Tag Archives: Passion Projects

10 Project Ideas to Highlight Genius Hour & Passion Projects

There are many ways that students can present their Genius Project Learning. I am a teacher who tends to shy away from traditional Powerpoint presentations and often give students a choice of different projects and products to share their learning. Below are some of the recent project choices.

Sketch Note It – Show us visually what you did for your genius hour project in a visually appealing way.   Your sketchnote should be in-depth and visually appealing.

Teach Us – Be the teacher and present a mini-lesson with active engagement for students to try something out and learn about your project. To help you plan for this presentation, think how your best teachers present information and help you to learn best. Your mini-lesson should be between 10-15 minutes and encompass a hook, minilesson, active engagement, and end with some closure/reflection.

Turn It Into a Breakout EDU – Complete a Breakout EDU Game Design Template Worksheet to combine your Genius topic and gaming. You can use as many or few of the Breakout EDU components to challenge your classmates and help them think deeply about your genius hour project.

RadioLab Style Podcast – RadioLab is a show on NPR that presents topics through engaging conversations, media clips, and investigative journalism. Create your own RadioLab style podcast and share the audio file to publish a collection of Genius Hour podcasts online.

Video TED Talk TED is a group devoted to spreading ideas. Their national conferences and regional TEDx events are famous for offering short, powerful talks and posting them online. Present your own TED style talk about your genius hour topic.  Video it, and share it with your teacher to post on our Genius Hour YouTube channel. The TED Talk should be informative, engaging, and inspiring. 

Feature Article – Write a feature article for our school newspaper and school website with the intention of getting it published. Share your genius process and final product with the world.

Whiteboard Animation Video– Tell your story and genius process through a whiteboard animation video. 

Prezi Screencast– Create a prezi presentation and then screencast an audio presentation talking through the major points of your Genius Hour project. Use free screencasting sites like Screencast-o-Matic and Screenr.

Blog About It  – Create a blog that details your weekly process and progress with your passion project. Add videos, links, and photos to help your followers understand your genius quest.

Genius Hour Fair – Design a visual presentation of your genius project to share with the entire school and community – Yes, school administrators and parents are invited. Design a display board or go digital by setting up laptop, include QR codes with links to resources and additional information. Be sure to include pictures of your week work and successes and bullet point the lessons you learned throughout the project.

Exit Reflection  – This can be completed as an independent reflection assignment or as a final blog reflection. Students reflection on their learning and what they gleaned from the entire Genius Hour process. Students might address the following questions:

  1. What did you take away from your genius hour experiences?
  2. What were the positive experiences and the challenges you faced?
  3. Why did you work on this project, what is the personal connection or cause that led you to this passion?
  4. What are you going to do as a result of your research and project? Will you continue to work on it after you leave our class?
  5. Why should genius hour be offered to all students at our school? Explain your response.

 

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Genius Inspiration for Middle School Students

Genius Hour happens every Friday in my classroom and this year I have required my students to choose a new Genius Hour or Passion Project every ten weeks. Genius Hour allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. The genius project is self selected, as long as it taps into one of the menu choices below.

Make the World/Community a Better Place – A genius solves a problem in a way no one else could.  A genius looks at a problem with fresh eyes.  A genius is ready make a unique impact on the world; solve a problem in a new way. For this genius project choose a problem and find a solution that will benefit others on a community or global scale.

The UnGoogleable – A genius begins with a question that hasn’t been answered anywhere, ever. A question that takes time to answer. It has an UnGoogleAble answer. 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.

Learn/Master – A genius seeks to gain knowledge about something that interests them. It takes 10,000 hours to get to mastery. For this genius project students will spend their hours practicing and mastering a personal passion of theirs.

Create/Innovate – A genius gives the world something it didn’t know was missing.  For this genius project you will create or make something. You can build, design, or create something from scratch.

Always looking to inspire my students and to show them Genius projects presented by other teens, I have collected a few videos and websites that highlight the amazing potential of teenagers. Below are TEN that I have shared with my students this year to wow them and show them that teens can make a difference, start a business, master a skill, and empower others.

Mr. Cory’s Cookies – For those who love baking and want to take it to the next level.

10, 000 hours equals mastery is showcased in this YouTube video:

Shelterpups.com – She wanted the perfect stuffed dog that looked like her own mixed breed. So, she created her own and started a business at the same time.

York School Student Projects all focus on helping others and the community.

Jack Andraka is a High School Student and Cancer Researcher. His memoir Breakthrough is a great read for middle and high school students.

Malala’s memoir  I Am Malala is one book that my students read as a part of a unit on social justice and courage. The Malala Fund helps young people understand that one person can make a difference.

Thomas Suarez designed his first app at 12 years old.

So you want to be a filmmaker. Zachary Maxwell shares insight in this TEDx Talk.

 

Seventeen year old Patricia Manubay is making learning exciting with “Dream Boxes” by helping young people get the school supplies they need.

Teen singer, songwriter, and superstar, Shawn Mendes.

 

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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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