Thursday, November 19, 2015

Turning The Corner

What a good day yesterday.  I felt like a majority of the students “turned the corner” in their genius hour projects.  For the first time, most of them were excited and truly digging deeper to find answers to their curiosities.

Students were taking surveys of classmates. “If you were to buy a quadricycle, what model would you prefer?

Polling classmates

Students were writing questions to ask professionals during upcoming interviews.

Students were reviewing feedback slips from the “shark tank” we had a few weeks ago and using that information to drive further research.

Analyzing "shark tank" feedback

I stopped by a student’s desk who has a project idea I found very intriguing; when I commented on it, she said, “it’s just not working.  I’m not finding what I hoped to find.”  We went on talking, and I told her the further question her project consistently made me wonder.  Her eyes lit up, and she said, “I like that idea.  Is it too late to change my project?”  As Mrs. Looper, media specialist extraordinaire, always says, “it’s never too late to back up the bus.”  When I stopped by the student’s desk later, she exclaimed, “THIS is working for me!”  LOVE IT!!!

Happy learning,


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I thought keeping track of picture books I’ve used as part of Genius Hour would  be a “genius” idea.  (sorry bad pun intended!)

  •         What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada & Mae Besom
  •         Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts
  •         The Inventor’s Secret by Suzanne Slade

Soon to share….

  •          Billy’s Booger by William Joyce
  •          Pop! by Meghan McCarthy
  • ·        Ish by Peter Reynolds

Happy learning,


Friday, October 16, 2015

Lessons From This Week....

I’ve had 3 discoveries this week…..

#1 – Genius Hour causes me to lose sleep on Tuesday nights.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not staying awake out of dread; it’s somewhere between excitement and nervousness.  I hope to get over this little issue, but if I don’t, Wednesdays’ Genius Hours are worth a few lost zzzzzzz’s.

#2 – I love the challenge I’ve given myself to bring inspirational items to the table to begin each Genius Hour.  I am purposeful about the quote outside the door.  I often share these via Twitter.  I also try to share a motivational picture book, video, etc.  This week’s was a big hit, “Rosie Revere, Engineer.”  I’m super excited about what I have up my sleeve for our next Genius Hour.

#3 – To quote Mrs. Looper, “this story will make your Genius Hour heart smile.”  She was certainly correct.  Student S was struggling with her project ideas.  Frankly, she had nothing.  Mrs. Looper, school media specialist, tasked her with writing a question an hour from the time she left Genius Hour at 2 PM until she went to bed.  Mrs. Looper told S she would be checking up with her on Thursday.  When S walked in to Mrs. Looper’s office Thursday afternoon, she had a pile of post-it notes filled with questions.  As she talked with Mrs. Looper, she shared that she had found her project – the Great Depression.  She and Mrs. Looper discussed the variety of ways that could go, and S was feeling good.  Mrs. Looper asked S how she came up with the idea.  S’s reply, “I made my mom take me out for a drive… and we had ice cream.”  J  Wherever and however inspiration strikes!

Happy learning,


Friday, September 18, 2015

What It's All About

        I was SO excited about Wednesday’s Genius Hour agenda.  I was SO excited I even tweeted a picture of it.

Well, Wednesday’s 3rd period became a true Genius Hour – opportunities to learn and try again.  I had tested One Note with a former student.  She logged right in…. had no issues….. I thought we were golden.

As with most learning, it’s not a smooth progression.  I SHOULD have tested with a current 7th grader.  I didn’t realize the which email account my tester had used; apparently she had used her personal account.  My current students were using their school assigned Gmail accounts.  Apparently these Gmail accounts don’t play nicely with Microsoft accounts.

So…. We’re back to the drawing board.  The “we” here is the royal “we” – my technical husband and Pike technical support.

At the end of 3rd period Wednesday I told the students I did not consider the period a waste.  They were all successful with logging in to and using Canvas.  We simply didn’t meet the second objective – instead we learned.  

Genius Hour is not about getting it all “right” the first time.  It’s about trying, learning from failed attempts, regrouping, and trying again.

Happy learning,

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Standing On Their Shoulders

Deciding to take on Genius Hour is not something I could do alone.  This is SO MUCH BIGGER than me!

Locally, Kelly Looper (world's best media specialist) & Megan Tolin have been amazingly helpful and encouraging.

I'm also thankful to people who share their learning with the whole big world!  These are just a few of the sites I've found helpful.  I'll add to this list as I discover others.

Thank you to those who have gone before and have smoothed the path!

Happy learning,

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Thinking B-I-G!

Last week, during our kickoff genius hour session, the students and I walked through a worksheet where I asked them to brainstorm.  We followed a motto I often use in class, “The only way to do it wrong it to not do it.” 

Once the students got going, they had no problems making lists under the following headings:
  • What do you do when no one tells you what to do?
  • What are things you like to create?
  • What is something you’ve always wanted to know more about?
  • What are you curious about at school?
  •  What are you curious about in the outside world?
  • What are problems you see in the world?

It is quite possible a student’s genius hour project will come from the list of things he has already started.  The lists were every bit as broad and random as I expected (because I knew just how “broad and random” my own list was!).

Below is a small sample of answers to the “What are you curious about in the outside world?” question:
  • Is the Bermuda Triangle real?
  • Why is water clear?
  • How are streets named/numbered?
  • What is special about a #2 pencil?
  • How/where is the water in my house purified?
  • Where does the ice and water in my fridge come from?
  • How do animals know winter is coming?
  • Why are continents so far apart?
  • How do solar panels work?
  • What causes sink holes?
  • Why is it so hard to adopt a new language or words into existing language?
  • How are prices determined for plane tickets?
  • Could a bridge be built between countries?
  • Lightbulbs
  • Mirrors
  • How do microwaves work and where did they get that name?
  • Vocal cords
  • How does a computer work?
  • Where did my family come from?
  • Is it possible for more than 1 tornado to hit the same place at the same time?
  • How do electronic devices work?

If this was all we had to work with, I would be thrilled; however, this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Happy learning,

M :)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Where to begin???? this is scary!

However, when the blog is called "Building Our Brave," the fact it's scary makes sense.  If it wasn't scary, it wouldn't take much brave.

This blog was created at the encouragement of district staff who say I should track this year's Genius Hour experience.  I agree it's a good idea.  However, I'm sure I will write about more than just Genius Hour.  It's impossible to spend 6 hours a day times 180 days with middle schoolers and not have more to write about.  :)

I hope you'll build your brave along with us.  Let's change the world!