Friday, December 13, 2013

Exploring, Collaborating, and Creativity=Genius Hour

     The third graders at J.W. Reason Elementary were introduced to Genius hour on Wednesday.  Genius hour was developed for students to explore their own passions and strongly encourages children to be creative and think outside the box.  As a group of teachers learning about this powerful movement it became clear that our boys and girls needed to experience it.  We also knew that the kickoff for this initiative had to be BIG and the kickoff really needed to get the kids excited and motivated to start exploring. As teachers it was our time to be passionate and creative to build this anticipation with the children. As teachers it was our time to create an experience for the children not just a lesson.   So the brainstorming began...Here are the ideas we used from Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess.
     Every third grade student would walk into the classroom and see this message posted in the room...Something big is going to happen today at 2:30!  Mrs. Stephens made signs to hang in the hallway and outside her door. All day long the students talked and wondered about the big surprise.  The buzz we wanted to create was well on its way and children were intrigued and hooked!  
    All the teachers involved in the genius hour agreed to wear lab coats and goggles to help enhance the experience for the children.  As soon as I walked into Mrs. Firestone's class with my costume on the wave of excitement swelled and the guessing about the surprise swirled the classroom.  The kids cheered because they knew that the surprise involved science.

     The first part of the lesson began with the video from Kid President titled Pep Talk. This youtube video was recommended on the genius hour blog to use.  The kids loved it and were getting more and more excited so we didn't waste any time and went into reading the book titled On A Beam Of Light: A Story of Albert Einsten by Jennifer Berne. This book was so perfect because the kids started wondering and questioning even more.  Here are some of the questions... How does a light bulb work?... How does electricity work?... If everything is made up of atoms why is air invisible but you can see a book?...What is the moon really made of?  
     The enthusiasm was still strong so it was time for the children to experience the mystery bags.  Each mystery bag was filled with clues about the topic they would explore over the next 3 weeks during genius hour.  The topic was energy so we included a battery, a rock (fossil fuel), a small water bottle, a flashlight, a picture of a gas pump, and a solar calculator.  The children worked in small groups to figure out what all the items in the bag had in common.  They loved it and guessed energy within five minutes.  Even after the mystery bags the questions were still generating.  The boys and girls really wanted to think and wonder and question like Albert Einstein.

The logistics of genius hour  is that the project work would be 3 weeks long. The children can work in groups or alone.  The 4th week will be children presenting their work in front of others.  Support teachers will push in to help facilitate projects and keep the groups moving forward.  I am so pumped for this inquiry-based learning and I know the kids are too.  I will be blogging about the project work next week for inquiring minds who want to know more! 

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