Tag Archives: Genius

Driven to Do Something

I recently went to a special screening of National Geographic’s Science Fair. Filmmakers follow nine high school students from around the globe as they compete at an international science fair. Facing off against 1,700 of the smartest teens from 78 countries, only one will be named Best in Fair.

The film, from Fusion and Muck Media and directed by the DuPont Award-winning and Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaking team Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster, offers a front seat to the victories, defeats and motivations of an incredible group of young men and women who are on a path to change their lives, and the world, through science.

Long before the director, Christina Costantini was an investigative journalist, she describes herself as “a science fair nerd.” As a freshman in high school, she placed fourth and it changed her life forever. Her knowledge and experience participating in science fairs brings depth and an inside look at the young people who compete in science fairs. There is no one type of student who represents these passionate teens and this documentary follows nine individual students chasing a dream.

After the film there was a Q&A with high school science teacher and documentary subject Dr. Serena McCalla. Dr. McCalla, one of the student mentors featured in Science Fair, is a research teacher from Long Island. Known for her demanding, in-your-face style, she transformed her team of young students from Jericho High School—most of whom speak English as a second language—into one of the best science fair teams in the world. In an ultra-competitive setting where it is remarkable for any high school to have one or two students qualify for Intel ISEF, Dr. McCalla had nine. Dr. McCalla is capped at ten participants at ISEF and this year her goal is to bring all ten students to the competition. Her program consists of 60-120 tenth through twelfth graders. She told the audience that this international competition that has been described as “the Olympics of Science Fairs,” is 50% Science and 50% Sell. For the past ten years she has been the research director she has sent more than 70 students to Intel and has built a network and community among all her students who get back together annual to share insights, help each other with jobs, research, and make connections. She dedicates her life to the young people she works with and nurtures their interests. She notes that one day, one of her students will win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Competing in a science fair is not just a resume builder or a ticket to an Ivy League College, but a passion for the students presented in the documentary. At the beginning of filming, the directors were following 60 students and over the course of the year and in the documentary highlight nine. In order to qualify for Intel, ISEF, students need to compete and win in state and local affiliate fairs. Not only does one have to have a project that impacts the world or a global problem in some way, you also need to be able to articulate the project and your passion in a graphically pleasing way. Your display boards are an extension of yourself and must sell your research and data before the judges even interview you. Then, if you are a finalist, you spend hours being interviewed by all different scientists and researchers who are judging 1,700 projects.

What is going to make your stand out? Your presentation, your data, and how well you are able to communicate your passion to the judges. Intel ISEF finalists compete on average $4 million in awards and prizes and are judged on their creative ability and scientific thought, as well as the thoroughness, skill, and clarity shown in their projects.

The Gordon E. Moore Award is the $75,000 top award of the Intel ISEF is provided to the top Best in Category project.

Jack Andraka, American inventor, scientist, and cancer researcher won The Gordon E. Moore Award as a Freshman in High School in 2012. He is known for his award-winning work on a potential method for possibly detecting the early stages of pancreatic and other cancers, which he performed while he was a high school student.  His memoir, Breakthrough describes he curiosity as a little kid and what led him into the sciences – with few basement explosions along the way. Jack is interviewed throughout the documentary Science Fair, offering insight and reflection on the process of getting and winning at Intel ISEF.

This documentary challenges all assumptions about science nerds. Science Fair is a must see for educators whether you teach science or not. The students presented in the film are determined, intelligent, and show ingenuity. To see the passion that the teachers and students have is inspiring to all and an ode to curiosity.

 

 

 

 

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Always Be Curious

design

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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Recording Genius: Using Notebooks & Journals with Genius Hour

The great inventors like Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo Da Vinci, and artists, musicians, and writers maintain journals and notebooks to record their thinking, ideas, and experiments. In fact, Benjamin Franklin once said, ““If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things down worth reading or do things worth reading.”
benjaminfranklinRediscovery #: 06859
Job A1 10-123 Rough Journal

To catalogue students’ genius hour experiences over the course of the school year and semester, students created a Genius Journal recounting their investigation, planning, action, and reflections.

Genius journal could be as creative and artistic as a student chooses with a minimum of five entries that address the following:

Investigating

 

 

Define your genius hour goal based on personal interests

Explain why this project is important to you and something you are passionate about

Identify prior learning and subject specific knowledge relevant to the project.

Demonstrate the research you conducted to collect information, ideas, and knowledge

Planning

Articulate the guiding question for your project

Describe the steps you took to put the project in action

Describe the process and development of the genius project

Demonstrate how you managed your time and resources to bring your project to fruition

Describe where you might have had to change, revise, and revamp your project and why

Learning from the Experts

Interview a person you feel is a genius or can help you with your project, what insight do

they offer regarding carrying out your passions and project

Curate information about your project. What others are doing and have done

Who are the people in this field of study that have insight to share, what keywords have they presented

Taking Action

Demonstrate service and or product as a result of the project

Demonstrate your thinking skills and new understanding as a result of the project

Demonstrate communication and social skills

Reflecting

Evaluate the quality of your service or product

Reflect on how completing the project has extended your knowledge and understanding

Reflect on your own development of life skills and how you benefited from completing

this project

Reflect on whether you will continue your work on your genius project; why or why not

 

The journals would be evaluated on the criteria below:

Criteria
Quantity of Entries
Quality of Journal Entries
Original Illustrations, Diagrams, & Photos
Reflection
Grammar, spelling, mechanics, & punctuation

These reflections and entries would also work well as blog posts for Genius Blogs.

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