If you happened to pop into my 3rd grade classroom at Grimsrud, at first glance it may look like the classroom teacher is simply walking around observing while the students are busily working on a some type of project. My hope is that you will see curiosity, collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking as they have been working diligently for the last 2 to 3 weeks on their own passion projects. Some of you may be more familiar with the term, Genius Hour projects, but “passion projects” seemed to just fit in my classroom. If you would take even a closer look and ask these students what they are so actively engaged in, I am hopeful they would jump at the chance to share what exactly they are curious about!
Two years ago I participated in a book study that dove deeper into Harvey “Smokey” Daniels book titled, The Curious Classroom. From this book study I have incorporated many ideas into my classroom to help not only inspire students as well as hang on to the curiosity that our students already bring to the classroom. The one idea that I feel has made the most impact thus far is incorporating a Genius Hour into a portion of our day/week. This first started with simply having a “Wonder Wall” in the classroom where my students could share their own wonders about anything that they were interested in as well as ideas that they may want to dig deeper into. Many ideas stemming from the “Wonder Wall” soon morphed into individual projects as well as small collaborative group projects. Interestingly enough, many students found that they wanted to learn more about some of the same topics. This then of course led to research and then creating different projects to eventually present and share with our entire class.
While one small group has been working on, Why volcanoes erupt?, which of course includes a demonstration of a volcano that the small group crafted together, another individual has been researching about Laura Ingalls Wilder. Our entire class was pleasantly surprised when “Laura” visited us in full costume, which included her favorite candy from the 1927 general store. She shared about her own life events on a time line where she included many pictures from her life. That same week we were a lucky class as another one of my students was eager to share all about the USA Women’s Hockey Team experience in the 2018 Olympics. She was more than excited to share her news report that she created with WeVideo. Last year one my groups even discovered how to create the perfect bath bomb – hence the pungent smell of lemons lingering throughout the entire wing of our small school. These are just a few of the many passion projects that have stemmed from this Wonder Wall/ Genius Time.
I must admit that when I first implemented this new idea, I wasn’t quite sure where this might lead to. What I am most excited about is that it truly has given many of the students a voice and a chance to learn about something that they are truly interested in. Having these structures in place for student-directed inquiry has been amazing. I have seen some of my quietest students explode with excitement when it is time for Genius Hour. Upon entering the classroom I have also seen many students check our agenda in hopes that there will be time for Genius Hour and then just beam when they see that indeed there will be time to work on what they are passionate about. The biggest struggle that I feel I have encountered is how to move some of my students passed only wanting to learn about DIY projects rather than digging deeper into learning about a new topic. For some I simply feel this is developmentally a stage that some are just more ready for than others. I also believe that this has been an outlet to share more of the student’s creative side. My students and I have visited extensively about sharing our learning in new and different ways and to not just use the same presentation style each time. Many of my students are comfy with creating goggle slides, which is great however, we have really tried to work on finding new, creative and versatile ways to showcase our learning.
In closing, I wanted to share this last thought. My biggest “Aha moment” from introducing the Wonder Wall and Genius Hour/ Passion Project time into my classroom was one I never thought would actually happen. Being Curious isn’t just for 9 year olds. In order to encourage many of my students to tap into their own curiosity, I had to be vulnerable and share some of the ideas that I am most curious about. Clearly, as teachers we model every day, but sometimes even if it is difficult, modeling our own deepest wonders may just be enough to spark even our youngest learners, to take a chance and learn about something they are curious about. Are you willing to take that chance?
Twitter Tuesday Questions
Q1: How can we encourage curiosity in the classroom?
Q2: How do you as an educator help your students to find new ways to share their new learning?
Q3: When students embark on a Genius Hour Project, how can we encourage them to dig deeper into their learning versus simply sticking to a DIY project?
Q4: In what ways have you modeled being curious to your students?