Thursday, May 2, 2013

#GeniusHour and #ScienceFair

For the last five years I have worked with my sixth-grade science students to complete an experiment and publish the results in the form of an all grade level science fair. When I started five years ago, I gave students a very small list of acceptable projects (a couple hundred projects for around 140 students). I limited their creativity and tried to focus on the scientific process. Read that sentence again. Doesn't make any sense, I know. Creativity should be part of the scientific process, hello! Innovation!

I was so uncomfortable with giving students the control and freedom to choose or create a project of their own. It was a scary idea to a Type A personality like me to even think about relinquishing control.

But...5 years taking baby steps every year, I've learned to give up a little of that control. This year I allowed students to choose any project that they wanted for their science experiment. I still required them to find a project idea online (didn't give up ALL control yet), but they could use any website to find a project.

It was a great experience and I was so proud of what my students accomplished. See the pictures below.

Having successfully worked to improve the science fair for five years, and allow students to direct their own process, I decided that I am now ready to give up even more control and allow students to use their own creative passion to design their own experiment. No website needed. Full creative control. But how do I start?

Enter Genuis Hour.

I stumbled across a Wednesday night Twitter chat #educoach where I heard about #geniushour. Doing a quick search, I found my way to and an amazing video at a PD meeting, conducted by a 6th grade science teacher. I think it was fate. I am hooked.

Genius hour, if you've never heard of it, is an idea to give your students 20% of class time to investigate, research, and create a product about anything that they are interested in. It's also called the Passion project or the 20% project. No matter the name, the idea is the same:give kids time to focus on something that they are truly interested and passionate in.

I felt comfortable with this because that's what our science fair focused on. I encouraged students to choose a project that they were interested in. That was actually a checkbox on the parent approval form. But this takes it to a whole new level.

Looking toward next year, my initial plan is to use Fridays as our Genius Hour day, and have each quarter (9 weeks) be devoted to a new project.

The ONLY way I can even think about starting something like the is because Whole Brain Teaching strategies will allow me to utilize the most of the other four days of the week. The 5 step lesson plan and Power Pix will allow me to do more in less time. The Big 7 will allow me to have classroom management free of discipline issues and to use every second of class time.

It's going to be a lot of work, but I am SO excited. Good thing it's almost summer so I have time to plan for next year!!


  1. I completely understand your statement about a type A personality. I am very much like that. I really think WBT helps teachers like us let go and allow gets to discover more on their own! :)

  2. Those look like some awesome projects! Our older students have a science fair and do projects like those. I knew you had a blog, but did follow it until now. Thanks for the linky party!

    Southern Teacher WBT