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Liberating Student Genius

Teacher working with students in fourth grade classroom
Liberating Student Genius

“Genius needs a reason to show up,” says Angela Maiers, an educator with 25 years’ experience. Her exploration into what brings it out led her to the concept of “Genius Hour” for students. 

“When I was doing research on inspiring and sustaining passion, I got interested in how highly successful companies capture and use the energy that comes from passion,” she says. “Google, for example, uses collective passion to innovate amazing ways we can all use technology. And they capture it by giving employees one day per week to work on something they’re interested in. What if we had our nation’s 60,000 classrooms giving students a similar opportunity: a genius hour once a week?”

Since 2011, when Genius Hour was first implemented, it’s expanded significantly. Maiers says, “Over time it’s become more institutionalized. This often happens with a new idea. In this case, giving students the freedom to work on whatever they’re interested in has turned into an activity that’s taught. Teachers develop a rubric and conduct the activity. But the goal isn’t putting on Genius Hour – it’s liberating the genius.”

The Philosophy of Genius Hour

Maiers wants to see a shift away from the belief that geniuses are created. “Genius exists inside all of us. It’s not something teachers develop but something they look for and expect. If you give students a reason to be geniuses, they will be. If you challenge them to consider what they have to offer as citizens of the world and how they can be of use, they will rise to the task,” she says.

Genius Hour is a promise to students that teachers are here to help them develop as human beings, to give them opportunities to build their ability to adapt and to go deep on topics that interest them, to develop the muscles of citizenship. “We give them this reason to be geniuses, to push themselves,” she says. “Giving them the hour shows students that their hopes and goals are taken seriously.” 

How to Bring Genius Hour to Your Students

You can learn more about Genius Hour here. Scroll down that page to see a list of articles Maiers has written on Genius Hour and GH resources from other classroom educators.

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