Saturday, June 1, 2013

"Genius Hour" "20% Time" "Passion Projects"

I didn't know about "Passion Time/Genius Hour/20% Time/whatever you want to call it" until this year and a week and a half ago I took part in a Twitter chat to learn more about it.  The chat helped me understand it a little better and in my opinion, @PaulSolarz has the best resources on the topic.  I think he's done a wonderful job implementing Passion Time in his classroom.

For those who are unfamiliar, this idea (as I understand it) is based on Google's "20% time" or "Innovation Time Off" which is a policy that allows employees to use 20% of their work time actually working on ideas/projects that interest them instead of just working on those that they are required to do.  This practice has now found its way into classrooms and many teachers/students are taking part.  I've read about teachers allowing their students an hour or so each week to focus their learning on whatever they are passionate about (hence the terms "Passion Time" and "Passion Projects").     
After taking part in the chat, I was inspired to try it out in my classroom.  The only problem was, I only had one week left in the school year!  I told my students about "Passion Projects" the day after my chat and they said they would love to try it out.  So, during the last week of school, we had a modified "Passion Time" where students were given freedom to work on a project that they were passionate about.  I even had a few students begin their projects at home over the weekend.  Hey, that's okay!  That shows that they are definitely passionate about it! 

I wanted students to work individually, but some shared the same passion and wanted to work together.  I allowed no more than two students to a group.  I had a pair of students who told me they wanted to learn more about ocean creatures (particularly sharks).  They researched information online and used books from our classroom library to create a PowerPoint that showed what they learned. 
One student in my class is passionate about acting and has even auditioned for several roles in local productions at FSU's film school.  He's actually been in several short films this year.  He and another student spent their Passion Time filming and editing clips using the apps iMovie and Action Movie FX.  They showed the class their "movie" at the end of Passion Time and everyone raved about what they were able to put together.
A couple of my girls want to be fashion designers.  They love drawing and creating dresses and even have a composition notebook full of pictures of outfits that serve as inspiration.  One of the girls created this sample dress:  
And the other fashionista designed several outfits, along with a board on which you can mix-and-match clothes to see what you'd like to wear. 
It was amazing how quiet my classroom was as the students worked.  They were so focused and engaged during this time and they enjoyed being able to present at the end. 
I'll have to do more research on this activity over the summer and see if it's really something I want to implement next year.  I still have a few questions about it.
Here are a few links to sites I've found helpful:


  1. Ashley,
    I'm so glad you jumped right in with such a short time left in the school year! And I'm so glad to add you to the ever-growing list of 5th grade teachers trying Genius Hour here:

    Enjoy tweaking for the next school year and letting the kids soar with this time to learn what THEY want to learn. Sincerely, Joy

  2. Sounds like an amazing start to Passion Time for you and your kids! I'm so glad I was able to help you get started! Please let me know if there's anything else I can do to help. P.S. We just posted our newest projects today. Check them out if you have any time!