In my last post I described a bit of what Genius Hour looks like at the L&N STEM Academy. You can see a full listing of the activities offered right now by clicking here.
It has not been all gumdrops and roses as we have struggled to set up activities, schedule kids, and try to find space for everything. So, I decided to think through my own pluses and minuses by writing about them here. Next steps will include feedback from teachers and, finally, from students and parents. We are a design school, so we don’t just throw stuff out there and make everyone live with it. It is a living, breathing, fluid schedule that is already changing before the end of the first week.
- The kids are excited about the possibilities of Genius Hour.
- The variety of offerings is pretty solid for the first time out of the gate.
- In the midst of one of the most stressful weeks we’ve had in the time I’ve been at the L&N, teachers are excited about what they are seeing from kids in these activities.
- Kids were given 1st and 2nd choice offerings in the Google Form we used to sign up. Most kids got one of those choices. When they didn’t, our first choice was to find something similar (swapping Hour of Code for Java Coding for example).
- There is a blend of both indoor activities and outdoor activities
- There is a blend of both cerebral (thinking) and non-cerebral (outdoor fun) and just being quiet to do your own thing for an hour.
- While we thought we would have total chaos in the cafeteria for the first week or two, it has actually been quite calm and easily managed throughout the week.
- We’ve scheduled department meetings throughout the week, so teachers only have to be in 4 activities total. And they get to meet during school hours instead of scheduling before- or after-school meetings.
- We have included time in tutoring and in Odyssey for students who are struggling. Most of these are self-selected, but some will be placed in one of these two scenarios one or two days a week depending on the severity of their grades or graduation risk.
- We simply do not have enough activities for every day of the week. Thursday is a good example. As a result, the activities we DO offer are too big for the spaces we have available.
- Some activities are more teaching on the part of a teacher than we originally anticipated. As a result, flowing 1/3 of the kids in and out of the 90 minute activity to get a 30 minute lunch becomes problematic. We’re making it work!
- These activities, while great in their own right, were not suggested by students. I’m anxious to see what suggestions we have for the next 9 weeks. Which ones we’ll keep and what we’ll add.
- Space. Space. Space. In our limited capacity to handle all of our students, we also lack enough larger classroom spaces to house groups of 40 or 50 or 60.
- The outdoor activities are great. Kids love them. But when it rains, we will have no place for them to meet indoors. And when we can’t schedule them because of snow or cold, I’m not real sure what we will do.
- Departmental meetings take teachers away from the extra activities we need.
- Some kids did not get their 1st or 2nd choices. They also did not get anything similar to what they wanted on one or two days. I worry they will think Genius Hour doesn’t work.
- Scheduling is hard work. HARD work. Last Saturday and Sunday I worked over 20 hours scheduling kids and still had about 50 that did not get scheduled. Since then, I have put in an additional 20 hours after work. Lessons learned from this round will greatly help next round.
- Get feedback from teachers this week.
- Get feedback from students and parents during the 3rd week (freshmen get their iPads this week)
- Analyze how rooms are working and make adjustments where necessary.
- Get feedback from the cafeteria staff on how each of the three lunch periods are working.
- Start to collect ideas from students about what they would like to lead next go around. After all, this is student led, student driven. Teachers should not have to prepare anything to make this happen.
- Look for additional spaces for winter time in Tennessee.
What about you? What are your thoughts about this process? As an outsider looking in, what have we missed? What have we done best? Feel free to leave some comments!