As we wrap up an engaging year in the 5th-grade, it has been remarkable to look back and see how students have taken ownership of their education. From our discussions about autonomous learning during the Global School Play Day to the introduction of independent work blocks, our 5th-graders have grown significantly in their capacity to be self-directed learners.
One area where this has been exemplified has been the Genius Hour projects. The inspiration behind Genius Hour was to explicitly designate time in the school day toward passion-driven, student-led learning. Over the course of this year, we have seen creative projects such as the creation of an Etsy shop, the management of an Instagram page documenting historical female figures, an anime collage of classmates, and a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. These diverse projects have created rich opportunities for students to develop soft skills such as time management, budgeting, being adaptable, and thinking creatively.
While reflecting on this years' Genius Hour projects, an additional, unintended benefit has arisen. With Genius Hour giving students the opportunity to explore their personal interests, they have been encouraged to share their individuality with our community. Too often, a school day can be limited to only the traditional subjects of reading, writing, and mathematics in a push to prepare students for testing and grades. If a student has difficulty connecting with these subjects, it can be challenging for them to see themselves reflected in their education. Therefore, Genius Hour provides a safe space for students to demonstrate their strengths, talents, and passions not only in front of their educators but also their peers.
When students can see themselves reflected in their education, it fosters confidence. It has been a pleasure this year to watch more reserved students speak openly and discerningly about their Genius Hour projects and feel successful in an academic setting. Furthermore, this burgeoning confidence additionally strengthened peer relationships by creating a space for students to appreciate hidden interests and talents in each other. This, in turn, forged new relationships in our class because the projects allowed students to make social connections that might not have normally come up in a school setting. In the end, any chance that we can provide to make education meaningful and personal to students is a chance to create lifelong learners.