I’ve now wrapped up my first year implementing Genius Hour with my 8th graders. I jumped in with a few questions still on the table, but it was a risk I’m glad I took.
In the fall, students researched topics of their choosing, but I accidentally narrowed their output by giving too many specifics up front. In retrospect, I should have more work with some of the students to develop deeper questions.
With the second semester, I gave students a big goal – changing the world. I really enjoyed having a theme because it gave some focus to the projects, which we were missing previously. It also enabled me to do double duty with the argumentative research paper we needed to write third quarter.
The upside of the double duty was the students learned a lot about their topics leading up to the expo. The downside was that it sort of removed some of the “passion” for some of the students. Associating the project with the paper at all made it a challenge for some students to see the entire process in a positive light. Were I to do it again, this is something I would consider changing.
From the whole project, students gave the most positive feedback in regards to the actual Expo day. In my mind, the two (Genius Hour and the Genius Hour Expo) were one in the same. My students did not see it that way, and I’m not quite sure why that is.
One very rewarding thing was how many students reflected in their final blog post about how proud they were of the work they’ve done.
If I had the chance, I would certainly implement Genius Hour again next year. I would have a handful of things I’d want to change, but the overall premise is a very powerful idea. While I’m moving to a different position next year, I will work to involve as much student choice, project-based learning, and publishing of final products as I can. I was truly forever changed as an educator by this experience!