Year 10 Social Studies teachers, Amanda Walker and Nathan Gargiulo, are helping their students find their passion through the ‘Genius Hour’ approach. Every week, students are given one period to devote to something they feel passionate about and are supported by their teachers to investigate and create something in relation to their chosen topic.
The students are not limited in what topic they can choose, allowing such diverse topics as lucid dreaming or building a bike boat to be explored.
The idea initially stemmed from Nathan, who had learnt about the Genius Hour approach to learning that was being used in some American schools.
Amanda explained that it seemed like an approach that would help foster engagement in their learning program.
“We were looking at doing inquiry learning with our year 10 classes this year. Often the inquiry is something that they do not do so well on,” Amanda explained. “We thought about how we could try and improve engagement and success, making the inquiry process fun instead of a chore or a just another assessment which the students need to churn out.”
Both teachers had noticed an uptake in engagement from their students, stemming from the increased ownership they had been given over their learning.
“I know that both Nathan and I, each time we come into this class, which we have once a week, there’s great enthusiasm. Students are excited to come in and they’ve come prepared,” Amanda said. “It’s just really cool that they are buzzing. That’s infectious for us and we get excited as well.”
Although many of the topics are outside of what might be considered typical for Social Studies, Amanda feels the process still allows the students to gain some important social scientist skills.
“We are hoping the students will come away with better inquiry skills, because they have basically crafted their whole inquiry process. They have come up with the project, they’ve come up with the plan, the questions, they’ve found the sources to answer those questions. They get something at the end of it that they have created. It is about teaching them to be lifelong learners,” she said.
Amanda said that giving students room to follow their passions had also changed her role in the classroom, with students now describing her as more of a ‘guide than a teacher’.
“They’re experts in what they are looking into and I am not, so that is really a flip of the classroom, as usually we are expected to be the fountains of all knowledge but in fact they are,” Amanda said.
We got some of the students from 10A1 to tell us about their passion projects and explain what they hope to do with them.
I’m making little produce bags that you can use instead of those little plastic bags at the supermarket that you use to put fruit and vegetables in. Plastic bags have some benefits like being lightweight and easy to use, but of course there is that environmental factor. So therefore, I’m trying to make an alternative that is not as pricey as some that are out there, that are durable and made from recycled material such as a net curtain. It is something that incorporates my passions and hobbies like sewing and textiles and also that aspect of making a difference. I want to sell them to people who can use them to reduce the amount of plastic that they are using. I’m swaying between selling them for a profit and giving the profits to charity or selling them really cheap, like for 20 cents and then it won’t have that cost barrier to stop people using them.
I’m creating a workbook on anatomy for Year 10 students. I’m still thinking about what to put in it because it is such a vast topic. I’m just really interested in human anatomy and there is nothing really like this for year 10s. Hopefully if it is good, we can use it in our health classes.
I am making reusable snack and sandwich bags. Everyone always uses zip lock bags and plastic wrap and I hate that stuff, so I want to make something that people can use instead. I am going to sell them and give half of the money to a charity.
Timmy Cowdrey, Josh Dunn and Oliver Mackean
Our focus is looking at what we think civilization will be like on the moon, how can we support life on the moon and what would daily life on the moon be like? We thought it was interesting and it seems like from some of the research that we’ve been doing, that it may be happening very soon. We are hoping to make a world in Minecraft that kind of shows what it could look like.
Isla Swanney, Caitlin McKnight,
We are making healthy lunch recipes and stuff for school lunches and that kind of thing. We are looking at sources trying to find out what is a balanced diet, what are some low-cost options and ensuring there are lots different options for vegans.
I am writing my family history book. I’ve had an interest in family history since I was really young and there is a lot of information out there, so I thought I would combine it. I’ll hopefully get some versions printed and also have some digital copies to share with my family.
Kahu Sanson-Burnett, Jude Atkins, Oliver Patel
We are Making a bike boat. It is a bike that started off as a bike and then we are going to make it float. We are going to have axles coming out of it with floats on them and then the back wheel is going to have little flaps that come out of the back wheel, and the front wheel is a rudder. We are into biking and swimming, so we were like ‘why not?’
By Duncan McKinlay