Friday, December 16, 2016

Shark Tank

Shark Tank Group

Wednesday was our first "shark tank" for the year.  The students were understandably nervous about presenting their budding projects to peers and adults.  Overall, things went really well! :)

What struck me as I listened to presentations was how often I heard, "every since I was little," or "I've always wondered."  As these phrases were repeated over and over, it hit me that is what Genius Hour is all about -- giving students time to explore those things they've always wondered.

I'm excited about the possibilities my students will be exploring.

Happy learning,

Friday, December 9, 2016

"Not a Clue"

We have a number of students this year who are interested in coding and making that the basis of their Genius Hour projects.

Wednesday afternoon Jaylon came up to me and asked, "Can I show you something?"  "Sure," I replied.  He pushed a button on his netbook and then said, "hold on," as he walked away.

Not remembering what his project was about, I didn't think much of the conversation.

A little bit later, Jaylon brought his computer back to where Mrs. Looper and I were chatting about the inspiration piece for early January.  He again asked if he could show us something; "of course," we replied.

With a smile on his face, Jaylon presses a button, and an alert box appears on his screen stating "Jaylon is awesome!"

With much pride, he went on to explain how he wants to learn how to code for his Genius Hour project.  I asked him if he knew anything about coding before Genius Hour, and his reply....."Not a clue."

As I sent him on his way to keep writing, Mrs. Looper and I beamed as Jaylon has truly embraced Genius Hour and all it means.  He's taken a curiosity, done research, and started teaching himself.

I'm so proud of where the "not a clue" learning adventure is going to take Jaylon!

Happy learning,

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

This year's Genius Hour is off to a good start!  Many students are excited to explore topics of personal interest.  Some students are immobilized by the amount of freedom presented in Genius Hour.  A small few seem to think the May showcase will just disappear if they ignore it long enough!  :)

Mrs. Looper and I have implemented a few changes this year.  

  • Early meeting
    • In mid-September, each student met with one us of to discuss potential project ideas.  These meetings followed 3 periods of brainstorming.  This was a good time to chat with each student to gauge how things were going thus far.
  • Written proposal
    • In mid-October, each student submitted a written proposal.  This forced the students to put ideas into written form.
  • Followup meeting
    • During November, we have been again meeting with each student for him/her to discuss verbally project ideas.  We can see how some students have moved on to new topics.  We find others who have better refined ideas.   We have also been able to provide additional support to some who are still very much struggling.
  • Meeting in the Media Center
    • Upon Mrs. Looper's urging, we now hold every Genius Hour in the library.  The students appreciate the space to spread out.  I like how the change of scenery identifies this is a true shift from writing class.
I have been pleased with each of these changes.

Shark Tank #1 is in 2 weeks -- Can't wait to see the feedback students receive from their peers!

Happy learning & growing,

Friday, May 27, 2016

Time to Reflect

There are many things I love about the end of the calendar year and the end of the school year, but among my very favorite is the time for reflection.  I challenge my students to regularly take time to think about where they’ve been and where they’re going.  Without that time, we’re prone to wander Hansel & Gretel style in the wilderness.

As I ponder this year, I am amazed by just how far we stepped outside of our comfort zones. It was a year of much growing and stretching!  Not just for me, but for my students, and our entire school.

In the end of year faculty meeting yesterday, our principal, Mrs. Bishop, gave us a list of things in which Guion Creek Middle School is the only middle school in our district to accomplish –
  • Host an all-school science fair
  • Qualify a robotics team for state (and it was the 1st year for a robotics team!)
  • Produce a musical (to a sell-out crowd of 500+ people on opening night!!!)
  • Recognized by the state Dept of Education as a Promising Practice through our “Jags with Swag” apartment complex tutoring outreach program
  • Host a Genius Hour Showcase

This is just a portion of the amazing things our GCMS students are doing to make our school and our world a better place.


Happy learning,

Friday, May 13, 2016

What a journey!

WOW!  May 11’s Genius Hour Showcase is now a thing of the past.  It was an amazing 90 minutes of students sharing their knowledge with each other, parents, staff, school board members, and the community at large.  More than 1 adult commented to me about how excited the students were to share what they had learned.

We had projects covering literally every topic under the sun….

• Medical = SIDS, Brown Sequard Syndrome, Depression, Color blindness, Gluten allergies
• School = Our school’s positive behavior system (PAWS), The impact of peppermint on learning, A school club (Girls With Power)
• Technology = Speakers built into cell phone case, Computer hacking, Computer coding, Solar panels
• Community = Homelessness, Presidential election, Learning Japanese 
• History = The Great Depression
• Science = Cloud seeding, Biotechnology

With these projects, students showcased their learning in a wide variety of ways.  A poster, brochures, and PowerPoints were the standards.  However, many took to creative ways to show what they had learned….

• A movie about schizophrenia
• A book with illustrations telling the story of the Great Depression
• A video explaining basic Japanese phrases
• A sample “homeless care kit”
• A video showing how an assembly line works
• A model of an eye to further explain colorblindness
• Homemade breast cancer awareness ribbons
• Cookies  made with gluten and without

Our hashtag for the event was #GCMSGeniusHour if you would like to search social media for other pictures.

If you played any part in this adventure, we thank you!  The students have learned from failures and stretched during successes.  It has been an incredible journey!

Happy learning,


Thursday, February 4, 2016

My hope.... that they will someday return the favor

Our experts have been nothing short of wonderful.  They’ve come in personally; they’ve emailed.  They have brought in visual aids.  They have offered ongoing assistance.

How my heart has been blessed!  My hope is the students will one day “pay it forward” as it has been paid to them.

Students spend time learning from subject matter experts.

Happy learning,


Friday, January 8, 2016

A Genius Hour High!

I am on a Genius Hour high this afternoon!!!

My amazing co-leaders and I have reached out to experts from around the country.  Students signed up requesting an expert, and we worked to find people willing to help the students.  Currently about 28 people have volunteered to work with 7th grade students.  These are people from across the country and in our own school building.  These are college professors and business people.  These are doctors and pharmacists and criminal justice professionals.  People with doctorate degrees to college researchers.

35% of my students’ worlds just got a whole lot bigger as the community at large has stepped in to help students explore their passions.

My heart is just full to see how willing people are to help!

Happy learning,