What is Genius Hour?

Inspired by Google’s 20% initiative, Genius Hour is an international movement that is provoking student-centered passion projects with teacher guidance. Teachers are the facilitators in a student’s independent (or small group) inquiry journey.

What to do first

Are you inspired to take the risk and try it in your own classroom? Grade level? or school? Well, if you’re ready… here’s my guide to helping you get started.

Understand the Simple Structure

Genius Hour isn’t hard to organize in your school environment. If you follow these simple steps, you’ll be successful. And then, as you become more confident, you can make modifications to your program to suit the needs of your school community.

    1. Question: Students should generate good thought-provoking questions that aren’t easily solved by a Google search. Here are some student examples:
        • How can kids make video games?
        • Can we create a time machine?
      • How can I teach my community about rhino poaching?
    1. Inquiry: Students participate in an inquiry that helps them answer their question. Some research ideas include (but are not limited to):
        • internet or book research
        • interviews
        • surveys
      • experimentation
  1. Creating: Students should create something that will help them share their learning. Some students may:
      • create an item
      • make a model
      • draw or write about their learning
    • make videos

Sharing: Students should be required to share their learning to a broader audience (class, school, community, and beyond). Sharing should include reflections about challenges faced and how those were overcome

Where to Start:
  • Get your administration on board. Or, you can do as I do, try first, ask permission second. It worked in my case, but it might not work in all cases.
  • If you are planning on taking the risk with your team, get them on board too! Take the lead and see where it takes you and your students.
  • Get your students on board. Maybe this presentation will help:

Now that the students are on board, you’ll have to use some tune-in resources to kick-off each week’s mini-lesson. In my experiences, the first few weeks are started with a “look-what-other-kids-did” example:

      • Kid President from SoulPancake: inspirational videos to provoke people’s awesomeness
      • Alex’s Lemonade Stand: a girl who started selling lemonade to raise money to fight for her and other kids with cancer
      • Ryan’s Well: after a trip to Africa, Ryan was inspired to bring water to children in need

and after that, my team and I would discuss what mini-lesson students need. If you noticed that there were kids who weren’t collaborating last week, kick off today’s session with a short read aloud about how we work together. Did you notice that students got stuck with the steps they could do next, show a video about making a PB&J–you can’t put the jelly on until you have the bread out. Usually, the kids just need a jump start!

Inquiry is Key

Inquiry Cycle: Guide students to follow their passion through any inquiry model you are most comfortable with (the example here is based on the work of Kath Murdoch).
Purpose: Genius Hour time is to encourage students to follow their passions, facilitate inquiry, deepen conceptual learning that can be connected back to the curriculum, generate creativity and problem-solving strategies.

Everyone has a job

Your students are going to need your help… but don’t do too much for them. Let them take the lead. Be there to support their inquiry, offer supplies, and be their champion.
Teacher Role:
Guide students through inquiry cycle with thought-provoking questions that deepen understanding about a student’s passion
Student Role: Don’t give up! Reflect on learning, successes, and challenges. Share thinking. Make the world better.

Manage your expectations. Genius Hour is a thrilling learning time, but you need to know, it will also be: chaotic, exciting, and there will be ideas you’ve never expected. Go with it! And be willing to embrace the chaos and demand on your time. Also be willing to assess student’s collaboration, thinking skills, and problem-solving while avoiding the need to assess their finished product.

Who to Follow:

There are lots of great ways to follow this mind shift online:


I’m not the only one thinking about Genius Hours. Here are some great resources that might help you kick this off in your own school. You can also download my free Genius Hour toolkit with printables and a schedule to help you get organized.

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