Genius Hour – Where Passions Come Alive

Our Year 5 Genius Hour engages, empowers and motivates students to learn and follow their own passions

Over the course of Term 4, members of the Senior Leadership Team meet individually with teachers from the ELC, Barbreck and the Senior School as part of the School’s Staff Performance and Development Review. This meeting provides an opportunity to discuss professional goals, key achievements for the year, teaching innovations and future planning regarding professional development and career progression. This is somewhat of a rigorous process whereby teachers must provide evidence across three key categories as established by the Australian Institute of Teachers and School Leaders (AITSL): Professional Knowledge, Professional Practice and Professional Engagement.

My review conversations with our teachers are truly enlightening and a very real indication of the work and innovation that occurs in the classroom every day at St Catherine’s. I believe great teachers are at the heart of great schools. In my conversation with a Year 5 teacher this week, I developed a greater understanding of a successful initiative this year which has reignited the girls’ Friday afternoon activities. The introduction of Genius Hour has provided the Year 5 girls with the opportunity to explore their own passions and creativity within the classroom. Genius Hour is designed to enable students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during School.

The idea was originally created by search-engine giant, Google, which allows engineers to spend 20 percent of their time to work on any pet project they want. The idea is very simple – allow people to work on something that interests them, and productivity will go up. Google’s policy has worked so well it has been said that 50 percent of Google’s projects have been created during this creative time period. Ever heard of Gmail or Google News? These projects were creations by passionate developers that blossomed from their Genius Hour projects at Google.

The Year 5 students look forward to Friday afternoons each week so they can spend time on their very own research. Their passion and curiosity guides their discovery and learning. With the teacher in the role as a facilitator, the girls motivate each other and spur each other along, with one idea igniting another. Many times in education, we believe the only way to hold students accountable for their work is by giving some form of assessment. For this activity, the girls document their learning through writing and present their research and accomplishments as a 3D model, a slideshow or animation film to peers.

So often in schools we are constrained by a set curriculum and focused on achieving certain standards. The Genius Hour is a new way to engage, empower and motivate students to learn. In our desire to prepare students to be lifelong learners, we realise they must be intrinsically motivated and capable of working out what interests them and encourage them how to go about learning that is both self-directed and self-motivated.

“I love Genius Hour because you feel so independent. All the girls are passionate about it, and if someone walked into the classroom between 2.15pm and 3.15pm, they would to see everybody’s head down and fully concentrating on their work. We have all learnt so much from one another, and none of us want to leave Year 5.”
Madeline Powell

“I look forward to Genius Hour because it gives us time to research and present topics that we find interesting. We have the opportunity and time to do research and learn more about things you might not learn in class. Genius Hour spreads our wings in all different directions as we listen to our fellow classmates and learn about what they are researching. Genius Hour is great fun.”
Clarence Houle-O’Connor

“I am researching Science experiments with my friend Mary. At first we were going to do one big experiment but we decided we did not have enough time so we are now working on lots of little experiments. We came up with the idea of Science experiments because we thought it would be fun to learn about and create. I love the freedom of Genius Hour and being able to choose any topic I am interested in and presenting it in my own way. I always look forward to Genius Hour because I can learn about things I am passionate about. I love not having a set topic or a set way of presenting. I am so glad I have been given the opportunity to participate in Genius Hour.”
Madeleine Farrer

“For my first Genius Hour I researched the history of Ballet. It was really interesting as I am currently attending Ballet classes. As I researched the topic more it became more and more interesting! My favourite thing about Genius Hour would have to be the freedom of choice. I love being able to choose how to present it. It can be in any format you want. On my history of Ballet topic I used an App called Plotagon which allowed me to use cartoon people that you design and type in what you want them to say. I have learnt many things during Genius Hour, not only about my own topic, but also about using computers. I have loved broadening my general knowledge as well, as I love learning random (most of the time as my mum would say unnecessary) facts. I have finished my first topic and I am now onto my second, ‘Advertising’. It really intrigues me and I look forward to researching it more. For my presentation on Advertising I am doing a PowerPoint explaining the different methods that can be used. I am also creating a Word document with a demonstration of my own advertising of a fake product called ‘Fresh Fake Flowers’. It shows advertising can be deceptive and not always say the exact truth. Overall I think Genius Hour has been a great success and I am so glad I have the chance to participate in it every Friday.”
Daisy Turnbull

Mrs Michelle Carroll

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