Genius Hour

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While reading about different curriculum offerings in primary school I discovered the term “Genius Hour.” The term Genius Hour is credited to Google. It is a practice where employees at Google spend twenty percent of their time engaged in projects of their own choosing that have the potential to benefit the company. Many innovations at Google have come from this practice.

Traditional education has embraced the Genius Hour, utilizing one hour in the school day and inviting children to work on a project of their own choosing. Looking further, I discovered a variety of articles and websites dedicated to incorporating this practice into the classroom. I also discovered that many principals of Genius Hour complement the practices of learner-centered education. Practices that could benefit the school age care community. 

How can incorporating more Genius Hour attributes into school age care programs benefit the children?

In my career working with school age children, following the philosophies of learner-centered education helped our programs thrive and nurtured many successful investigations and collaborations with the children. These are important foundational practices of learning that educators can utilize to enhance the experience for children in school age programs.

What are the benefits of incorporating Genius Hour practices into our work with children? 

Purposeful – Inviting children to explore their own interests creates purpose for their work. Everyone feels a connection to his or her interests including young children. Having the time to explore their interests, without the pressure of another person deciding what is important to learn, is a real benefit for children. 

Inquiry Based – We all have questions.For children, having time to investigate their questions is the pathway to learning. Investigating our questions gives meaning to learning and life. A genius hour practice begins with a question, a wondering about something that the child desires to know more about. Having the time to investigate their questions is beneficial to children’s learning and engagement.

Child Directed – All children are capable and enjoy thinking about, investigating, leading, and creating their own work. Our role, as an educator is to come alongside as a co-learner, researcher, engage in dialogue, and observe as the children direct their learning journey.

Follow Questions – Inviting children to explore their own questions is where a true adventure in education begins. A learning investigation evolves as a series of questions that take the child on a journey of discovery and usually more questions. By following questions, children are not seeking one correct answer, but are seeking to learn more about their interests as a living active experience.

Research – The act of investigating questions is a search for meaning. The acquisition of knowledge is often explained as someone with superior knowledge sharing with persons of lesser knowledge. Genius Hour principals invites all children to be researchers and knowledge seekers. Learning this way invites children to discover, not the correct answer, but information that takes them one step further on their journey of inquiry.

Projects – The project approach to learning is a wonderful way for children to create a physical expression of their questions. Creating projects to explain their ideas and express discoveries helps children make learning visible for themselves and the entire learning community. The active search for answers through creativity ties the sensorial and physical self into the search for knowledge.

Collaborative Work – Project work offers children the opportunity to co-learn with others. Children collaborate with each other and the educators in the search for meaning. The role of co-learner evolves as the challenges and depth of an investigation grows. Working in collaboration makes learning come alive as creative ideas from the collective of learners are shared and explored.

Sharing With Others – Inquiry is a process of self-discovery that can be documented and shared with others.The act of sharing the process of our thinking and the corresponding work benefits other children in the classroom and the community. The stories of children’s investigations motivate others to value the search for knowledge.

Genius Hour is offered in schools to enhance the learning experience for young children. I would like to see these attributes employed more in school age care settings. By moving away from scripted programming, school age care programs could invite young children to employ the knowledge they acquire during the day into applied work that would build their understanding of the learning journey.