Curiosity sparks wonder, as teachers at Navin Elementary School in Marysville, Ohio, have learned full well.
Fourth grade teacher Courtney Potts and her colleagues embrace their students’ curiosity and inquiry through a “Wonder Wall” onto which kids post questions they have about what they are learning or want to learn. Understanding that her fourth graders want to learn and think, Courtney and her team took the Wonder Wall one step further and implemented a Genius Hour for learners. Modeling the Genius Hour movement, the Navin teachers created a plan to provide students the opportunity to explore their own passions and encouraged creative thinking, providing students a choice in what they wanted to learn during school.
As teachers across the Marysville Exempted Village School District implement the shift to personalized learning and student-centered classrooms, a focus on developing agency in learners has been critical. Genius Hour has been a strategy to encourage learner voice and choice, as it insists that kids spend time exploring, discovering, and investigating that which they are truly curious about. Schools in Africa, anti-bullying, theories behind Star Wars, and drones – how they work and how you construct one. These are just a few of the topics being considered by students in Marysville.
Courtney said that most of what her students are working on during this time has morphed into a kind of capstone project, and the class is planning for a spring exhibition to share evidence of all they have learned. She doesn’t struggle with giving up time for this as she knows that what her students are working on is authentic, applied learning across the curriculum. An interesting trend should be noted with the choices the fourth graders have made: many of the topics have evolved into a call to action for the kids, and they are finding ways to make local and global impacts, from raising money to support an African village to building toys for the dogs at the county animal shelter located across the road from the school.
While Courtney and her colleagues understand the positive impact of learning and engagement Genius Hour has given their students, the kids understand it as well. Here’s what fourth grader Kai said about Genius Hour:
“I didn’t know I was getting ripped off in my old school!” 4th grader when asked about how he feels about Genuis Hour. @NavinElementary
— Robin Kanaan (@RobinKanaan) March 9, 2017
Kids know. It’s time adults started listening to them.