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.