Everyone has his or her own brand of genius, and often the areas at which we excel are the areas that we are passionate about exploring. When we love what we’re learning, learning is fun! That’s why we decided to create “The Genius Hour” with the 2017-18 academic year’s 5th grade class.

Inspired by Harrisburg Academy’s Centers for Experiential Learning & Innovation, we encouraged students to select a topic about which they feel passionate and through using a bracket diagram, brainstorm ideas about things they like and things that bother them. The final pairing challenged them to solve a problem that troubles them by using their passion.

Some examples of how our projects shaped up included: “How art can be used to express limitations on freedom of speech,” “If you can’t recycle, upcycle,” and “How dogs might be used to make public spaces safe from firearms.”

To guide our students through this project, we followed the six Ps set forth in “Genius Hour Teacher Resource” by Andi McNair: passion, plan, pitch, project, product, and presentation. We asked questions and played the “guide-by-the-side” role, helping our students find experts to interview and work out the logistics of their plans. We used our final schedule block on Friday afternoons to work on this project. Sometimes our students seemed a little “unwound” by this time of the week, but these projects ignited their interest and we had productive work sessions.

Genius Hour, Passion Projects or 20% Time Projects all are possible names for this type of project. Although our students often have the freedom to work on projects classes, they are not given total freedom to select their topics. In this project, students solved problems in creative ways and really applied the skills they were learning to a subject about which they feel passionate.

Works cited: McNair, Andi. Genius Hour, Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry. Prufrock Press Inc., 2017

Additional information about this project can be found at this link: https://www.prufrock.com/Genius_Hour.aspx

Learn more about Harrisburg Academy on our school website.