Getting StartedHere is the document (and videos) we started with:
Topics: While a true passion project could be about any topic whatsoever, because I was trying this with a science class, I required that students choose a topic that had something to do with science. In the end, this only limited the students a tiny bit (they couldn't choose to learn how to knit, or how to play the guitar for example, UNLESS they could tie in some science).
Criteria: The only criteria we had for the "final project," was that the students had to share what they had learned throughout the semester. Throughout the project, students had to consider with whom they would be sharing (the class? the local community? the world?), and how they would be sharing
(a presentation to class?, on bristol board in the school foyer? a website to be pushed out to the world? a video to be shared with elementary schools?). The projects were not marked.
Time: We spent every Friday on our projects. Friday was our 90-minute period, so we would spend 70 minutes on research, and then 20 minutes on blogging.
Blogs: The student blogs were a chance for the students to document what they had learned during the week, pose questions and "wonders" to guide them the following week, as well as learn about what their classmates were discovering.
Then the Magic HappenedHere are the project blogs and links (where applicable) to how each student/group shared their learning:
It was great to see the students so intrinsically engaged with their projects. From reading about others' experiences, I had expected the students to be willing to put in the work (which they were), but I did not expect the change in noise level: instead of the excitement of working on whatever they wanted to elevating the overall noise level, the sheer focus of everyone in the room actually made Fridays the quietest day of the week!
As the students worked, there were a number of amazing highlights. Perhaps the most noteworthy events came because of the students' blogs:
- The group questioning whether or not humans could live on Mars was contacted by a Mars One top 100 finalist who directly answered our questions about the Mars One project.
- The group working on re-inventing the tire for off-roaders received an offer from another teacher to 3D print a model of their design and ship it to the school. They were thrilled with the idea of doing this (we don't have a 3D printer), and though they couldn't put together a design in Tinkerplot soon enough, this still inspired them to think outside of the box. (Thank you Jaclyn!)
- The group looking to help bring clean water to underprivileged areas created a donation page to raise money, and garnered attention from The Thirst Project on Twitter. (Care to donate?)
- One student, learning more about the heart, extended her Genius Hour learning by applying to attend the Northern Ontario School of Medicine's (NOSM) Health Sciences Summer Camp. As she showed me her acceptance letter, she told me that at last year's camp, they had a half day dedicated to heart health. "I hope I get to learn more about the heart," she told me.
- One student, experimenting with recipes for a new and healthy horse treat, is going to continue her project through the summer, actually making horse treats and feeding them to her horse. She has also turned her attention toward marketing the product, and hopes to continue updating her blog as she perfects the recipe, perhaps eventually selling her product.
Rough SpotsDue to job action, students were out of classes for a month in April and May. Because of this hiccough...
- The projects were abbreviated - some students didn't have enough time to explore their topic as deeply as they would have liked;
- I didn't get a chance to bring in the mentors as I would have liked, providing an outside influence for the students;
- It was tough to get back into the swing of things after the break. When one student asked if she HAD to work on her Genius Hour project, I replied "Don't you want to work on it?" She said she did, but that was months ago;
- Several groups never completed the expectation of sharing the project, not showing up on the last day of classes to present to the group, or not getting their website finished.
I am thankful for the ORION tablets this class received earlier in the year, as they allowed us to create and maintain our blogs as well as reach out to the world by creating websites and engaging in discussions with people outside the classroom. I am fortunate to have another grade 9 science class next year, and will certainly be doing Genius Hour with them again.