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Genius Hour: Week 8 - "The Final Stretch"

The weeks are counting down and we're nearly at the end of our first Genius Hour period. Students are putting last minute touches on songs and poems. They're polishing book layouts in Adobe inDesign, furnishing virtual houses in SketchUp, and they're practicing their dance moves. As we wrap up week 8 of Genius Hour there a few special things to note.

Juniors are BACK!

First, is that our juniors have just returned from their nearly 2 week long professional internships with companies and organizations around the area. I was dying to circle up and hear about those experiences, but they already lost time last week and I wanted to give them as much time as they had available. I was also aware they spent a couple of hours debriefing earlier that morning.

Spring Is Here

Next week is Spring Break! Most students will use that time to take trips, visit theme parks, and relax, but I have heard mention from several students or groups that they still have a little work and practice to do before their big presentation when they return. What I found interesting is that, even with today being the day before Spring Break, the vast majority of the students were still focused on their projects.

Keeping students focused and motivated on Friday's can be a weekly challenge, but keeping them on task the Friday before Spring Break is a whole new level of achievement.

Designing her own makeup palette. Chemistry and art combine!

Presentation After the Break

After they return from Spring Break, all the students will be presenting their learning, the following Thursday and Friday. Some are nervous. Some are excited, and a handful of them, to be perfectly honest, could care less. 

Each of the students (or groups) have signed up for a 5 minute time slot either on Thursday or Friday. I suggested that after 8 weeks of learning, they not leave their presentation shorter than 2 and a half minutes. I also warned that because our schedule was full, they could not go over 5 minutes. We have a schedule, and we'll need to stick to it.

What I've asked of them during their presentation is that they present what they selected to do during Genius Hour, why they selected to do it, and then present (or perform) whatever it is they learned. It's not really important if their project was a "success" or "failure", as long as they can explain what worked and what didn't. I also want them to be very clear about what they learned during this experience.

Designing a line of soccer cleats.

In Two Weeks...

 I can't lie, I think I'm looking as forward to Spring Break as the students. It will be a well needed pause after all the benchmark testing we just finished up. It will also be a necessary battery recharge for the upcoming Forge On event and the organized chaos that is the end of the year. But I really can't wait to see these 9th - 12th graders present their learning when we return.

Genius Hour: Theory vs. Reality

The original theory behind Genius Hour is that if you give students just 20% of their time to study or work on something they are passionate about, that they will be engaged and manage their own learning. The hope, is that they will learn knew things, explore uncharted waters and experiment in ways they never had before. 

After 8 weeks, one might say the reality of Genius Hour is about nurturing curiosity. The curiosity to venture down that untraveled path and learn something new. The curiosity to step outside the boundaries of lesson plans, worksheets and standardized testing and explore things the students want to explore at a very individual level.

Isn't "curiosity" something that should be required in school? Isn't it a prerequisite to innovation and creativity? What if instead of drilling fact and dates into students heads, we were somehow able to cultivate individual curiosity? Now that would be an accomplishment.
We keep moving forward, opening doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
- Walt Disney                       

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