Genius Hour #1 - The Renaissance

This is a post from August 27th, 2013.

As I've grown in the world of twitter - if you're an educator, get on twitter. Now. Like, stop reading this blog and go start a twitter account and follow me @chambersalec - I have come across so many good ideas. Twitter has opened up a world of like-minded teachers who care deeply about the learning of their students and are willing to push boundaries to achieve that learning. One of the great ideas is called "Genius Hour". Follow a really smart lady named Joy Kirr (@joykirr) to learn more about it from the source, but the basic idea goes like this:

Students are curious. One of the great travesties of education is to rob students of that curiosity by forcing set curriculum goals down their throats in search of ever-increasing test scores. The belief of Genius Hour is that students will naturally learn more and learn better when they are allowed - and encouraged - to be curious. Students create a question that they want to answer. It has to be related to the topic, so my students picked anything related to the Renaissance in Italy. For example, "Why is Miley Cyrus nuts?", while a legitimate question, is not a good question for this exercise! The student have their question, an iPad, and an hour to find the answer. The coolest part is that students can prove they have answered the question any way they want. A picture collage with narration? Great. A video explanation? Sounds good to me. A written paragraph? Not the most creative, but it'll work! A poem? Love it!

With my 9th grade class, I gave 20 questions related to the Italian Renaissance, varying from fashion to sports to the Medici family to religion. Eventually I will let the students pick their own question, but for starters, I wanted to give them a good starting list of questions that I knew were quality.


The results were fantastic! (More pictures of the products coming soon...) Many 9th grade students struggle to stay focused and active for 20 minutes at the beginning of the year.This is why teachers are encouraged to have a lot of transitions early in the year. My students took this activity and they were enthralled! There were a ton of probing questions. Not the kind that make a teacher pull hair out, but the kind that get us out of bed in the morning!

"Mr. Chambers, did you know that the Medici were bankers?"

"Wait...Leonardo Da Vinci invented the concept of the helicopter? Did he ever actually make one?"

"Mr. Chambers, why were people so interested in art? And why does the art look so different from art made today?"

These are the questions that allow me to ask an additional probing question. These questions show curiosity. These questions show students who are trying to find the answers, and that is what we're all looking for in education! 

I'll be back with photos of the results! Thanks for reading!