Empower Students to Explore Their Passions with Genius Hour

It’s not easy to find time to diverge from core curriculum and give students the opportunity to pursue their interests and passions. For cutting edge educators Emily Schmidt and Martha Smith at Coltrane Webb STEM Elementary School this is no excuse; “It’s not about having time. It’s about making time.“. In an effort to empower their learners the school has introduced their own Genius Hour initiative and in the below slides Emily and Martha share their experience, tips and ideas.

Genius Hour is an educational spin on employee motivation and productivity efforts made by forward thinking companies such as 3M, HP and Google.

The search-engine giant, Google, allows its engineers to spend 20% of their time to work on any pet project that they want.  The idea is very simple. Allow people to work on something that interests them, and productivity will go up.

While in a classroom context it can sound like an excuse for free time or play, the important distinction is in the setting of expectations. It is this explicit direction that encourages the time to be productive as well as acknowledging that creative paths are worthwhile and valued.

Before you set sail for genius hour you should have very clear expectations about what each student should be doing. In a genius hour class there may be 30 students all working on their own projects, and it can get a bit chaotic if expectations aren’t clear.

So what can you do to kick off Genius Hour in your classroom? Emily and Martha suggest a few ideas to get you started.

Use Genius Hour to share with students topics that they don’t usually have the opportunity to learn about during the traditional school day:

Links and Next Steps


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Waag Society.

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