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