I am a big fan of initiatives like genius hour.  The experience provides students with  “3-dimensional learning opportunities” that help unlock the doors of creativity.  Students are challenged to use their core knowledge and skills sets to solve problems and bring their ideas to life.  For many students, genius hour is the only time they are afforded an opportunity to create.

Teachers who integrate genius hour into the curriculum for the first time are often amazed at the unlimited creativity students possess. Check out a few examples from my classroom.

Student Work Created During Genius Hour

  • An original song called Darkness about a student dealing with depression.

Genius Hour:  Things to Consider

  • Learning, in the early stages, is Ugly
    • Be prepared to help your students understand development is a process. It also takes time to refine an idea to the point of perfection. Genius hour can be sloppy and filled with mystery.  That’s ok. It’s part of the process.  One of my favorite student projects started on a 4X8 bed sheet that hung from the ceiling in my classroom.  The project was very rough in the beginning.  However, the students continued to collaborate and make improvements until the show was ready to be shared in front of a live audience on Veteran’s Day.
  • Fight Through Failure
    • Where there is genius hour failure will not be far behind. In fact, in many cases, it appears to be omnipresent.  One of the best gifts you will give your students is the persistence to overcome failure.  Help them understand it is a valuable part of the learning process. Last year, a group of students wanted to create an automated system that enabled them to deliver a marker to my classroom without touching it.  The project was riddled with failure from the onset.  The students had little experience with any of the mediums they chose.  However, what they had was a can do attitude, which provided them with the ability to land a marker in my hand the last day of school.
  • Celebrate Success
    • Celebration is one of the most powerful tools in a teacher’s toolbox for success. Don’t be afraid to use it.  Students want to know their effort matters.  Look for new ways to showcase student projects.  For years, my students went to great effort to create exemplary work because they knew it would be shown at our film festival where over 1,500 community members came to celebrate the academic achievement of my students.

Teachers live for that moment in time when a student says, “I finally had an idea that is all my own and belongs to no one else.”  Genius hour has the ability to help take your students places they have never dreamt of going.

 

Joseph Fatheree is an award winning author, educator, and filmmaker. He has received numerous educational awards, including being recognized as a Top 10 Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, Illinois Teacher of the Year, and the NEA’s National Award for Teaching Excellence.  He currently serves as the Director of Strategic Projects for the National Network of State Teachers of the Year in Washington, D.C. and is the Instructor of Creativity and Innovation at Effingham High School in Illinois. His opinions are his own.