Educational projects like “Genius Hour”, “Passion Projects”, and “20% Time” have been gaining as much popularity in the classroom as the buzzwords associated with them. The benefits are obvious and many...authentic research, student choice, integration of 21st century skills, real-world learning, autonomy of project creation...just to name a few.
With my journey into Genius Hour this fall, I found a glaring benefit I hadn’t accounted for when I first began organizing and researching. As the students brainstormed topics, narrowed down their ideas, and created essential questions, little pieces of information emerged about each child. Who knew, my quietest student was so curious about the scientific side of paranormal activity? How could I have ever known that John would be so interested in the economic impact of hosting the World Cup after he saw the protests in Rio De Janeiro? What about the “girly-girl” in class who is into riding dirtbikes and racing suped-up Go-Karts?
I found out more about my students in 3 days than I had in the previous 2 months. With this new knowledge also came conversations and discussions I would have never had. And with those interactions came a new level of trust, a new bond, and better connections. After all, teaching is not just about the content which you teach, but about establishing positive relationships that allow learning to happen. In the end, Genius Hour led me to establishing the type of relationships that allows for greater learning to happen in my classroom.
I always felt that I naturally established positive relationships, but projects like this open doors, and bring it to a new level. So if Genius Hour, Passions Projects, or any similar student-interest project isn’t currently in your yearly plan, it may be time to step out on a limb, and start getting "Geniusy".
*Check out Chris Kesler's Genius Hour page for resources