Every year I utilize Genius Hour in my classroom and every year, it’s a tremendous success both from a teacher standpoint and the students’ as well.
What is Genius Hour?
Genius Hour is inspired by Google’s 20% time whereby employees are permitted to use 20% of their working time to be creative and explore ideas that matter to them and which could potentially be incorporated into the Google World. This process has garnered such innovations as Gmail and Google Maps among others. Genius Hour allows students to explore their own interests and passions creatively in the classroom. Students become immersed in a topic that actually means something to them. They are able to work at their own pace and delve as deeply as they dare.
In my class I had my students focus on topics related to physics, not necessarily our curriculum but something to do with physics in general. I then used this as our course culminating task.
Genius hour gives you time to escape the traditional confines of school and learn about something that matters to you. You come up with the idea, you do your research and you complete your project. You become an expert! Your completed project must be something tangible, it must be something for yourself; something you are proud of and passionate about. It’s a project that pushes your learning.
– This must be a topic that matters to you
– You must supply all necessary materials
– There must be a significant research component
– You must be safe, nothing is to be attempted until approval has been given
– Refining idea
– Working on it/building/researching, etc.
– Class time – two thirds to a full class each Friday
– Students create a website that tracks their genius hour timeline
– Idea is presented via a video embedded on the created website
General Topic Ideas (not necessarily appropriate for grade or subject area)
– How can people travel long distances in space?
– How do speakers work?
– Could dinosaurs survive on the current Earth?
– Space rovers and travel?
– Why we can’t travel at the speed of light?
– How does the brain work?
– How corrective lenses work?
– Black holes
– The physics of sports
– Character powers in video games
– The science of teleportation
– How high can we build?
– Are GMOs really bad for you?
– How and why do some species survive in areas that others can’t?
You must attend four conferences during the first three months of your project. Conferences will be held during Genius Hour time. During each conference, both group members would come up to the front of the room and have a private conversation with me about their progress. They would receive a mark for each conference based on completion of the criteria set out below.
For the full marking scheme including ready-made Excel sheets, please click here.
Conference #1 – About 2 weeks into the project
• What is your understanding of Genius Hour? How would you explain it to someone who had never heard about it?
• List three possible topics you would like to explore for Genius Hour.
• Write two questions specific to each of the 3 topics you listed above (total of 6 questions).
Conference #2 – 4 weeks into the project
• Three links to good information sources.
• Two interesting things you have discovered about your topic so far.
• At this point, you should be able to “talk” about your project, what it is and where it’s going.
Conference #3 – 7-8 weeks into the project
• We will explore your website
• Expand on your list of resources and links for a total of 6 good sources of information.
• Create and submit an annotated bibliography that summarizes each resource. There should be a page on your website devoted to your notated bibliography
• At this point, you should know a great deal about your topic/issue and be able to explain it to me.
Conference #4 – 10-12 weeks into the project
• Website review
• At this point, you should be an expert in your topic/issue and be able to fully explain it as well as its significance to society.
• During this conference, you need to be able to teach me something significant
• Total 10 references with full annotated bibliography on the website
How will you present your findings?
1) You will create a website which chronicles the entire process. You must be detailed and are required to post at least once every other week starting the first Friday following Conference #2. Your posts should include facts you’ve learned about your topic, steps you’ve taken, pictures, video (you can film yourselves building your project, etc.). Each post should be at least two proper paragraphs long.
2) You must create a video in the style of Ted Talk which overviews your project and presents your findings. Be creative, be entertaining and be great! Your video should be between 5 and 10 minutes.
Due 14-16 weeks into the project
How will you be marked?
1) Each conference you will be given a mark based on your preparedness and progress
2) Each Genius Hour class you will be given a mark based on what you accomplish (did you work hard? Etc.)
– Each day provide a short summary of what you accomplished during the period
– Work diligently and this will be an easy mark
3) Your website will be graded based on content as well as how well it is structured
4) You are to submit a post every two weeks which chronicles your progress as well as what you’ve learned
5) Your project will be given a grade based on thoroughness and quality of work
6) The annotated bibliography will display your research skills
7) The video submission (5-10 minutes) will showcase what you’ve learned/discovered during your time
I’ve posted the entire package below. Enter your best email address to download your free copy. The files I’ve uploaded are fully customizable. Experiment, change and do whatever you like to them to make the project suit your classroom. This project I feel would be great from early elementary to upper years high school with just a few modifications here and there.