6th Grade Genius Hour:
Freedom to Explore and Create
At Episcopal, grades 6, 7, and 8 make up Middle School. Our 6th grade represents a well-defined entry point for students from other schools to join those moving up from our 5th grade. Together this group begins the march through Middle School.
Demonstrating the freedom provided to faculty to shape their curriculum and modes of teaching, two years ago the 6th grade academic teaching team asked themselves these questions:
What if 6th grade students had time and freedom to explore and create anything they wanted to? What if their individual passions and curiosities helped shape their learning?
Excitedly, they decided to adapt and use the Genius Hour. Genius Hour is time set aside during the school day for students to pursue their diverse interests.
Diverse, indeed. A 3-D model of the human eye with the goal of one day creating a prosthetic eye for improved eyesight. A virtual reality video game. A working model of a steam engine. When students are given a choice, they are active participants in their own learning.
Throughout their Genius Hour work, students apply research skills they have learned in classroom project work, connecting their personal and academic selves. As students research, tinker and question, they cultivate the kind of creative flexibility it takes to solve real-world problems.
With choice, students become directors of their own learning. Genius Hour doesn’t end there, though. Communicating their passion is a key component of self-directed learning. Students might create a podcast or an infographic or a blog post. Making communication decisions pushes students to consider audience and voice.
Personalizing educational experiences is something we do well at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. The creativity, problem-solving and flexibility cultivated by 6th grade students in Genius Hour lays a firm foundation for challenges out on the horizon.
I am grateful to the 6th grade academic teaching team, Ms. Callaway, Ms. Day, Ms. Guarisco, and Ms. Hill, for embracing Genius Hour and employing it.