8th Grade Genius Hour Elective Inspires Self-directed Projects
Posted On:
Monday, October 30, 2017
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As the new school year started at Baird Middle School so did a new 8th grade elective class- ELA Exploration/Genius Hour - taught by BMS Reading Teacher, Beth Jarzabek.  The course is designed based on the principles of the Genius Hour movement that encourages self-directed projects taking students on a journey to explore and research topics that are of interest to them. What is Genius Hour? According to their website, Genius Hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.  It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school.

When asked what the motivation was behind offering this course Jarzabek shared, “I was approached by Mrs. Monette (principal) and Mrs. Dobek (assistant principal) with the possibility of creating a new elective  to provide additional academic opportunities for our 8th grade students.  Many of the education bloggers I follow have been writing about their experiences with their own Genius Hour classes sparking my interest in the possibility of teaching a similar course.”  

Jarzabek explained that students are working individually or in small groups of up to four, choosing a topic of interest to create a unique, final project that will inform and inspire others about their topics.  Over a time slot of approximately four months,  students will complete extensive research and develop a deeper understanding of their topic. In addition, they also are instructed to target their audience and formulate  the most effective way to share their topic with others.

“During the process students must also share personal reflections with me, using our Google Classroom,” continued Jarzabek.  “They share what they have accomplished, what has worked, what they have done to be more productive.  I am proud of the fact that no one has given up although there are times they have faced obstacles, and the process has been difficult.”

Maxwell Mortimer is following his childhood interest of being a meteorologist by designing and comparing two weather stations that measures wind speed- an anemometer and Raspberry Pi weather station, to determine which one will be more accurate.

“I’ve always wanted to be a meteorologist or a star chaser so my project was a natural choice,” shared Mortimer. “At first I didn’t think I would be able to make the weather stations, but I did.  It’s great that you can pick a topic that interests you - it’s a really fun class and I would highly recommend it!”

Elizabeth Rollet, Grace McBride, Olivia Parker and Grace Dinelle are working together to design and create a life size cardboard Christmas Tree and fireplace.  McBride explained that their project was inspired after watching the documentary film by Nirvan Mullick, Caine’s Arcade, about a young boy, Caine Monroy, who creates an arcade using boxes and everyday objects.

“We thought it would be a cool project to try and make something out of cardboard. The deadline to complete the project is December, near Christmas, so we figured it was perfect timing,” said Rollet.

When asked about their impression of the class McBride shared, “It’s a nice break from our actual academic subjects.  It gives us the opportunity to do something we like, and have chosen to do.”  

Rollet added, “It’s a great class because we get to work together on a fun project for one period a day.  It’s very different than any other class I have ever had.”

Jillian Kubik is working on a Public Service Announcement (PSA) about bullying, “I have always been against bullying so I thought this class would be the perfect opportunity to highlight how much bullying can have a negative effect on others.”

Kubik shared that she will be meeting with BMS Principal, Stacy Monette, to determine a way to present her PSA school wide.  Her presentation will include creating index cards with small messages that would boost positivity and self esteem to pass out to classmates.  She has also identified an anti-bullying song from the play Dear Evan Hansen, she hopes to perform for classmates.   

“What I love most is that this class has given students an opportunity to explore something that they are truly interested in - students are in the driver’s seat of their own learning.” stated Jarzabek. “Because several groups are working on different projects, class can, at times, appear to be controlled chaos!  Keeping things productive, and being able to help each group can be challenging, but it is very rewarding to see students research, design, create and bring to life a project they are passionate about.”

It is clear that not only are the students in this class motivated, energized and determined to complete and share their unique Genius Hour Projects, but their teacher, and biggest supporter - Mrs. Jarzabek - has inspired them every step of the way, and will be there to cheer them on as they cross the finish line.

BMS Principal, Stacy Monette, summed up this new, exciting course best when she commented, "Genius Hour is a “genius” way to engage our middle school students!"

You are welcome to follow their journey on Twitter - @MrsJ266.




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