What do basketball, the human eye, and interior design have in common? They’re just a few of the topics 6th grade students took on for Genius Hour.
Genius Hour, sometimes dubbed 20% Time or Passion Project, is more movement than content. It's a time during the school day for students to choose what they learn and how to share their new expertise.
This was the first year for 6th graders to have Genius Hour, and while the 6th grade teaching team was excited about giving students the freedom to respond to an open-ended project, it was a little anxiety-producing, too. “Letting students choose any topic they wanted made me nervous! Many of the students initially struggled with choosing a topic, but did amazing work once they jumped in and began researching,” shares Stacy Hill.
Alex was one student who took a little while to settle on his topic, learning German. “I think Germany is really cool. If I got to go there, I’d want to be able to speak the language.” Other students immediately knew what they wanted to learn. Meredith, who has wanted to be an eye doctor for her whole life, decided to make a 3D image of the human eye. “Making a product was my favorite thing. All the research matters and led up to it.”
Seeing the variety of student passions was inspiring. Virginia Day says, “It was awesome to see kids so engaged in their topics. We get to see academic projects all the time, but I loved seeing some of the less academic ones, like Scott’s homemade Nerf gun and Mary’s drawing. Jacob’s was very personal because he shared his grandfather’s story about fighting in World War II.”
Along with choosing what to learn, students decided how to share with others. “Most of the presentations were amazing,” says Nancy Callaway. “The information the students shared was impressive.”