For the past two and a half years genius hour has been 20% of class time each week. Every Friday is genius hour. Monday through Thursday I might be teaching and focusing on supporting my students as reader, writers, and critical thinkers; Friday is for students to pursue their own passions and interests. Genius hour allows for students to take ownership of the classroom and their own learning.
After the first year of introducing genius hour into my classroom and being inundated with baking and cooking projects, the following year I required students’ projects to be about something they cared about and at the same time take on some aspect of social responsibility. Students created blogs, researched, and initiated projects that addressed issues they cared about from health, environmental concerns, animal and human rights. All of the projects that my students created were inspiring and supported a culture of caring on a community level.
This year, I introduced genius hour with the same requirements and told my students their projects should fit under one of the following categories.
Master – Practice some skill. It takes 10,000 hours to get to mastery.
Create –Use your imagination to create something.
Learn – Gain knowledge about something that interests you or learn something new.
Innovate – Solve a problem. Create a solution.
Produce – Make something.
Serve – Do any of the above for someone else.
But this year, these community-involved citizens have turned up short and my students ideas are so focused on the “positive benefit to the community” that they lack passion and genius. More than two dozen of my students have wanted to create a school wide drive for collecting pet supplies, used sports equipment, food, school supplies, blankets and coats. It is not clear to me whether these collections are driven by passion or are just to fulfill the requirements of another school project. In fact, when two students went to ask my school principal to hold a coat drive, her response was “Does a coat drive warrant true genius?” She later pulled me into her office for a conversation on whether I was spending too much time on genius hour and do I tell my students their “passion project” lacks “genius.” My response was, “No” and “No.”
I have been reflecting on these musings for two weeks now. After two students presented their semester genius hour reflection on how they collected clothes for the salvation army, I thought “Where had I gone wrong with genius hour this year?” My intentions was inquiry based learning that nurture students social awareness and social responsibility. The result was boxes of supplies to those in need. But it is clear to me that many of these projects showed their ability to help the community but did lack true genius.
I am in a state of reflection and revision. I am rethinking the requirements and going to have my students design a rubric in which to evaluate the genius process and product to help us engage in a critical conversation on passion and genius.