- Writing for EdSurge, middle school language arts teacher Jen Schneider describes how the use of “genius hours” helped her students develop a larger sense of community within the classroom, the school and with the outside world.
- As students worked together to make their ideas become reality, they began to look beyond themselves and see the benefits of working together to solve problems, inspiring others within the school community to pursue new goals.
- Sometimes the solutions to problems required seeking funding or materials from the local community creating the need for students to develop the soft skills and leadership qualities in order to achieve their goals.
The concept of genius hours has been used by innovative companies like Google for several years, but is now sometimes used is schools as part of a personalized learning strategy. The idea is for students to come up with a creative question linked to their personal passions and then answer that question by creating a project that solves the problem they posed.
To do so, students generally work in collaboration with other students, teachers and members of the community to gain the resources and information needed. Therefore, the use of genius hours not only fosters creativity and critical thinking, but also develops social skills, creating a common ground for friendships to develop. This cooperative learning atmosphere is another way to instill elements of social-emotional learning in students.
Another pay-off of the project is the development of soft skills. While STEM knowledge is increasingly needed in the workplace, the need for soft skills that allow workers to function effectively are becoming more apparent in jobs across the employment spectrum. These genius hour projects can help students learn how to tackle a problem and see it to completion while enlisting the aid of others along the way. In many cases, students emerge as leaders in this context because their passion for the project helps them overcome adolescent shyness and insecurities. All these skills will make them more effective in the community and in their daily lives.