Contributed by Donna Kouri, elementary librarian
This year our elementary school implemented Genius Hour for students in grades 1-5. We hold it three times a week for 40 minutes each day. All students have it at the same time which has been a wonderful, although unexpected, gift.
During Genius Hour, students work on a project that is of interest to them. It is their chance to explore something they are passionate about but that may not be covered in class. The only requirements are that the project must have a research component and there must be some type of presentation where students share their project with others.
Failure is fine during genius hour, a philosophy that aligns perfectly with the new Creation Station that our LMC put in place this year. Failure is a point to start, not to end, and even projects that do not work out the first time can be tweaked and altered and lessons can be learned.
The LMC bustles during Genius Hour in the best possible way. Students drop in to use all sorts of items from the Creation Station. They may come to use technology, to hook into the collaboration table to project their computer onto a larger screen where all members of the group can view it, to film in front of the green screen, or to work on building a project that supports their research.
Every day there is something different happening. The only constant is that the library is full of students thinking, problem solving, creating and learning.
One benefit of having genius hour at the same time is the cross grade teaching that occurs. Fourth grade students came in to work on stop motion animation. I had not done this before and offered to help them research and learn how to do it. I also told them that students in fifth grade were already creating stop motion animation projects and might be able to teach them. That is exactly what happened. Students are learning from each other. My role as the LMC director is clearly not to teach them how to do their projects. Often what they come up with is something of which I have limited knowledge. My role is to facilitate their learning and experimentation and to help them answer their own questions. I may help them refine a search, but they are the ones that are doing the searching.
Genius hour has been, quite frankly, genius. We remodeled our LMC to make it Future Ready but, as we all know, that does not make a difference if students are not using it for the intended purpose. Genius Hour has helped bring us closer to our goal of being a Future Ready Library and empowering our students to be Future Ready as well.