Ask any teacher why they teach, and for all their other reasons, I bet they agree that teaching matters. Doing something that matters is being someone that matters. How could young learners today learn that they can teach and contribute to others’ learning? How could they learn that what they are doing – and they, themselves – matter? Angela Maiers has been igniting a movement around what she and others are calling Genius Hour. Maiers, a former teacher and now full time education advocate, activist, and consultant, brings together passion-based learning, activist learning, and the peer learning of show and tell through Choose2Matter and Quest2Matter, programs for students, parents, teachers, and schools.
Ask any schoolchild to name their favorite part of school, and a majority will immediately answer, “recess.” My second favorite part of my early schooling was “show and tell” – the few minutes every day where the students got to talk, and even sometimes learn from each other before we went back to sitting quietly and listening to the teacher until called on to recite. Genius Hour takes show and tell to a new level: why not go beyond telling kids that they matter – all-important in itself – and showing them how they matter by first asking them what they want to change in the world then helping them do it.
Genius Hour provides class time for students to explore and act on matters they care about – similar to (and partially modeled on) the way Google lets its employees work on their pet projects 20% of their time. Students are encouraged to explore the topics that they themselves want to learn about. Search on the phrase “genius hour” and you’ll see that a movement is afoot. Angela Maiers starts students on the quest to matter by asking them what breaks their hearts about the world, then asks them what they think we should do about it.
Over a period of 11 months, students in more than 1,500 schools and 6,000 classrooms went through a process of asking “What breaks your heart about the world and what are we going to do about it?” Maiers advocates: “When students say they want to change the world, listen.” According to Maiers, “These young activist world-change agents and fearless leaders have tackled problems and topics that range from building a library for a rural village in Ghana; raising money to build wells for communities without water; starting and scaling non-profit organizations to support issues in education, the environment and other social causes and developing innovative approaches to supporting others in crisis.”
In my video interview with Maiers, her confidence in and passion for this approach comes out more strongly than it can a printed page. Watch the interview to get these ideas explained by someone who is passionate about them. Look through the links in this blog post if you want to find media, curriculum, and materials to institute #GeniusHour in your school, program or institution.
Banner image credit: Gihan Hassanein and Say NO – UNiTE http://www.flickr.com/photos/saynotoviolence/7263876670/