Tag Archives: Passion Projects

Genius Ideas, Projects, and Outcomes

This year I gave my students a menu of Genius Project possibilities. I didn’t tell them what their project had to be about, rather I categorized four types of genius hour projects (see below). This allows for students to “try out” different kinds of projects throughout the school year as they tap into their passions and curiosity. The projects were diverse, engaging, and student driven.

Here is a few of the inspiring genius projects students completed this first quarter of school.

Help Make the World/Community A Better Place – For this genius project choose a problem and find a solution that will benefit others on a community or global scale.

Helena devoted each Friday in designing a website to help Hurricane Matthew survivors in Haiti. Her website listed and linked websites with information about their missions and goals, and also allowed users to make a donation which would help the citizens of Haiti. She wrote blog posts about the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, updates, and shared pictures. From this experience, she learned how to make a website, became informed about the impoverished island of Haiti, and how to problem solve when it comes to technology.

The UnGoogleable – This genius hour project requires students to research something that goes beyond facts and summary but requires analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.  Students will look at multiple theories and present their findings.

Create/Innovate – For this genius project you will create or make something. You can build, design, or create something from scratch.

Learn/Master – For this genius project students will spend their hours practicing and mastering a personal passion of theirs.

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10 Picture Books that Celebrate Creativity, Invention & Genius

Okay, I will admit that I am a picture book junkie. Even as my own children outgrow picture books and move into chapter books, I still collect picture books to share with my students as well as read with my own kids. Picture books are glorious short stories with inspiring pictures that speak about big ideas in a limited amount of words.

Previously, I have written blog posts on the power of picture books to inspire students of all ages.  I have found so many new great titles that I will be sharing with my middle school students for read alouds, genius hour, and just for fun.

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Do You Have GRIT?

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Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (2016) is filled with resourceful information for educators and parents regarding passion, hard work, and determination.

As the genius hour movement and passion projects storm through classrooms around the world, teachers like myself ask what is genius and how it is different from talent and mastery.

Teacher and parents emphasize talent is the deciding factor in a person’s success, but Duckworth argues that work ethic and effort is ranked higher than talent in measuring a person’s grittiness. Duckworth writes, “A preoccupation with talent can be harmful . . .by shining our spotlight on taken, we risk leaving everything else in the shadows. We inadvertently send the message that these other factors – including grit – don’t matter as much as they really do.” (p. 31)

In fact, Duckworth’s formula for success is

2(Effort) + Talent = Success 

Talent x Effort = Skill

Skill x Effort = Achievement 

So, one “becomes a genius” and “acquires greatness.” She taps into Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of 10,000 hours described in his book Outliers. “Consistency of effort over the long run is everything.” (p. 50) Duckworth describes “strivers as “improving in skill, employing skill, through hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.” (p. 51) Yes, to do anything really well, you have to overextend yourself, as the writer John Irving points out.

Grit is loyalty and dedication and “there are no shortcuts to excellence.” (p. 54)

Grit has two components, “passion and perseverance.” (p. 56)

Passion is a “compass – that thing that takes you some time to build, tinker with, and finally get right, and that then guides you on your long and winding road to where, ultimately you want to be.” (p. 60).

To find one’s passion or tap into one’s passion the question to ask is What is your life philosophy? What are you trying to get out of life? 

To help answer these questions, Duckworth borrows a three step strategy from self made millionaire, Warren Buffett.

  1. Write down a list of 25 career goals.
  2. Circle the five highest priority goals.
  3. Look at the 20 goals you didn’t circle. These are your distractors. Avoid them at all costs.

Then, ask yourself, “To what extent do these goals serve a common purpose?” (p. 68)

Grit grows and it begins with an interest, then practice – working daily and the discipline to skill driven practice. Then comes purpose and finally hope. Duckworth writes, “passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development and then  lifetime of deepening.” (p. 103) Play is necessary during the discovery phase. Once a passion or discovery is made, then comes development or “continuous improvement or deliberate practice” (p. 118) until mastery.

Purpose is also key, “the idea that what we do matters to people other than ourselves.” (p. 145) NO matter one’s age, one can always cultivate a sense of purpose. Find inspiration in role models, think about how your current work enhances your core values, and reflect on how the work you are doing makes a positive contribution to society (p. 166).

“Growth mindset and grit go together.” (p. 181) Yes, the power of positive thinking. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you are right.”

Growth  mindset >> optimistic self talk >> perseverance over adversity

So what does this all mean for parents and teachers?

Demand high standards

Language is everything – What you say and how you say it matters

Offer Loving support and Trust

You are models

Allow children to cultivate interests

Failures are going to happen, how we respond makes all the difference

“Always reach for your best.” (p. 266)

Character is necessary to grow and flourish. Grit isn’t everything.

Genius is “working towards excellence, ceaselessly with every element of your being.”

Everyone has the ability to grow genius.

 

 

 

 

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To Grade or Not to Grade Genius Hour

I recently received the following email from a parent:

Dear Dr. Haiken,
I wanted to send you an email regarding the substantial Genius Project just completed this semester.  The project assigned was very ambitious, and very welcomed by XXXX. She jumped at the opportunity to delve independently into a task of her interest and choosing.  This was not an easy task; it was one that required tremendous planning and tenacity. I must admit that, at first, I was wary of the ambitious project XXXX envisioned, but she rose to the occasion. She made a timeline, sketched (and re-sketched) the designs . . .  She documented her work all along the way, and created the trifold board presentation and brought it to school along with all of her finished designs–and all on time!

I attended the parents reception and saw that a wide variety of projects were presented with varying degrees of difficulty. While I understand that it is a difficult task to grade projects of varying scope, I do not think that it is fair not to grade them at all when some of the students dedicated so much time, energy and passion to the assignment. I think that XXXX’s grade should reflect the high caliber of her work.  I am sympathetic to the grading challenge this project presents, but it was assigned, and XXXX’s GPA should be indicative of a wonderful project completed. As a teacher, you rightly encouraged the students to reach for more, and I applaud you for doing so and for stepping outside the box.  Those who responded and took on the challenge should be recognized and rewarded.

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Is a grade a reward? Does everything completed in school have to have a letter or numerical grade? What does a grade really show and mean to teachers, parents, and students?

These are questions that I have been thinking about over and over again as I rethink another school year. I decided not to grade my students’ genius hour projects this semester. Genius Hour is about allowing students to take learning in their own hands and as I wrote back to this parent, The genius hour project is a project that lets students make choices and take the lead in their own learning.  Not everything that students complete in school is nor should be graded with a number or letter.  The purpose of the genius hour project is for students to excel in an area of personal interest without the fear of failure.

I do have my students complete self reflections and plan out monthly goals for their genius hour project. I do not grade these items either, but these reflections and plans help me to support my students in their genius hour quest.  I have yet to have a student tell me they are disappointed that their project is not being graded. Rather, I want to encourage students to pursue their passions, accept challenges and failures, and at the same time be motivated by personal interests rather than a stamp, sticker, check mark, letter or number.

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Genius Hour Project Round Up

This spring I decided to dedicate my Friday classes to a passion project of my students’ choosing. Throughout Twitter and the Blogosphere I stumbled across articles and posts relating to bringing creativity and student ownership back into the classroom. I felt a passion project was something I wanted to commit to with my students the remainder of the school year.

After extensive research and a few twitter chats, I introduced to my students the idea of a passion project and Genius Hour. I told my students would be able to work on a research project of their own choosing weekly. The passion project could be about anything they were interested in, as long as it was researchable. I wasn’t concerned about the final product (although many of my students were), they could present their research any way wanted: video, prezi, photos, taste-test, even show their work on the document camera.

I compiled a playlist on Youtube with all sorts of videos about genius hour or some other person’s passion project turned awesome/change the world idea like Caine’s Arcade or Jack Andraka to inspire and ignite in my own students the possibility of turning an idea into something bigger. Each Genius Hour session I would begin with one of the videos.

The projects my students created were awesome. There were a handful of students who were interested in food and baking and the days they presented it was a buffet of creative cupcakes and traditional dishes. There were projects about sports, fashion, and photography. 

Here are a few of the amazing movies that my students presented that captured all of our attention.

The Pressure to Succeed in School

Stop Motion Animation


 

How to Solve a Rubics Cube

 

 

 

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