Want students who can think for themselves? Problem solve? Love learning? Then try creating dedicated time each week to explore passions, curiosities, and wonders.
The movement is called Genius Hour, and it's inspiring students' wonder. Students choose a passion or something they're curious about, then learn as much as they can with the intention of sharing their learning with the class. Students begin by thinking about all the questions they have, then research the answers to their questions, deciding how they want to share their learning with their classmates.
This can be done at any grade level and is only limited by your students' creativity! Here is a small sample of project ideas you can implement with your students.
1. Create a 3-D printed model.
For students who are passionate about a specific object, have them create a 3-D model of that object using Tinkercad, then bring the digital file to your local makerspace to have it printed 3-D-style. We've had kids make a model of a steam train, the USS Arizona, and an airplane.
2. Hold a Movie Olympics.
For students who are passionate about dance, gymnastics, or other performing arts, have them make a movie of themselves performing their craft. Students can film themselves at their lessons or performances -- or simply in their backyards -- and then share how their performances compare to professionals'. They can make this into an iMovie and share their Olympic dreams with the class.
3. Write song lyrics for your favorite performer.
Have students who love music and singing write a song for their favorite performer. Connect students with the music teacher in your building or at the local high school, and encourage them to explore the components of a good song. Then they can write their own and send it to their favorite performer's fan page. Suggest they use a digital storytelling tool to record and present their song lyrics and music. Maybe they will inspire a new song!
4. Set up a Q&A with a museum curator.
For students who love art and want to explore the various art genres, have them brainstorm questions to ask a curator. Then connect your students via Skype or Google Hangouts to a museum where they can ask their questions. Students can then create a presentation explaining that genre to their classmates. We've had students learn all about guerrilla art (something I hadn't even heard of before) and create a simple PowerPoint presentation and their own guerrilla art piece!
5. Dream up your very own Lego model.
For students passionate about Legos or building in general, have them explore how to create their own building instructions for Lego models. Using an iPad, students can take pictures as they build a model. They can add text to the pictures and present the models with instructions to classmates. Students can also upload their building instructions to Lego fan pages. We've had students develop a robot using the Lego NXT kit and upload their instructions to inspire others.
6. Film a drawing tutorial.
Some students are passionate artists who love to draw. Have them watch some drawing tutorials on YouTube (Uncle Fred is one of our favorites), then create their own tutorial! Using an iPad on a tripod, they can film themselves drawing in real time, then use video-editing tools to speed up, slow down, and showcase their work.
Genius Hour is limited only by your and your students' imaginations! Teaching students to think outside the four walls of our schools and to connect globally to others is powerful learning that should be part of every kid's school experience. Give Genius Hour a try!