"I wish I could've done something like this when I was in elementary."
"I want to innovate and be challenged...my mind is constantly spinning with ideas."
These were just a few of the comments from some of the high school GT students that I invited over to the elementary to work with my elementary GT students on their Genius Hour projects. I have learned so much about Genius Hour and Innovations from some pretty amazing people like Don Wettrick and Terri Eichholz. In doing so, I have come to the conclusion that Genius Hour is quite possibly one of the most meaningful activities that I can offer my students.
5th Grade Students sharing their Genius Hour Ideas with the always entertaining, Don Wettrick
As we began to brainstorm and decide on project ideas this year, I realized that these projects are becoming bigger than our classroom. We even have Holly Tucker from the The Voice planning to visit and share her experiences with one of my students! Each project must involve an outside expert and result in a product that can be shared with the world. As I was preparing to meet with students about their projects, I had an a-ha moment. What if high school students could come over to the elementary for an hour a week to help my students take their learning to another level? What if they could offer advice, technology assistance, and a "cool" factor that students need to become excited about their projects?
After deciding that this was definitely worth a try, I contacted the high school counselor and set up a time for the high school students to come over. As I sat across from the three high school athletes and explained the projects, their demeanor seemed to change as I told them all about Genius Hour in my classroom. They went from slumping in their seats to leaning in and listening to everything that I was sharing. They asked questions and wanted to know more about the projects and what each student was planning. As I shared ideas and the specifics of what I need from them, they were all in. And that's when I realized, EVERY student deserves an opportunity to be innovative and creative during their school day. If we are not allowing time for this type of learning, we are not truly preparing students for their future.
These high school juniors were so thankful for the opportunity to share their ideas and participate in innovative projects that they asked if they could come every week instead of every other week. As they were leaving the elementary, I was walking to my car to get something for my next class. I noticed the high school students backing up and coming back in my direction. As they got closer, they rolled the window down and said, "Mrs. McNair! We have an idea." They went on to share some ideas they had come up with while walking to the car. These high school athletes were so excited about the projects that they were still talking about them when they left the elementary school! So every Friday, my elementary and high school students will work together to learn in a way that is meaningful, real, and that will give them an opportunity to experience true collaboration and creative learning.
I want to encourage you to find a way to implement some form of Genius Hour into your classroom. It is a wonderful way to encourage students to think differently and prepare for their futures. After all, if we aren't doing that, are we really teaching?
Want to know more about Genius Hour? Check out Don Wettrick's new book, Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level.