Picture this: Halloween, festival games at lunch recess. It’s 1:20 and students are back in class for an hour and 15 minutes. Hmm. Do you really expect students to want to sit down and learn? Not a problem! It’s Thursday, 1:30 our regularly scheduled Genius Hour time, when students take over their learning.
We started with a tour of a paper city created by Jaden. Each part of the town was described in detail as others sat completely engaged, asking questions.
The forest featured two boys facing a grizzly bear, See that yellow circle on his stomach? That’s the beam of the flash light! he explained. Oh wow! That is so cool, Anthony and Damien responded. See this house here? Jaden continued. That’s my brother. He saw me working on it and of course he had to be in it. Wouldn’t you if you were my brother? The town was complete with a baseball stadium, the White House, wood shop and arcade. What more would a boy want?
After the presentation, the call came out for tape, paper, and cardboard. Two teams of boys continued their work, started the previous week, on a World War II battle scene. One had assigned himself the job of determining the cause of the war. Internet was off, so books met his current needs. Another student’s game board was under development.
Many were creating/designing arcade games. Can you help me measure this? It must be precise. Precise? I think, we’re talking about cardboard, tape and a balled up piece of paper. It needs to stay in the pocket he informed me. Oh.
Play or Learning?
- Jadenwood was a narrative with elaboration and craft moves through out.
- The causes of World War II require research and reading.
- Arcade and board games are design, engineering and problem solving — creating something that matches your vision.
- Articulating a vision and the problems encountered in executing that vision can be challenging for anyone particularly English language learners. Having the idea is one thing but being able to describe it so others can help and understand your thinking is essential no matter what your perspective.
The work is completely directed by students. I help with materials and sometimes technical assistance, such as cutting cardboard. They often start their projects in class and work on them at home. No one is reminded that Genius Hour is on Thursday. Mostly they want me to know what they are up to and schedule their presentations.
This is our first year doing Genius Hour. A year ago, this work was unknown and unimaginable to me. At this point it is decidedly low tech. I love the power of a cardboard box.
Given a little time, and many failed attempts, something quite amazing can come out of Genius Hour. The process is evolving. My challenge is to become a better facilitator of their pursuits. Bottom line, I believe all students have hidden super powers. It’s my job to help them find them. Genius Hour is a very good start.
Thank you to Joy Kirr, Hugh Mc Donald, Gallit Zvi and Angela Maiers for all of your work and genius inspiring teachers like me to take a leap for our students.