We have finally made it to the end of the semester and the accumulation of all my students’ hard work with their Genius Hour projects! So, how did they turn out?
Each of my students, either on their own or in groups, presented their research to their classmates, the school’s administrators, and me. Their presentations were really impressive! Students’ projects included building a new, outdoor study hall space on campus, improving the school’s sports facilities, increasing community water consumption, marketing our school to new students and families, hosting an event for pet adoption, improving the school’s educational philosophy, and techniques to reach different learning styles, and increasing our student body through marketing to parents of soon-to-be pre-K students. They’re research, while including scholarly articles and news sources, also included working closely with other teachers and community members, surveying their classmates, and even interviewing local college professors.
The presentations essentially had three parts: an explanation of the problem that the students wanted to address, an explanation of their solution, and a realistic game plan for how they will accomplish their goal. I left the presentation materials up to them. While most students chose to use a PowerPoint presentation, some chose videos, speeches, and one group even made professional portfolios and a prototype of their project. It was great to see their creativity and passion for the projects that they chose.
If you’d like to see more details about each of this year’s projects, you can check out the class blog my students created to track their progress here.
The process of starting a Genius Hour project curriculum at my school this year was not easy, and I’d like to take some time to reflect on how this semester went, what I’d recommend to fellow teachers, what I’d like to do in the future, and what I would change if I could do it all over again.
One thing that I would repeat next year is the brainstorming stage for the student projects. You can see more detail about how I structured those class periods here. I liked giving the kids a chance to think, give each other feedback, and pair up based on their similar interests before the real work started. Another thing I liked was giving the students the freedom to choose how they wanted to conduct their presentations. As I mentioned earlier, it was so great to see the final products, and several students went above and beyond.
While I was happy in a lot of ways with how this semester went, there are several things I want to change for next year. First, I want to change how the students tracked their project’s progress (you can read about my struggles figuring that out in my mid-semester update here). Rather than doing a class blog, I would like each student to create and use their own blog for recording their projects. Since Weebly is very user friendly site, I would teach my students how to use that. Another thing I would change is the pacing for the project. This year, I had students post “Research Updates” and blogs, but the rubric was fairly vague, and that was a struggle for several students. While attending a Global Leadership Summit with several of my students in February, I learned about a project format called “Design Thinking” that I would like to use. Design Thinking is a step-by-step process to define and solve a problem. Through empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing, students can solve problems in their communities. I think that this strategy will help students with the pacing of their projects and give them better short-term goals on the way to reaching their long-term goal.
Overall I was very happy with how Genius Hour turned out this year. It wasn’t always and easy process, but my students worked through their difficulties to produce some awesome presentations, and in some cases results, from their semester of research. Genius Hour is a great way to get students passionate about learning, and I encourage you to try it at your school!
If you have any suggestions from your own Genius Hour experience, or any questions for me, please comment below!