What is Genius Hour?
Genius Hour is sometimes called Passion Projects and is an opportunity for student directed learning based on inquiry. Students can explore their own unique interests in a loosely structured classroom environment. They choose what they want to study and how they want to study it. They also choose what kind of product they will create as a result of what they’ve studied. Genius Hour gives students a chance to pursue what they’re passionate about within general parameters.
Genius hour can be scheduled into your unit in multiple ways. You can make every Friday’s class period, for example, to be time for students to work on their Genius Hour activities. Some teachers provide Genius Hour opportunities during lunch block or after school. The last 10 minutes of every class period can be allotted for Genius Hour activities.
What are the benefits of Genius Hour?
Students who participate in a Genius Hour program are more intrinsically motivated, more creative, and more passionate about being a lifelong learner. They develop grit or perseverance and practice the scientific method at the same time. Students can collaborate with others who have complementary skill sets, building communication skills. Working through a passion project allows students to practice and develop their critical thinking skills and research skills.
What are the 3 rules of Genius Hour?
- Passion Projects must start with a driving question that is bigger than a simple Google Search.
- Students must research their question and collect information to help them understand fully.
- Finally, students must create either a physical, digital, or service oriented product to demonstrate learning.
Genius Hour Examples for Middle School Science
- Create a podcast or TED talk.
- Write and perform a play or a song.
- Write a blog, pamphlet, or research paper.
- Create a poster, a cartoon, a game, or a 3D model.
- Teach someone else a new skill.
- Build a website.
- Create an app.
- Create a video game.
- Create, market, and sell a product.
- Conduct a science experiment.
What are the steps for Genius Hour in a middle school science classroom?
Day 1: Students should brainstorm things they are interested in and then choose something they are really passionate about.
Day 2: Pick a project. Aim for the Goldilocks of ambitious projects – the project should be big enough to be interesting but not so big that students will get discouraged too quickly. A great way to implement this in your middle school classroom would be to have students discuss their ideas with their peers and then present you with their final project in a mini-conference.
Day 3: Pick a driving question. Students should very specifically define what it is they are trying to find out. The more specific the question is, the more successful they will be. If the question can be answered in a simple Google search, they need to go back to the drawing board.
Days 4-5: Do the research. My middle schoolers are fluent Googlers but less successful doing research without direction. Provide a note catcher or other tool to help them organize their research. (Bonus points if your students design their own note catcher!) To help students stay focused, you might consider providing intermediate feedback on the direction of their research after the first day.
Day 6-?: Create something. To demonstrate what they’ve learned, students should create something. Students may want to create a publication, a blog, a video, a play, a gallery walk, a wax museum, or a painting.
Day ?: Presentation Day. Invite parents and community members. Picture this like the old fashioned science fair.
Final Day: Reflect. Students should be given an opportunity to bring the process full circle and reflect on what went well and what they would do differently. What did they learn?