I was first introduced to Genius Hour from my superintendent Dr. Adam Brumbaugh and I quickly researched it from A.J. Juliani. It is based off of the google 20% model where google employees spend 20% of their time working on their own individual projects and their own ideas. What google found from their "Genius Hour" is that the 20% of their employee time produced 50% of google's products. The investment and productivity was quite impressive.
Now spending 20% of a students time or 1 out of 5 days doing Genius Hour projects/activities would not be acceptable in a traditional school. I have incorporated Genius Hour on a monthly basis for one hour. There are two different models in school one that is a project based model where students work on an activity for an extended period of time and then present on their project at the end of the semester/year. And the relationship model where students get to choose their teacher and pick what activity they would like to learn. I'm going to explain the relationship model and how to operate it successfully in your school.
Key Components to Genius Hour-Relationship Model:
1) Teachers and non-certified staff (try to include non-certs if possible) get to teach an activity or a skill that they enjoy. Some examples I've seen include: how to create a YouTube video, making stress balls, yoga, family feud, fishing how to tie a lure/line, strategies of chess, radio broadcasting, making slime, and so on.
2) Use a googlesheet to manage all the information easily and let the staff sign up for what they want to teach and how many students they can accommodate. Then let all your students access the document in "view only" mode so they have a few days to review all the fun activities and see what teachers are going to be teaching.
3) Set a date/time during a study hall that your teacher can display the googlesheet and then have that teacher sign up the individuals in her class for whatever activity they would like to participate.
4) Tell your staff that you are behind them and they can purchase items for reimbursement. I've always told them anything under $20 don't ask me for permission just buy it and submit for reimbursement, but if you are buying more than $20 worth of material check with me first. Surprisingly, I've never really spent a lot of money on reimbursing my teachers they have been creative and only a few ask for reimbursements.
5) Last step assign someone to manage the yearbook camera and have them go around and take photos and then have them post it to Facebook.
Positive Effects of Genius Hour in my Schools:
1) Increased school culture. I've had many students thank me for running genius hour and have told me they actually enjoy coming to school now and that I've made it fun for them.
2) Teachers getting to build better relationships and build more trust with our students. This is key to help avoid and decrease discipline issues in their classrooms.
3) Students increased their sense of pride and respect for the staff and school by getting to know the teachers on a more personable level.
4) Improved school-community relationships. Make sure to take many pictures and post them on Facebook. Parents love to see their children learning and having fun in school. The more positive messages you can give your school community the better!
The only push-back I've received is that we are using one class period per month and we are taking away classroom instruction time. I do agree that instruction time is crucial, but I believe Genius Hour and the effects from Genius Hour far outweigh the one class of instructional time lost. Overall, it's a great program and I hope more schools incorporate it and improve their culture.
Blog written by Andy Jordan
Do you remember the days when school was fun and the gyms were packed with school pride? I believe one of the most important factors in operating a great school is school culture and the strong relationships within the school. According to a 2015 Gallap poll only 32% of Juniors in school feel like they are engaged. An edweek.org blog also stated that 44% of new teachers that enter the profession will leave teaching within their first 5 years.
One way to cultivate school culture is by holding monthly assemblies in the gym with your staff and student body. After hosting monthly assemblies for three years as an administrator I'm surprised that more schools don't invest the time to cultivate their culture. Here are some of the benefits of hosting monthly assemblies:
1) Increased culture: We were able to teach kids what we wanted from them every month by highlighting all the positives that our students and staff were doing on a regular basis. It was a great way to reinforce the positives and build off of our daily PBIS system that we incorporated in our building.
2) Decreased student absences: One trend I picked up on (thanks to my rock-star secretary) over a few years of hosting our school assemblies was that our attendance rates on assembly days were near perfect. Students knew when our assemblies were, they enjoyed them, and they didn't want to miss them.
3) Improved student discipline: All administrators have had their fair share of student discipline issues some more than others. Over the years of hosting assemblies I've always enjoyed the fact that I've never had a student write up or behavior problem during an assembly. And our frequency of student write-ups on assembly days dropped significantly.
4) Positive Public Relations: Post your school assembly pictures on Facebook and share all the positives with your school community. Showing parents that students are having a blast and building great memories in your school will foster positive relationships with the community and give your parents something to talk about with their children
Depending on your school culture and how traditional schools have been operating for decades monthly assemblies can seem like an uphill battle. You might receive push back that you are taking away instructional time from the students and teachers. I would agree with that; however, I would argue that the improved culture with students feeling better and teachers feeling better that you will receive better results and the time spent will be well worth it. Here are some ideas for you to hit the road running for your first assembly:
1) Create a template and stick to it
2) Reward what you value in your school from academic success on state tests to students/staff helping each other out
3) Recognize students in sports and clubs (research shows that student who participate in extra-curricular activities are more successful). Student and athlete of the month are also good ideas.
4) Recognize your staff this will show your students that staff and teachers are super important and valued
5) Bring in guest speakers to spice up your monthly assemblies and keep the momentum going. Some of my favorites include BMX bikers, hypnotist, gold medalist, and motivational speakers.
There are many templates that you can use that best fits your school, but the most important thing is to take the leap and start having fun in your school. Your students and teachers will appreciate it.
Blog written by Andy Jordan
Andy Jordan, Ed.S.
Andy Jordan is a first generation college graduate who has dedicated his career to improving schools and fighting educational equality. Please follow and comment as we discuss the educational process.