Tag Archives: Curiosity

#GeniusHour, Curiosity Time, & Passion Projects

Passion driven learning is essential today. And it cannot just be the teacher’s passion. Students are at the heart of the classroom and in building a community in your classroom all member’s voices and interests must be taken into consideration. Passion driven learning includes student’s passion and interests. Genius Hour and passion projects are one introductory step in helping to cultivate a classroom where passion, curiosity, and creativity are at the front and center.

I was first introduced to Genius hour more than 8 years ago through the buzz that other teachers shared on social media and at edtech conferences. While offering genius hour and curiosity time for my students, I have seen my approach to active and student centered learning evolve in many ways. The end result has always been the same, for my students to know: “You matter, you have influence, you are a genius, you have a contribution to make” (Angela Maier, Classroom Habitudes)

Genius Hour Menu

If we look to the corporate world, Google recognized that workers were more intrinsically motivated and creative when they had more autonomy (freedom). Employees were allowed 20% of their work time to pursue “side-projects” that interested them but were not specifically part of their job description. So, if this works in the business world, why not try it in the classroom?

Would students be more intrinsically motivated to learn?

Would students be able to unleash their creativity and inherent drive to learn, solve problems, and create?

Genius hour and passion projects are all about igniting innovation in the classroom Genius hour allows students to take the reins of their own learning and explore the topics and subjects that are of interest to them. Teachers need to go beyond teaching a subject that they only know because of a test or just to pass the class. School shouldn’t only be about passing a test, but rather creating a culture of learning where students are engaged, making connections, and helping to solve problems that will make the world a better place.

How does one start or kick off genius hour? How does one sustain genius hour throughout the quarter or semester or even the entire school year? These are two questions that I hear often.

First, it is important to introduce survey your students about their own passions, interests, likes. Having students complete student questionnaires & interest surveys are great places to record preliminary project seed ideas. Additionally, I show videos to inspire students about young adult entrepreneurs and social activities. I also read aloud picture books that inspire creativity and growth mindset. Titles include:

The Most Magnificent Idea by Ashley Spires (2014)

What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada (2014)

It’s Never Too Late by Dallas Clayton (2014)

The North Star by Peter Reynolds (2009)

I have also curated genius hour resources on these past blog posts.

Through the genius hour models and mentors and completing questionnaires and surveys students might begin to choose a project they want to dedicate some time to. Students then begin researching, creating, and collecting information and inspiration for their own curiosity project. On the Genius Hour menu posted above, you will notice that each project is 10 weeks long and students try a different passion project every quarter. Some students use the same topic in all four projects where as other students like these opportunities to switch things up every few weeks. After four-five weeks of researching and curating, students begin reflecting and thinking how they might share their learning with others. Sharing is an important part of the genius hour process.

Showcasing Passion Projects is an important part of the process, students are going to present their research and findings to a wider and authentic audience. I have had students create blogs about their process and complete an Elevator Pitch. Students have showcased their work in a gallery or expo to the larger school community. Students can create a TED Talk or Masterclass about their project.

After students go through the genius hour or passion project cycle, reflection is a major piece. Reflection can be in the form of a Google Form or Flipgrid video reflection. You might want to have students reflect weekly rather than wait to the very end of the project to divulge their process and final product.

Looking for even more resources, check out these links:

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Always Be Curious

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Tim Ferris has one of the best podcast series around and his most recent podcast with author, Walter Issacson does not disappoint. Issacson is the author of many biographies, including The Innovators, Steve Jobs, Einstein: His Life and Universe, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Kissinger: A Biography, and his most recent, Leonardo da Vinci. Both Ferris and Issacson have made their life work to tease out key stories, rituals, habits, and daily practices of well renown people.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Below I share some highlights and lessons that inspire my daily life.

“I think Leonardo da Vinci teaches us the value of both being focused on things that fascinate us but also, at times, being distracted and deciding to pursue some shiny new idea that you happen to stumble upon. Balancing intense focus with being interested in a whole lot of different things is something that we have to do in the Internet age.”

“We relate to Leonardo da Vinci because his genius was just being passionately curious about everything. He wanted to know everything he could know about our universe, including how we fit into it. We can’t all have a superhuman intellect like Albert Einstein’s, but we can be super-curious. And we can also quit smashing curiosity out of the hands our children.”

“Leonardo da Vinci had such a playful curiosity. If you read his notebooks, you’ll see he’s curious about what the tongue of a woodpecker looks like, but also why the sky is blue, or how an emotion forms on somebody’s lips. He understood the beauty of everything. I’ve admired Leonardo my whole life, both as a kid who loved engineering – he was one of the coolest engineers in history – and then as a college student, when I travelled to see his notebooks and paintings.”

“Throughout his life, Albert Einstein would retain the intuition and the awe of a child. He never lost his sense of wonder at the magic of nature’s phenomena-magnetic fields, gravity, inertia, acceleration, light beams-which grown-ups find so commonplace. He retained the ability to hold two thoughts in his mind simultaneously, to be puzzled when they conflicted, and to marvel when he could smell an underlying unity. “People like you and me never grow old,” he wrote a friend later in life. “We never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.”

“And by reading his notebooks,” Isaacson continues, “whenever I had the chance and marvelling at how much he crammed on a page, I could see the connection that his mind made as it danced across nature, from the beauty of a woman’s smile to the miracle of a bird in flight.”

“I think that in order to be innovative,” says Isaacson, “you have to question the traditional ways of doing things. Leonardo did that. Steve Jobs did that. Einstein did that … It is the nature of creativity to not just do what was done before, and whether it was Leonardo’s flying machines or his drawings of a dissection of a human body or his plan to divert rivers, or his way of making the smile of the Mona Lisa so mysterious, all of that was a great act of creativity.”

“One of the things I’ve learned from Leonardo is how to be even more curious and how to be more observant; how to make lists every morning of the things I want to learn or the questions I want to ask. We can all be more observant and more curious … Leonardo made me more intentionally curious.”

Issacson has written biographies of so many geniuses that we can use as models and mentors for creativity, education, and passion. In all of his subjects, including his newest book on Leonardo da Vinci, stayed curious, admired beauty in the world, learn through travel, and keep journals with questions you wish to pursue daily.

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Image retrieved from http://sciencevibe.com/2016/02/17/leonardo-da-vinci-did-not-see-a-divide-between-science-and-art/
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