Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Genius Hour

Speech Camp this year became a week of cultivating leadership and communication skills, instead of explaining the 14 individual events in which students will actually compete during the school year.   I'd say "oops" but I could not be happier with how the week turned out.  This past week, we built transferable skills that will lend themselves nicely to the regular season and fostered relationships with students that will help us find material/scripts that reflects their passions, interests, and skills.  So we did not spend a lot of time "doing" Speech Team, but we were successful in developing their ability to use words and critically think in a 21st century world.

The theme of camp revolved around the power of words and the ability we all have to creatively and accurately express ourselves to those we encounter.  On Wednesday, I had students complete their first-ever Genius Hour, asking them only to show how they change the world they live in each day.  As a precursor to this activity, I gave them ten seconds to draw a picture, using a sheet of paper that had only a circle printed on it.  Then, they had one minute to finish/enhance their drawing.  What was most impressive was that some students started to fold the paper, write words, and even tore the paper to create something original that reflected their personalities.  They thought outside of the box quite literally.

After processing this experience and considering how we choose to express ourselves every day, students spent two minutes thinking about how they impact the world. Watching them fervently scribble their ideas, create lists, and yes, even draw to express themselves, students shared their creations with small groups of five to six people. Then, they had two minutes to decide how to combine their ideas and plan how to utilize the hour.

Once time was called, students grabbed flip cameras and ran out of the Media Center doors. One group remained in the Media Center and created a maze that students went through to emphasize the idea that "the journey is the real reward", but the rest decided to create videos. As the hour dwindled and students began to frantically sign onto computers to edit their work, the results began to take form. When given an open-ended challenge to create change, these students' originality shined through. Not only did the Genius Hour allow students express themselves, but it also taught them that they can problem-solve, create, and demonstrate high levels of knowledge in a short amount of time. They can collaborate, utilize technology, and use their voices to influence the world in which they live. While the hour expired quickly, what they did accomplish was amazing and inspiring, even though technology and time created obstacles. Their final projects were touching, funny, and reflected their personalities.

I was impressed by the quality of work that they created, but more importantly, I was touched by their comments during our reflection time. Because they had a short time to accomplish the task, they learned that they needed to be flexible, utilize listening skills, solve problems quickly, and be willing to work together. They also bonded with their teammates, collaborated, and had a positive time doing it. They had fun and shared their messages with their peers (and the world in which they live). The final projects were beautiful, but it was the process that taught them these lessons. As the students enthusiastically crawled through the maze in the Media Center, earning rug-burn like badges of honor as a team, they demonstrated that the journey really is the reward.

Resources for the Genius Hour:

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