My team did a Genius Hour program earlier this school year and it was both fun and educational for the students.
Genius Hour is an approach to learning built around student curiosity, self-directed learning, and passion-based work. In traditional learning, teachers map out academic standards, and plan units and lessons based around those standards. In Genius Hour, students are in control, choosing what they study, how they study it, and what they do, produce, or create as a result.
As a learning model, it promotes inquiry, research, creativity, and self-directed learning. Students spend time working on projects they’re interested in and passionate about. The study and work is motivated intrinsically, not extrinsically. Genius Hour provides students freedom to design their own learning during a set period of time during school. It allows students to explore their own curiosity. A distinction compared to more open, self-directed learning and user-generated learning experiences is that within a “Genius Hour” framework, this student-centered approach is only used a portion of the schedule, providing students a choice in what they learn and how they learn it during a set period of time within a school day.
We used an hour a day for a three week period as our time frame. Without teachers “packaging” content that frames and scaffold content, students are left to design their own learning experiences. Through surveying possibility, navigation of unfiltered content, gathering information, and narrowed research, students make sense of ideas that are important to them. This navigation and survey of possibility then leads to more narrow inquiry and research.
Whether students “make,” publish, design, act, or do, “creating” is core to Genius Hour. There is always a visible product or function of the learning as an end product. Students connect with teachers to plan, peers to produce, and experts and community members to establish a sense of purpose for their work. The only guidelines we gave students were the components of the project (a prototype, a written explanation and a presentation they needed to do presenting their ideas). The assignment was they had to make something that will help another person. The products students produced were excellent. The ideas they had and what they came up with were really outstanding. Along with this, students enjoyed the assignment making learning fun!
Dr. Mike Siekkinen, a retired U.S. Navy submariner, became a teacher as a second career. He teaches history at St Marys Middle School as well as Adult and Career Education at Valdosta State in Georgia.