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Many of us grew up believing that we were “special” and had gifts and talents that are different from those around us.

As we get older, however, we often start to realize that maybe we aren’t quite as utterly unique and completely different from anyone else as we might have thought or been told…but that doesn’t mean that we don’t all have separate interests and skills that should be celebrated!

“Genius Hour” is a way to ensure that all kids and students get the chance to pursue their passions and the topics that they are genuinely curious about. It’s an opportunity to preserve that innate wonder that we all remember feeling as kids, and to channel it into an educational experience for both the student and other classmates.

The mechanics of this method are simple—set aside a designated amount of time every week, day, or class period for students to work on a passion project of their choosing. It could be 30 minutes a week total, or the first ten or last fifteen minutes of class each day; it truly is up to you and what fits in with your curriculum and schedule.

Although it might be a bit difficult for some students to take on such a self-directed and autonomous project, ultimately it will benefit them as they learn how to guide their own learning and not rely on someone else.

Anything could be a Genius Hour project, that’s the beauty of it! Students could present on a scientific concept that they’re passionate about, or a current event or favorite book. Younger students could present about topics familiar to them, such as how to best care for different types of animals or how to cook a dish that they love making with their families.

If you have the time and ability to make Genius Hour more of a challenge in your classroom, the projects could become increasingly creative and in-depth.

Older students could create a presentation about their desired future career and all the pros and cons it entails.

Someone could share a song that they have composed, or a short story that they have written.

They could write and act out their own play or partner with a volunteer organization and offer their skills.

They could create a campaign to promote mental health among their classmates, perhaps by starting a blog or emailing positive notes and resources to fellow students (or maybe working with teachers to incorporate five minutes of deep breathing before tests, breaks throughout the day, and the like).

They could lead a cooking class via Zoom after communicating the ingredients students would need, or make a Rube Goldberg machine from items at home (if you haven’t heard of these machines, look them up right away—they are so impressive!).

The possibilities are only limited by students’ imaginations, and with the incredible amount of online/free resources available this method would be completely effective and feasible in a blended learning environment as well as a traditional in-person classroom.

After approving students’ ideas, you can give them suggestions of resources to use for their projects: Canva, Animoto (for videos), Google Slides, Slides carnival (unique Google Slides themes), and so many more.

If you’re not convinced about the power of this idea to inspire and engage even the most reluctant learner, maybe you will be once you realize that the multinational technology company Google itself utilizes a derivative of this idea.

Employees at this mega-corporation are permitted and encouraged to spend twenty percent of their time on “pet projects” of their choosing. Twenty percent of their time! That seems a bit excessive, but clearly it’s working or it wouldn’t still be occurring. Gmail itself came from one employee’s pet project, along with Google News and other functions.

Creativity and passion have the ability to shape students’ lives, and consequently Genius Hour is a superb way to fit in time during the day for these discoveries to take place.

Thanks for sharing your coffee break with us, and we look forward to seeing you back again tomorrow!


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