“Inquiry is the engine that drives innovation,” says AJ Juliani, the author of Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom, and an instigator of Genius Hour in his own class. “What is Genius Hour?” you may be wondering. It all started when Google decided to let their employees use twenty percent of their paid time to pursue projects of their own. The idea was that all these people asking questions might lead to an answer that Google could use to improve their company. When teachers caught wind of this, they loved it and decided to implement 20% Time, also known as Genius Hour, in their classes.
But what does Genius Hour even look like in a classroom? How did teachers turn this business idea into a learning tool? For eighth graders here at Rugby, in Mrs. Henry’s class, the process started with the quest for a driving question that could not be answered in one simple Google search. Students were told to pick a topic that they were legitimately interested in learning about. Some students have similar driving questions, but the vast majority have taken a completely unique route on this assignment.
One person has asked, “What is the best design for a paper airplane, and what makes it better than the rest?” Another wondered if gender had any impact on an individual's preference for happy or sad endings to a story. “How is physics used on a soccer ball?” is someone else’s driving question.
And the great inquiries keep coming.
“How can I use graphic design to inspire others?”
“Can I learn how to do college level circuits on a breadboard?
“How can I train like a navy seal?”
“What does it take to be a game designer?
After having chosen a driving question, students dove into the research process. For some, this meant checking out books from the library, and for others this meant searching through databases such as Britannica. At this point in the project, the majority of students are still in this stage of the process.
On top of students getting to choose their topic, they also get to get to pick the medium in which they present their information. Of the students surveyed, a whopping 55.6% said they’d be presenting their findings using Google Slides or something of the like. 11.1% said they’d present via video, and 33.3% said they’d be using some other type of program.
Genius Hour is in every way a very independent and individual project. However, despite the many differences in the student’s wonderings and plans of action, everyone seems to agree on the fact that Genius Hour is the highlight of the week. Almost, if not all, the eight graders participating in this assignment love the fact that every week they get an hour to pursue a topic that they truly find interesting. And teachers love the fact that their students are falling in love with research and learning. Charlotte L. Doyle writes, “Education at its best allows students to experience the fruitfulness and joy of the creative process.” And that’s exactly what Genius Hour does.
A/N: For those who might have been wondering, my Genius Hour project is about the complex relationship between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.