-close and personal the animals the second graders had been studying for their last big project of the year.

(Side note: one of our earlier posts was talking about field trips and how both Mom/I kind of dread them, but this one really changed my view of them to be completely honest.)

I’m not sure how else to describe the experience except through pictures, to see what I saw.

We started with an hour and a half bus ride, playing iSpy, Cheesey Touch, and eating snacks.

Once we got to the Eco Park, we had to take another bus to the visitors’ center, and another to the actual animal sanctuary. IMG_6408 (1).JPG









Here we are waiting at the welcome center, looking at a map and organizing our plan of attack for seeing all the animals. IMG_6414 (1).JPG

I also couldn’t resist getting a picture of these awesome kiddos waiting zip-liners and “The White House” (which is actually just a popular resort).

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Can you tell we were excited??


The first animal we saw was the chestnut-chested toucan. The best part about the big birds were that we actually got to hold them!IMG_6432.JPG









Then it was off to the snakes, then big cats! (Here we are peering into the margay cage.)IMG_6442 (1).JPG

The jaguars were playing around when we got there. When we went back later in the day, Nico (one of the jaguars) was sleeping.






Monkeys!! They actually climbed on over to us too. This one had a baby on its back that I didn’t even notice until one of my kiddos pointed and shouted with awe, “look, a baby!”

Enter a caption

Then we said “hello” to a crocodile, which was amusing since we know a song “Never Smile at a Crocodile!” You can’t see him in this picture, but he was basically right below where the kids are standing. IMG_6460.JPG


Found the iguana doppleganger of this little nugget and just had to take a picture. (He’s in the middle right. They both have red tops and the iguana was basically the size of this guy.)




In the butterfly exhibit we got to hold butterflies on our hands. I’m holding a blue morpho, which is one of the biggest butterflies in the whole world!IMG_6515.JPG


The worker in the butterfly area also let us set a newly emerged butterfly into the sanctuary! However, the butterfly didn’t want to leave us, so we thought blowing on it would be a good idea (update: it didn’t work).



My favorite animal was the sloth!! We got to see it during feeding time. Not only are they too lazy to eat, they’re also so lazy and slow that they don’t even need cages. IMG_6493.JPG

We rejoined as a whole class and explored the butterfly exhibit again. Everyone wanted their picture with the butterfly they were holding. And I, of course, obliged (happily).


Finally, on our way out, I snuck away with this little nug to say goodbye to his favorite animal, the jaguar. IMG_6514.JPG

Best field trip I’ve ever been on that’s for sure. It was amazing to see all of these animals in rehabilitation homes and then to see the pure joy on my students’ faces when they saw the animals they had been studying.

Times like these make me never want to leave and make me incredibly happy and confident of the profession I chose.