Friday, February 19, 2016

Genius Hour Awakens Interests

Story Provided by Amy McElroy, 5th Grade Teacher, Elementary School North

Enthusiasm for learning is alive and well at Barbers Hill Elementary North, as students pursue their fields of interest during a pilot program, Genius Hour. Initiated after students formed goals regarding their future careers, I met with parents to facilitate the pursuit of the students’ endeavors. Genius Hour meetings began with the 5th grade GT students in November of 2015. During these twice weekly meetings, students researched their career interests via Google Classroom and the Internet, and developed questions that resulted from the new knowledge that they had acquired. Thereafter, students interviewed experts in their field of interest to determine the answers to their questions.

One student met with a geologist, a resident of the community, and another met with a history teacher from the high school. Still others interviewed a golf coach, a baseball coach, a robotics instructor, a famed author, a journalist, an inventor, and an orthopedic surgeon. Such meetings not only developed the learning of the students exponentially, but also helped develop a stronger relationship between the community and our school district.

Perhaps the experience of two of the students, who employed technology during their interviews, can best epitomize the effectiveness of the program. Luke, an aspiring robotics engineer, met with Denise King of Barbers Hill High School and her robotics students. They showed him their robots, and he learned about what they did in a hands-on way. When Luke returned from his encounter, he was so excited, he went home and started constructing more robots. Better yet, he is looking forward now to going to a college like MIT to further pursue his interest.

Brooke spoke to the author of Sky Jumpers via a Google Hangout, and learned first-hand what it was like to be an author, and also learned about how pursuing your passion is what helps one become successful. She is now looking forward to no longer being an aspiring author, but a published one.

Still the students of Genius Hour have not yet completed their journey. The next step is to produce products of their choosing that will demonstrate what they have learned, and create presentations that they will use to teach others (parents, teachers, community) about their passion via a Genius Hour Fair. Thereafter, the sky is literally the limit.

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