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Genius Hour - Page 2 of 3 - Where Passions Come Alive

Genius Hour Teacher Resources

Genius Hour Links

Genius Hour Wiki  – great resource for all things genius hour

Genius Hour LiveBinders – lists of all things genius hour

Global Genius Hour Project – a project dedicated to sharing genius hour projects to students and teachers around the globe

Personal Learning and Creation Time – Video from two teachers in CO who have been doing Genius Hour in their 7th grade classes for several years.

Personal Learning and Creation Time Instructable – Instructable for Genius Hour in the middle school classroom.  Be sure to watch the video that introduces this instructable in the link just above this one.


Genius Hour Blogs


This is a collection of all known genius hour blogs.  If you would like to have your blog added to the list please fill out the quick Google Form and I will add it as a resource.

Gallit Zvi (@gallit_z)  http://www.gallitzvi.com/2/post/2012/06/what-is-genius-hour.html
Tia Henriksen (@tiahenriksen) – http://henriksenlearning.wordpress.com/
Kelley Inden (@ksinden) – http://messyprofessional.wordpress.com/
Joy Kirr (@joykirr) – http://geniushour.blogspot.com/
Denise Krebs (@mrsdkrebs) – http://mrsdkrebs.edublogs.org/
Valerie Lees (@ValerieLeessd36) – http://www.fhlearn.ca/vlees
Hugh McDonald (@hughtheteacher) – http://hughtheteacher.wordpress
Eric Neumeyer (@eneumeyer19) – http://division5.weebly.com/genius-hour.html
Robyn Thiessen’s Class (@RobynThiessen) http://www.mrstsgrade3sclassblog.blogspot.ca/
Beverly Bunker (@beverlybunker ) French Immersion Teacher http://mmebunker.wordpress.com/
Kris McGuire (@8lateacher) room212la.blogspot.com
Nancy Carroll (@ncarroll24) http://mrscarroll310.blogspot.com
Kirsten Tschofen (@kirstenTP) http://walkthisway1.edublogs.org
Paul Solarz (@PaulSolarz) http://psolarz.weebly.com/so-what-did-you-do-in-school-today.html
Christine Esposito (@msespowalker) http://geniushours.edublogs.org
Nick Corben (@nickcorben) http://kidblog.org/5CSFBS2012/
Marcelle Natusch (@MNatusch) http://room7vardonschool.blogspot.co.nz/
Sarah Soltau-Heller (@soltauheller) http://sarahjane.edublogs.org/
Chris Kesler (@iamkesler) www.geniushour.com
Lisa Parisi (@lparisi) http://kidblog.org/DentonDynamos/
Alicia Vilas (@mrsvilas) http://mrsvilas.weebly.com/
Terri Eichholz http://engagetheirminds.wordpress.com/genius-hour-resources/

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Genius Hour Podcast Interview with Suzanna Panter and Chris Kesler

This interview was taped for the Let’s Get Busy podcast. It features, Suzanna Panter and myself discussing genius hour. We go into great detail on what genius hour looks like in our classrooms/libraries. It’s definitely worth listening to if you are interested in the idea of genius hour or need some tips on how to get started.

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Genius Hour Video Interview #3 – Joy Kirr

I had the privilege of interviewing Joy Kirr this evening about genius hour and how she facilitates it in her classroom. Joy is a 7th grade ELA teacher and has implemented genius hour projects with all of her classes. You can’t find a blog post about genius hour without a comment from Joy. She has taken the “Be Everywhere” philosophy to a new level. Enjoy listening to her discuss genius hour.

Interview Notes

– Ewan McIntosh

– Blog post about Erin Olson & Erin’s presentation

– Big Fan of Angela Maiers – The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching & Learning

– @gallitz and @mrsdkrebs on #geniushour chat (Twitter)

– Read more about the KWHLAQ chart that Paul Solarz uses for his classroom

– Genius Hour Wiki

– What Makes Us Human – student work

– SchoolTube

– Infographic on Reading 20 minutes a day

– Twitter hashtags #geniushour and #20time

– Twitter @joykirr

– Genius Hour Livebinder

– Global Genius Hour project



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Genius Hour Video Interview #2 – Denise Krebs

Genius Hour Video Interview #2 – Denise Krebs

This afternoon I was able to interview genius hour superstar, Denise Krebs. Denise has been doing genius hour in her classroom for several years and has been able to implement it in several different ways. She teaches 7th and 8th grade students that are ripe for passion-based learning. Sit back and enjoy the interview with Denise Krebs.


Interview Notes

– Learned about genius hour from the books The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching & Learning and Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

– Daniel Pink’s post on Genius Hour

– Top 10 things you can do with a laptop infographic

– MIT’s Scratch software

– Lego Mindstorms

– The Microchip Theft – student movie with effects

– Hydraulic System – student project

– Angela Maier’s Choose2Matter.org

– Read more about the KWHLAQ chart that Paul Solarz uses for his classroom

– Creativity rubric and other great resources

– Denise’s personal blog

– Denise Krebs class BLOG

– Denise’s “genius hour” blog

– Twitter hashtags #geniushour and #20time

– Denise on Twitter @mrsdkrebs

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Genius Hour Blog – Genius Hour Ideas

On Friday my classes made their genius hour topic selections.  At the beginning of the class I told them that I was changing the name of our time together from “Passion Projects” to “Genius Hour”.  They seemed to appreciate the thought of me thinking they were all geniuses.

I pulled up our brainstorming pages from last week and went through them again.  I explained why some of the selections were great and others stunk.  I them told them that we would be selecting our genius hour ideas. I reminded them that if they could answer the question within a few minutes, that the project wasn’t going to have legs and they would need to make another selection.

My classroom doesn’t have computers in it, so we all packed up and went down the hall to the computer lab.  Before allowing them to finalize their selection I turned on the excitement and anticipation of the moment.   I explained to them that very few classes get to pick what they want to learn about, and that they needed to seize the opportunity that was in front of them to make their project the best that it could possibly be.  I then had fill out the Google Form where they would make their genius hour project selection.

As the entries came flying in, I called them up one by one to either approve or deny the project.  I made a big production about it when they were talking with me.  If their project was approved I would say something like, “You’ve been approved!  I really love your idea and think that you are going to do amazing things with it!”  I then sent them on their way with a handshake or a fist bump.  They were excited!

In the spirit of transparency I’m going to list all of the project selections that I received.  I think that it is important to share these topic selections with the world so that they can be used as examples in other classes.  There are some on this list that are great and there are others that aren’t so great.  I decided to let the not so great ones get approved because I wanted them to find out on their own that their project may be too difficult or too easy to research.  They have been told that failure is OK.  They can also change their topic next week if they run into problems with their selections from today.

We have not spent any time discussing the creation part of the genius hour projects.  I’m working on putting together a webpage that students can use that teaches them alternative ways to present an idea other than a poster board.  It’s sad, but posters and power point projects are the only two ways that many students know how to present a project.  I intend to change that!

Genius Hour Ideas – 6th graders

What is the question(s) that you are going to answer over the next several weeks?
To make people aware of how hard farm life is
how does the circulatory system of a horse work?
How to throw a football like a quarterback
how to make homemade plah-doh  for little kids to play with
Can me and Collin create a website from scratch on creating a websites from scratch?
Can me and Beau make a website from scratch while doing a tutorial of it.
How did dinosaurs become the animals we know today.
How the heart works and why we need a heart.
i want to learn more about the old mars rover and how big is it
how babies are formed inside their moms stomach.
I’m am going to research about how the brain works and how it is made and what it is made of.
how to make a bow
I am going to do a project on how to make a bow for your hair .
how did Joe Montana(forty niners)QB get to be himself by getting to the hall of fame and make his jersey
how do rovers work and build a model of the rover
I’m going to be doing my project on how rockets work and I’m going to build a model of it.
How can people see better with glasses than without
How make a homemade arcade game with no electricity.:p
How do babies form inside there mother?
how to a rover and how it works.
How are babies form inside the belly?Not a question good question,but i really want to learn about that.
children’s wolf book
Do you want to make t-shirts,bows?This is the person to see.
I Want To Research How To Go Down A Ramp
How to make an website
I’m going to ask what is makeup made of.
What causes us to forget?
my question is: how do we loose weight in our bodies
How are different types of cancer formed or caused and how they can maybe be cured or if there is a cure.
Black holes…everything about black holes.i want to try to learn every thing about black holes
where are lynx at so that people can buy them cause they are to sell them and earn money for new lynx to have made a preserve to let them live
how is heart cancer caused?
what is the difference between a wild hog and a javalina.
what causes hiv/aids y it kills you
pedriatition studies
do the gnomes from argentina exist
how to rebuild a small engine
How to make a tutu?
How does brain canter spread?
what does Bigfoot and chupacabra actually mean in mythology and in real lifewhere can you find themare they real or mythscan someone in the future actually discover them

what are chupacabras really

is Bigfoot a ape or a man

How can I become a millionaire over night?
How has technology affected the human body?
do the gnomes from argentina exist
My favorite question is “how does crossbreeding animals work?” I also have “what makes people laugh?”, “what caused the Big Bang Theory?”, “how do elements form?”, and “how does the skeletal system heal broken bones?”.
How Does A Plane Fly
my question is : how do trees grow flowers and leaves?
What are the migration routes of the great white shark? How long does it take them to go in a whole route? At what season do they reach at each place they stop at?
How did the universe start?
How to make a car from scratch.
Is bigfooot real
What are all the types of cancer. What can the  doctors do to help.
I am going to bring awareness to littering and polluting.
explain more about black holes
How does your brain connect with your movements?
Bring Awareness:Smoking
how did Roberto Carlos kicked the banana kick,and the 180 degrees kick.
how to increase reaction times and how to increase eye hand coordination.
i want to know what type of stuff is out in space
How does the human color pattern works?
what happens when a meteor hits the earth?how loud is the sound when the meteor hits the earth????
Why are people worried about global warming?
I want to know if the Evolution theory is actually real?
how was the universe form
Learn all there is to know about dolphinss
who built alcatraz
how are children born with autisum.
how can people get healthier and live longer?
how a rocket launcher work
why do black holes suck stuff
y r forgs slimy
What jobs give the most money?
I am going to answer for the next week that how can i look for my project i am trying to research and the project in going to research is “How Are Babies developed” but is i can’t looked for that one i think i might have to change it.
My question is…Why do we shrink when we get old???
what causes cancer and why does it happen.
What are the deadliest fish in the oceans
The questions that i am going to ask is,how was the universe was created and the research i am going to do is how was the sun and the planets in our solar system Mercury,Venus,Earth,Mars,Jupiter,Saturn,Uranus,Neptune,and Pluto.
what are some ways to jump higher in basketball
Why do people get white hairs as they get older and how are they formed.?


Once the students selected their topics they began their research.  This is where I realized that I am going to run into some challenges with with their technology knowledge.  Our school is a Google Apps school.  The problem is that the only training they have ever been given with Google Apps is in my class.  I ran into many issues that I’m going to have to spend some extra time to solve.  Many students were having a hard time remembering passwords.  Even if they were able to get into Google Docs, they weren’t clear how to use a document to save research along the way.  I’m going to spend an extra few days next week teaching them how to utilize their Google Docs account during a research project.  These skills are far more important than Jupiter’s moons, right?

I also found a cool Chrome plugin called Save to Drive that allows students to save websites and media to directly to their Google Drives with one click.  It’s going to really come in handy.

Until next week…


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Genius Hour Blog – Genius Hour Introductions

I introduced the idea of a genius hour project to my three 6th grade honors science classes on Thursday. Overall, I think that it was very well received by the students. I’m trying to focus all of my energy on the 75% of them that ‘got it’, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little concerned about the few that were either apathetic or asking questions like, “Do we have to do this?” Not everyone is going to be as excited about the project as I am. Once they realize that the alternative to genius hour is far inferior, their feelings about the project may change.

I had the students raise their hands if they were excited about the project, and I saw a bunch of hands in the air. I then asked if anyone was scared or nervous about what I was asking them to do, and there were also many hands in the air, including mine! We had the conversation about how they have been told all of their life what they had to learn in school and how I was liberating them from that style of learning. They definitely seemed to appreciate that.

We then started to brainstorm ideas on the SMART board. The VERY FIRST idea went something like this:

Me: Ok, let’s start putting some ideas on the board. It doesn’t matter if they are good or bad. We can always go back and tweak them later on. Fire away.

Student: I want to learn if dogs will eat human throw up.

Me: <I’m soooooooooo hosed!> Ummmmm…no. Can you do an 8-week project over that? Try again.

It got the conversation going and we actually came up with a lot of good ideas. Some of them will turn into projects and some of them will just spark better questions. See the images below of the brainstorming pages for 2 of my classes.



Our spring break is next week. I gave the students the task to think about more ideas and questions over the break. My plan is to do one last brainstorming session the next time we meet and then submit our final projects for approval. I will be doing all of the communication through Google Docs.


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Genius Hour Blog – Twas the Night Before Genius Hour

passionI am going to be introducing genius hour to my students tomorrow.  I’m terrified, excited, and liberated all at the same time.  I’ve been researching doing a genius hour for the last few weeks and finally decided that this is a perfect time of year to pilot the program.  We are calling it a passion project in my class.

I teach 6th grade science and and will only be introducing this project to my honors classes, which is half of my students.   If all goes well I hope to introduce it for a broader base next year.  I know that my on-level students will want to do this project also.  I could probably even make the argument that it would impact them greater than my honors students.  However, if I fall flat on my face with this I feel like the honors kids will be able to pick me back up, and we can all make it to the finish line.  I’m a bit skeptical about the chaos that could ensue in my on-level classes if I’m not on my “A-game”.  I could be dead wrong, but that is the decision that I have made for this year.

The students know nothing about the projects, and I think that is part of fun.  Below I have listed my plan for tomorrow.

  • When the students arrive they aren’t going to need anything.  I’m simply going to tell them that they have “been chosen for something VERY SPECIAL”
  • Next I will show them the Kid President Pep Talk

  • Next I’m going let them know that no one in our school district has ever attempted to do what we are about to do, and then show my Haiku Deck

I really don’t know what to expect at this moment.  My guess is that people are either going to be elated or terrified.  I will then hand out my Google Document and have them read over it before answering a barrage of questions.

  • I’m going to give them some time to start brainstorming ideas and have them write them down on the back of the paper.
  • I will then make the SMART board available for students to write down their best ideas.  We will pick them apart as a class.  This is where I’m going to try and talk about narrowing their questions down to something more researchable/answerable (are those even words?!).  I will explain to them that if I can find the answer with a quick Google search than the project probably isn’t any good.

I fly by the seat of my pants on many things, and this will be no different.  I believe that I have a decent first day lined up, but I’m sure that I’m going to run into a million more questions that I’ll need to have answers to before our spring break is over.  Lucky for me there is definitely some precedence for these types of projects, and the teachers that have done this before me have a strong presence on Twitter.  I can always ask!


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Genius Hour Project Introductions

student ideaHow to Introduce Genius Hour Projects

The introduction of genius hour projects to your students needs to be amazing!  This is likely the first time that your students have ever been told that they can work on anything they want within the walls of the school.  You don’t want to mess up this incredible moment.

Add Suspense

Like a good book or movie it is the teacher’s responsibility to build suspense before letting the cat out of the bag.  The week prior to my genius hour launch I kept telling the students that I had something very special to share with them on Friday.  If your students are like mine, you may want to clue them in that it isn’t something they can eat.  The reality is that many students put a higher priority on eating that something as cool as a genius hour project.  I simply can’t compete with Jolly Ranchers, so I made sure to shoot that idea down immediately.

On the day that you introduce genius hour projects show them an inspirational video before unveiling the project.  If you saw the home page of this website then you know that I’m a big fan of Kid President and so are the students.  I challenge anyone not to smile while watching his video.  After showing this video you will have every eye on you waiting for your next move.

The next thing that I do is show a pre-made Haiku Deck that explains the very simplistic rules of genius hour.  Haiku Deck is an iPad app, but you can have the same impact with a PowerPoint or SMART board presentation.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

Prepare for Genius Hour Project Questions

It’s only natural that students will be skeptical about what you are telling them.  I asked my students how many were a little scared about our genius hour projects before I even took a question and the majority of the hands in my class went up…including my own.  Let the students fire away question after question, but be prepared for the following questions.  I put my responses in red.  Yours may vary.

  • Can we work with partners? No, not on this first project.  Once we get one under our belt I will definitely consider it.
  • How long do we have to work on this? There is no official timeline, but I’m thinking 8-10 weeks should be sufficient to have a great project.
  • Is this going to be graded? Surprisingly, I haven’t been challenged on this question again.  I will not be officially grading them though.  I will let them know that their work may be visible to the world and that they will be unofficially grading their projects
  • When you say anything, do you really mean anything? Anything within reason, but I will be approving your topic ideas before you are allowed to get started.
  • Do I have to present it to the front of the class? You have to present it in some form or fashion.  If you make a documentary, then you will show the movie.  If you make a model, you will need to present what you learned to the class.  This is about sharing passions and ideas.

 Let it Simmer

Students should not be expected to come up with their ideas on the first day that you introduce the idea of a genius hour projects.  A great idea would be to show students what other students their age have done in the past.  Here is a list of my current genius hour projects from my 6th graders.  They need to know that it’s OK to do a documentary of farm life, or that it’s OK to do a project about how to make hair bows.  I spent the remainder part of my class brainstorming ideas.  Every idea is good at first.  It your job as the teacher to eventually categorize the ideas into good and bad ones and to explain why you categorized them that way.

Pro Tip: If a the idea or question can be answered on Google in less than a minute, then the idea is probably not a very good one.

Involve Parents in the Idea Process

Send a letter or email home to the parents letting them know that you are doing genius hour projects in your classroom.  Here is an example Google Form that you could use.  Let them know that you would like them to help brainstorm with their students on their topic ideas.  I’m sure that many parents will appreciate the insight into your classroom, and we all know that parents have opinions.  Good luck with the introduction process!  Please comment if you have any questions  about the process.


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A Constructivist Take On Genius Hour Using Wonder Wall

By: Kimberly Hurd Horst

My first graders and I are so excited to introduce you to our Genius Hour that we call Wonder Wall Wednesdays.

How did wonder Wall Wednesday get its name? At the beginning of the school year which started the end of July, we sat together as a group and wrote down wonders. It was simple to do. You start with the question, “I wonder…?” Because we are using our math time we will stick to wonders that have to do with numbers.  Below you can see our Wonder Wall. It is out in the hallway so our whole school can learn with us if they want to and so that when parents come, they can see it as well. We were so excited to just LOOK at all the things we wondered about.

Here is our first Wonder Wall Wednesday data. One student wanted to know how many kinds of frogs there were in the world. First, we read the question and then we wrote down our guesses. After we talked about our guesses, I showed them how to look up information on the World Wide Web. We talked about Google. We talked about putting in the exact thing we are trying to figure out. This is a crucial step..learning to ask the right question.

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Once we found a few places with facts (and pictures) we were able to find out the answer (about 5000 kinds of frogs/toads).  Then we arranged our answers from the person who got the closest to the person who was the farthest.  We left it up for others to learn from for a week.

Here is another example of our Wonder Wall. On this one, We wondered: How big is space? It was hard for us to fathom this. It is fun to have something to wonder about that you really can’t count. Or that it is such a large number that it pushes the students to the boundaries of their learning. Unimaginable number. For the love of beans, most people can’t even write that number.

We learned that it is dependent on whether you include the area of space where there are tons and tons of comets or whether you stop at Pluto!

We also wondered: How many lockers does our school have? Of course we guessed first. As you can see, we were not exactly close! I didn’t even know. I too did my best guess. It was fun to have something to count…and count we did! We counted the lockers in all four wings of our school. Then we added up the total count. Well, I added it up.

It was fun to have both kinds of wonders that which we can count and that which we can’t.

Here is our Wonder Wall when we could only get one in because of our Oral Reading Survey. This time, a student wanted to know how far away Germany was. We were not sure if we should calculate the hours or the miles so, we did both!  We are learning more each week about asking the right question to get the answer you are looking for and to not ask “Google” more than one question at a time! 🙂

The answer is 4, 431.4 in miles. Google told us that. But our resident expert in all things German, Mrs. Coleman, was able to be our “live” Google down the hall and let us know that it is only 8 hours away in a plane. Now as you can see, NONE of us got it right and that is OK…we are learning about so many things as we do Wonder Wall Wednesday that getting the answer right is NOT the point! But we did learn that Cambridge, MN is not quite close to Germany, where Germany is and that we need to cross the Atlantic to get there.

Wonder Wall Wednesday is all about the students. It is student driven active learning.  In just a small window of time each week, we are able to touch the passions of the student via their wonders, learn about technology and fuse it together with math, social studies, literacy, science and LIFE! For the first grade when we deal with course work, we work on little numbers. That is why Wonder Wall Wednesday is so much fun! We are working with large and abstract numbers in their own reality and going far and above the standard while collecting data recording it and organizing it. We also continue to learn about being a digital citizen and how to find out information! We also work on collaboration and teamwork, essential learning elements of any student today.

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Here are some standards based on Mathematical Practice that we tackle as we do Wonder Wall Wednesday:

1.  Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

2.  Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

3.  Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

4.  Model with mathematics.

5.  Use appropriate tools cialisgeneric20mgbest.com = cheap viagra = canada pharmacy online strategically.

6.  Attend to precision.

7.  Look for and make use of structure.

8.  Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

Wonder Wall Wednesday allows for all the  principles of constructivism to be met.  

Principle 1: Posing problems of emerging relevance to students: I am always excited to help the students make predictions to their student generated wonders and I am thrilled when one wonder leads to another wonder. For example…when we studied; “I wonder how much a gallon of ice cream is?” it lead to learning about gallons and averages. Not at all first grade concepts but they wanted to know! This is a worksheet and workbook free zone. Brooks and Brooks would say that in the design of constructivist classrooms, curricular activities rely heavily on primary sources of data and manipulative materials.  That is why we go straight to the internet as well to find and learn about primary sources and also I get to coach students on being a digital citizen.

Principle 2: Structuring learning around primary concepts: The quest for essence:  Together we are stronger as we link relevant facts together and learn from each other. As we deal with large numbers, my first graders are learning to go farther. When one student guessed that Germany was only 10 miles away or that deep space was 100 miles away now, they are getting better at forming numbers of greater amounts and lining them up with what we learned so when we were answering the question, “I wonder how far it is to the center of the earth?” Our numbers were not two digit numbers! I call that success! Brooks and Brooks suggest that this way, curriculum is presented whole to part with emphasis on big concepts.

Principle 3: Seeking and valuing students’ points of view:  I love this! I love when students show me their thinking. I think along with them when we do our Wonder Wall Wednesday. The honor of guiding their thinking never escapes me. It is a window to the future of the world. I get to build their knowledge!

Principle 4: Adapting curriculum to address students’ suppositions This principle allows me to think back to thinking outside the box of small numbers and bridge their thinking between what they know, and what they don’t know. Again building numbers out of the two digit numbers to broad numbers and uncountable numbers is crucial.

Principle 5: Assessing student learning in the context of teaching:  I do not grade anything formally. I like the idea of watching them operate day to day and specifically week to week as our Wonder Wall Wednesday grows and grows. I can see how they are approaching numbers in such an organic way and see where they are stuck. Brooks and Brooks would suggest that the assessment of student learning is interwoven with teaching and occurs through teacher observations of students at work and through student exhibitions and portfolios. For example, as we collect data I can see what how they are applying what we are learning to this activity. Excellent!

Problem based learning, Constructivist Learning, Genius Hour, Passion Time, Twenty Percent Time, or Wonder Wall Wednesday is a beautiful way to learn, but from my front porch looking out at the students working in front of me, engaged, energized, I realize how fortunate I am to be in this sacred space in their lives. It creates meaningful work, develops disciplined inquiry filled with big ideas and provides alternative learning opportunities. It also comes with high expectations as the students even at a young age cultivate their critical and creative thinking and explore the vigor and challenge of it all. It is worth every second of my time, to engage in this face to face time we set aside to just…wonder.

Brooks, J.G.,& Brooks, M.G. (1999). In search for understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


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This Little Light Of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine

When I first started teaching in 1994, I was filled with hope, joy and creativity. My classroom was bouncing with things to do. For a whole month we shoved desks out of our way and interacted with our room as we turned it into a mini Globe Theater so we could practice our Romeo and Juliet play we would later put on for the parents and the other four 5th Grade classrooms.  We became lexicons as we talked about words and how words changed in language. We studied language of origin, we studied what I now call “juicy words” and history of Shakespeare and England at the time. We split up the roles and created an intermission to swap. We learned teamwork and how to make smooth transitions.Standards were just starting to emerge in the State of Minnesota but I would see any until about 1997 so I didn’t care if this was on the standards to be taught list or not. Then it didn’t matter. Much.

What mattered to me was 1)Are the children learning? 2) Are they having fun?  The answer was YES to both. I learned right along with them. As a lover Fine Arts with a BA in English Literature, my heart grew and grew with joy as I saw deep engrossed learning happen. Hard words were memorized, reading with expression, fully absorbed in the scene. I recall a student who had parents who even found green tights for him and he was leaping in a scene. Go Romeo!

That is just a peek into my classroom from moons and moons ago, it was often like this. Not so much with plays all the time, but passionate involved and engrossing learning.  Flash forward with me to the past ten years. I could not re enact this again on the same level with the same vigor as did. There are several key factors for why. I am  always asking myself: Is this a standard? Do I have time? Will this be tested?

Slowly I felt that I was failing as a teacher, as a lead learner, as a cultivator of young hearts and minds and instead, creating experiences of dull learning where regurgitation wins. It felt like a slow and painful death whose final breath was yet to be had but each breath getting more painful.

And then came a shift. A mindset shift. I discovered a network of teachers on my Twitter PLN. who lead me out  a very dark decade of losing and forgetting who I am to an agenda of what I am supposed to teach with a flickering light. With whispers of encouragement, and careful footsteps  I studied from them I participated in GHOs and online discussions with them asking questions and begging for answers all to learn how to incorporate the idea of Genius Hour into core standards that I am expected to teach.  A light in the darkness is all one really needs. Even if it is the light of the carefree lightening bugs, it is still a light. I am thankful to be part of a group of teachers who have found a way to incorporate Genius Hour and be a little light in this world of education where agendas seem to want to suck you down a cold, dark abyss of despair, isolation and loneliness.

So who am I? I am a little light who teaches elementary school. This is my second go-round with including Genius Hour at school after great success last year. This year I am teaching First Grade and I set aside Wednesdays for wondering. We are calling it Wonder Wall Wednesdays. The process has been simple but the learning has not been. First I asked them about what they wonder about, I put it on the window and then we take two wonders on a Wednesday and investigate them. Not only does this process of inquiry meet standards, it exceeds the standards. It is not things I want to know, it is all about the students and what they want to know.  As time goes on, I will show you what this looks like and how it plays out in First Grade.

You may ask, “Where do I start? Can I do what you do?” Genius hour will look different from classroom to classroom from grade to grade. I want to let you know now, that is okay! In fact, that is great! It is supposed to! It is a space in the learning experience for the students to be organic learners, be on their own quest for the Holy Grail…KNOWLEDGE. Were it the same we would be going back to being a cookie cutter classroom.

Final thoughts to you are this as perhaps you are toying around in your mind if you dare to do this. I ask you, how can you NOT? Transform your classroom, transform the students learning experience and be brave. Be brave and flexible enough to try because in the end, the past ten years of feeling broken hearted about the direction schools were going was lifted as I intentionally set out in a different direction. For me, it was worth the risk.

And to you who is reading this who I have gleaned information, passion and knowledge from in this area, I thank you for standing in the gap with me and creating the bridge so I can make it to the other side. My Twitter PLN rocks!

Believe. Be Brave. Be Bold. Now, go and let your little light shine.

Kimberly Hurd Horst


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