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Middle & Upper School Library: Genius Project

What is Genuis Hour

Simply put, Genius Hour is inquiry-based, student-directed learning. Sometimes called Passion Pursuit, it gives students an opportunity to look at the big wide world around them and explore their own unique interests in a loosely structured, but supported, way. Terry Heick, founder and director of TeachThought, sings the praises of Genius Hour and describes it as a time when “students are in control; choosing what they study, how they study it, and what they produce or create as a result. As a learning model, it promotes inquiry, research, creativity, and self-directed learning.”  


Genius Project Plan

1. Pick a topic.

Brainstorming ideas and narrowing down options can sometimes be the trickiest part of the process for students. Guide them to choose a topic that they are truly passionate about and is just the right size. 

2. Develop a driving question.   

Once your students pick a topic, they will need a driving question to guide their research. This is the what, why, and how that allows them to go deeper into their subject. If the question they are asking can be answered with a simple Google search, it is not specific enough. A great place to start for guiding students through the inquiry process is this infographic from TeachThought.

3. Do the research.

There are many ways for students to dig up information on their chosen topic. In addition to reading books and articles, students can access websites, watch videos, and connect with experts in the community. Have your students use note catchers, write in their journals, or blog to stay organized and be accountable for their research. However, don’t get bogged down on this step. Teacher AJ Juliani cautions, “You don’t want to spend too much time in the research phase, because you really want to get into the making, creating, [and] designing phase and start building your project into a reality.”

4. Bring it all together.

Creating something original is the core purpose of Genius Hour. Whether students publish, design, act, make, or do, there should always be a tangible takeaway from the process. How your students choose to present what they have learned is limited only by their imagination. Some ideas? Create a blog, shoot a video, write and perform a play, or paint a mural. Put on a puppet show, set up a gallery walk or wax museum. Make it a big deal by inviting families and community members to presentation day.

5. Reflect.

After the presentation, bring the process full circle and “cement the learning” by asking your students to reflect. What went well? What did you learn? What would you do differently? Where do you want to go from here?


Are your research sites valid?