This year we want to develop our project and research skills with our children. We want to offer our children learning opportunities beyond what the curriculum suggests. We want to give them enrichment opportunities which promote a thirst for learning and a chance to find out more about something they are passionate about.
After talking with members of the Apple Distinguished Educator community, I found out about ‘Genius Hour’. Genius Hour in schools has been inspired by cultures in companies like Google. Employees are given a percentage of their time to explore an area of interest and collaborate with others who share similar passions.
It took a lot of reorganising of our timetable, and adult deployment is key to its success. With our aged children we want to ensure that they have the greatest access to the expertise that they need. This may be the adults in the room, or the contacts those adults can make for the children.
For 1 hour a week, usually between 11am – 12pm on a Wednesday, our children will have ‘Genius Hour’.
For the Autumn Term we are offering the children 2x adult-supported Genius Sessions within the hour. Children sign up for Gardening Club, Maker Space, iTunes U Project, Researcher or Master Chef. These sessions will coach the children through a project work flow – they will not have a finished piece by the end of their session, and to finish it, they will have to sign in to the session again the following week. The more sessions they join, the more projects they will have to manage.
The intention is that the children will initially try everything if they are unsure, and settle in to 2 maybe 3 projects and see them through to the end. Later in the year, as these project skills have developed and the time becomes valuable to them, we would hope we can create a more self-organised learning environment where they can project manage their own work.
For the iTunes U Project that I facilitate, children who have been enjoying the collaboration with our connected classes will be able to make greater links with them. This half term we have a project with children in Kansas to create an ABC Book about our school on the iPads and share these with all of the classes involved.
The gardeners are busy weeding the beds after the summer holiday, and finding that it takes it more than half an hour to clear a garden! Each week they will tackle another section of their garden.
Our first Maker Space project is sewing book marks for our new school reading books. Here is progress after one session! We hope each term we can offer a different Maker Space project linked to a seasonal event: such as sewing stockings for Christmas or making wooden bird houses for Spring.
In all Genius sessions children made comments about their skills. “I don’t think I am a genius at sewing” in week 1 became “I’m becoming more a genius at this” and after a few weeks “I’m a genius now!”.
This is a real opportunity for us to develop a classroom culture that extends beyond the curriculum and promote a passion for lifelong learning. It applies literacy and numeracy skills but adds so much value to the other areas of learnings, showing that we do indeed have a broad and balanced curriculum. It is also a great chance our our adults to share their hobbies and interests with the youngest children in our school. It shows them that we are lifelong learners and more than just teachers in a classroom.