Try It Tuesday: Genius Hour

One of the most important things we can do with young people is help them tap into their passions. Interests and curiosity are the driving forces behind real learning and the best gift we can give to a student is a venue and resources for them to explore what really interests them.

In this week's Try It Tuesday, we're going to explore using a "Genius Hour" as a way to help young people discover their passions.

What Is Genius Hour?

Genius Hour comes from a strategy developed in the corporate world, where employees are given 60 minutes per week to work on a project or to learn new skills. The idea here is that by giving people a solid block of time each week to work on something that interests them, they can explore new possibilities and develop new abilities. 

In the classroom, students follow three rules for Genius Hour:

  • Their project explores a driving question--what is it that the student wants to learn about? It needs to be a question that's not easily answered through a Google search, something that is a little deeper and bigger. 
  • The project involves some kind of research. Students will need to gather information, talk to other people or in some way engage with finding out more about their topic. 
  • Students share their projects. Ideally, they find a way to put their project online through a blog, wiki, video, etc. so that it can be shared with a world-wide audience. Sharing passions and getting feedback can be a powerful motivator for continuing the process. 

Topics for Genius Hour projects are as diverse as the students in your classroom. The point is to help them explore a passion, something that engages and excites them or that they are at least curious about. 

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How Does This Work in My Classroom or Program?

The beauty of the Genius Hour is its simplicity. You are committing to one 60-minute block of time (or possibly two 30-minute blocks) where students are working on their own ideas and projects. At the beginning, you are helping them identify a project they want to work on, and as you continue, you are assisting them in accessing the resources they need to implement their projects. 

This does not have to be complicated. Students can use the time to:

  • Learn a new skill. Some students have participated in Code Academy, for example, where they can learn coding skills online for free. They could also develop their artistic talents, using YouTube videos and online tutorials and their Genius Hour time to practice. 
  • Learn more about an issue or question that personally concerns them
Try to focus on facilitating students in discovering their passions and interests and creating innovative opportunities for themselves in exploring what excites them. Your role in this process is NOT about being an instructor. You want to be a coach and a facilitator, helping students connect to what interests them and the tools, resources and people that can help them explore their passions. These Commandments for Teachers are helpful

Some Additional Thoughts

Although many of the resources shared here show teachers implementing Genius Hour for elementary students, I would argue that providing Genius time for teens is even more critical. As students get older, the push is for them to perform and meet standardized testing requirements that can absolutely kill the love of learning. By implementing a Genius Hour, you can help them tap back into their innate curiosity and interests and give them a much-needed break from having to follow external guidelines and requirements. 

I also think it's important for us as instructors/facilitators to experiment with using the Genius Hour model for ourselves. How can we set aside 60 minutes a week that's devoted to our own personal/professional development and then share our experiences with our students? If we're trying to model the importance of lifelong learning, the Genius Hour concept provides a perfect opportunity. 

Finally, the Genius Hour concept--time to explore a passion--would also be a fantastic way to structure an entire after-school or summer program. How great would it be to give students a place, time and resources for them to put together and share a passion project!

Getting Started

AJ Juliani has created a 4-part tutorial with video and links on using Genius Hour in the classroom:

Additional Resources

If you want to learn more about the Genius Hour and how to start one in your classroom or program, check out these resources:

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