‘Genius Hour’ in fifth-grade class yields big results


By Sadie Hunter


Local teacher Bryan Hanan and his fifth-grade students at Stony Creek Elementary are making a difference in what they call “Genius Hour,” where students in Hanan’s class have spent 2 to 3 p.m. each Friday the entire school year working on passion project.

The student-lead innovations projects range from group to group, to which there are 23 students total.

“We’re trying to base it off of … the Innovations class at the high school. We pretty much just started off by saying, ‘Hey, what are you passionate about?’ And then the kids made a list, and we spent a couple months trying to figure out what problems we wanted to solve, whether it’s community based or school-based.”

One group in the class has worked to create a school garden, reaching out to another local school that has one. The food grown would later be donated to a local food pantry.

Kaitlyn Shoemaker, a student in the class from another group said, “We’re working on making a fundraiser to get a bench for the fifth graders to sign at the end of the year.”

To be placed in the building, the “goodbye bench” used to be common among fifth-grade classes leaving elementary school to begin middle school, and the students are bringing it back as part of the fifth-grade class’ farewell.

“We also have kids that are doing adapted physical education, games that are teaching kids with special needs,” Hanan said. “(That group) has been working with the physical education teaching.”

Another group is creating a book for students with emotional problems.

“They actually spent four months doing research,” Hanan said. “They’re not just drawing stick figures. These books actually have a purpose with research behind it, and because they’re fifth grade, that’s what makes it amazing.”

Hanan said he plans to continue the program in his class next year.

“It was a little scary at first, but the whole thing is letting them take off and do it, and they’ve surprised me,” he said. “It really is student-lead learning.”