Three Simple Rules for a Great Genius Hour Project

Quick post today-

One of the most common questions I get about students selecting a good Genius Hour/ 20% Time project is, “What makes a great project from an average project?”

The first thing I would get off the table is asking the student, “can I do an internet search and find an answer?” If it is yes… find another project. If not, then move to the “Rule of thirds.”

The Genius Hour Rule of thirds is simple:

  1. Do you have passion for this topic? Are you driven to do “it” even when school is not in session?
  2. What skills acquisition are you getting out of this project?
  3. Who does it benefit (other than you?)
Big thanks to Heather Banks and Catherine Staples of Carmel Clay School Corporation for the design!

The first rule is pretty much the obvious test, and why some call the Genius Hour/ 20% Time “passion project” time instead. Strangely, this is sometimes the hardest hurdle, if you are past the fifth grade. Too often time middle and high school students still look for the project that will impress the teachers.

The second rule is REALLY important. What skills are you going to acquire? This, I believe is still important to have the student identify this early in the project selection process. Obviously the younger students might respond with, “because I like Goliath Beetles,” (this was an actual answer from when I asked my seven year old son Grant this question). But as they move up in age, they will start to see the Genius Hour time as a purposeful skill acquisition opportunity. Being curious is awesome, but I would like for older students to see HOW this curiosity can lead to actual skills.

The last rule is MAJOR important. It allows the student to see that their insights and inventions can benefit others. While our (meaning adults too) first inclination is to select somewhat selfish pursuits, identifying what can be helpful to others AND interesting to us is the sweet spot!

That’s it!

I hope you’ve found this quick and useful!

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