Caiden Cawthon is 12 years old, and he is investing time each week to research the origins of coding. The opportunity is made possible through Hamilton Southeastern Schools’ investment in Google’s Genius Hour program, an initiative designed to set aside time each week to allow students to research projects they choose.
“Genius Hour was invented by Google when they noticed a lot of employees had side projects they wanted to work on, so (Google) set a time for them to do their own personal projects for one or two hours,” said Cawthon, a Sand Creek Intermediate sixth-grader. “We pick something we are passionate about that we want to do, and we do that every Friday for like an hour.”
During his time, Cawthon researched the history of coding and its future. Student projects are eclectic and cover an array of interests, ranging from writing and producing plays to studying remote-controlled cars.
Laura Christie, a fifth-grade teacher at Sand Creek Intermediate, is one of the facilitators for the program.
“We have Genius Hour first thing every Friday morning,” Christie said. “Kids work from the start of the day for an hour on their own proposals. Kids are at various phases in the process. Some students finish several projects in a year, while some may continue to develop a passion for the entire year. Some projects find great success while others allow students to learn that some of the best learning comes from mistakes. As teachers, we can continue to challenge kids to find solutions.”
Christie said through observing Genius Hour, she’s seen firsthand the hard work students invest to pursue interests.
“Kids are willing to go to great lengths for their interests,” she said. “The most difficult part for kids is that, as a facilitator of this kind of experience, I do not provide them with the answers to their questions. In fact, often I ask them more questions. It can startle some kids because they want me to be the expert. However, it gives me a chance to encourage their learning. We have had kids call experts in their topics during Genius Hour time, but they have to prepare questions first and get approval.”
This is the second year Christie and fellow teacher Tracey Kelly have hosted the experience in their classrooms. They both attended training sessions with Noblesville High School teacher and author Don Wettrick.
“(The training) guided the two of us to jump right in and give kids a time to explore because we were so impressed with the examples shared on what kids had used their time to create,” Christie said. “The best projects have research, building or design, and community service or the ability to share with a wide audience. In these projects, kids learn many skills while not realizing it due to how motivated they are by their own passions.”
For more, visit geniushour.com.
Genius Hour projects
Sand Creek Intermediate teacher Laura Christie is one of the teachers hosting Genius Hour in her classroom. Students pick a project they are passionate about and work an hour on it every Friday morning throughout the school year.
- Writing a play, holding auditions, casting roles and producing video segments of the work.
- A YouTube channel creation featuring basketball tutorials on improving skills.
- Learning about disabilities and how they impact a family, then writing a book from the knowledge and experience.
- Learning about remote-controlled cars, where the students took apart and rebuilt the cars.
- Organizing a cleanup morning for the school grounds to remove trash.
- Learning how a lava lamp works.