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Tanglewood fifth-graders innovate through genius hour

February 24, 2020

Students work on Genius Hour projects together.What do you want to learn about? Opening a food truck? Coding? The ocean? Energy? Dreams? Greek mythology? How to open a dance studio?

All of these options and more are open for discussion as students in Kelsie Godfrey’s fifth-grade class at Tanglewood Elementary School participate in “genius hour.”

“It’s really interesting to research stuff you never knew and if people have similar topics it’s interesting to have a conversation with them,” said one student in the class, as he and his classmates took to their inquiry-based learning task quickly and without hesitation. Inquiry-based learning emphasizes the students’ role in their learning. Instead of the teacher telling students what they should know, students are encouraged to explore information through a variety of sources, ask questions and share their ideas.

Once turned loose to start their work for the day, the students dutifully and excitedly grabbed their books, Chromebooks and notepads and gathered in groups of learners who are researching similar topics. For example, one table had students learning about animals while another group had students focused on aspects of coding, wind and solar energy. During each block of time that students have to research, they also have a conference with their teacher to discuss what they’ve learned so far and to discuss their final projects.

Students work on Genius Hour projects.Genius hour is a movement that started in the corporate world and has become popular in education as well. Students are challenged to explore topics that interest them for a set amount of time each week and then put together a project that explains what they are learning. In Godfrey’s class, students work on their Genius Hour project once or twice a week.

Creativity is encouraged throughout the research process, and the final project, which can be a presentation, a demonstration or any other way of sharing what they have discovered.

“Student choice is key to innovative learning practices, which we strive to focus on in our district,” said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Tim Dawkins. “We believe that programs like genius hour builds passionate learners who can research and articulate what they have discovered.”

“When the students present their final projects, it’s so easy to see how much they have truly learned on their topic,” Godfrey says. “But the beauty in it is that they’re developing research, synthesis and presentation skills that will serve them for a lifetime.”

Category: District News, Tanglewood