Genius Hours: Something all Teachers Should Consider for Spring

screenshot-2016-11-28-10-08-45When teachers adopt and adapt successful  business models in classrooms, the results can be as beneficial in schools as they are in the business world. Here’s one business concept taking classrooms by storm:  Genius Hours.

Mr. Ferrell’s 6th graders explain their passion project.


The idea is credited to something started at Google corporate in 2004, when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin wrote a short blurb in their annual IPO letter, We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google. This empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner. Some of the highly successful 20% products include the development of Google News, Gmail, and even AdSense.

Teachers across the country have taken the idea to their classrooms. For a designated amount of time (some teachers tell us they use minutes each day, others prefer 1 block of time each week) students work on projects they are passionate about while meeting state standards and indicators without even realizing it.

In order to see the concept in action, we turned to none other than K-State College of Education Graduate, Jonathan Ferrell, a 6th grade teacher at Briarwood Elementary in Shawnee Mission School District. A Kansas Teacher of the Year nominee, Mr. Ferrell’s students have found rigor, relevance, and relationships through their Genius Hour projects this semester. Mr. Ferrell’s  students’ “passion projects” include an ever-evolving list of projects and products. Here are just a few:

  • Prosthetic fingers
  • Designing a game
  • DIY Cooler
  • Cleaning spray
  • Prosthetic limb for an injured dog
  • Inventing a stylus
  • “Bake It” a bakery Etsy shop
  • Model train
  • Designing clothing

Students hone their skills by researching real-life concepts and interviewing industry experts. Mr. Ferrell’s sixth graders host outside audiences as they gain confidence in their product designs and prototypes. Cross-curricular applications are discovered as they present to students in other grade levels and schools.  Students become highly motivated as they see inventions realized and sales made.

Want to know more about how you might incorporate Genius Hours in your classroom this spring? A great resource is Chris Kesler’s YouTube video and the resources found at The Genius Hour webpage. Clicking around that site you’ll also find books, webinars, and blogs to get you started. Do you teach primary grades? Click on Erica Adams’ YouTube video of her 2nd grade Genius Hour experiences. Whatever grade level you teach we think you’ll be convinced that adopting and adapting the Genius Hour concept this spring is a good thing!