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Star Class: Genius Hour at Hawthorne

What if you were given time (during your workday) each week to explore something you were genuinely interested in or passionate about? Would you spend time learning about classic wooden boats? Would you design something to keep your child from throwing things off their high-chair for the millionth time? Genius Hour is that time for third-grade students at Hawthorne Elementary School. Genius Hour is a cross-curricular, standards-embedded, structured hour set aside each week where inspiration, wonder and questioning are at the root of learning, creating and sharing with the world.

Specifically, Genius Hour fosters inquiry-based, student-directed learning correlated directly to Minnesota State Academic Standards. It provides students with a structure to explore the world around them, create something to demonstrate their knowledge, and to share their findings in a safe and supportive environment.

To meet our state standards and to engage students in cognitively complex tasks, the learners go through the following process during Genius Hour time:

Create a question driven by what interests them and what they are passionate about.

Map out a plan for where they will seek out information to answer their question (this provides great opportunities for community partnerships in that our students may reach out to and interview experts on their topic).

Draft a sketch of what they want to create to demonstrate their learning.

Make a list of supplies they will need to be successful during Genius Hour.

Investigate their question.

Create something to demonstrate their learning.

Share.

Repeat.

If one were to walk into a Genius Hour at Hawthorne Elementary, they would see a busy buzz of engaged learners who are immersed in and excited about learning. They would feel an established culture of perseverance, and autonomy in standards driven student learning. Most importantly, one would understand that a Genius Hour naturally allows learners time to personalize their learning experience, engage in higher order thinking and an opportunity to connect with, share and grow from the world around them.