The Maker Movement and Genius Hour

School leaders have a responsibility to stay abreast of cutting edge approaches to teaching.  They should push, prod, and motivate their teachers toward finding the best practices for their students.  If you have been in education long enough, you have seen the pendulum swing back and forth several times as it relates to effective teaching.  The high-stakes testing era essentially eliminated teacher creativity and forced schools to abandon engaging methods of instruction.

With a swing back toward rigor and the introduction of the Next Generation Science Standards, we may now begin to revisit teaching methodologies that celebrate real-world, hands-on learning.  In the past year or so, there are two growing movements that may have a significant impact on all levels of instruction.  These movements are so exciting and filled with possibility that school leaders and teachers should consider investigating them further and now.

The Maker Movement and Genius Hour offer two viable ways of integrating STEM practices throughout all instructional content.  These initiatives are about getting students to take ownership of their learning.  They empower students to investigate the world and share their learning with others.

In August, Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager wrote about the Maker Movement and noted that, “(the) Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards emphasize critical thinking, creativity and 21st-century skills. To achieve these goals requires taking a hard look at both what we teach and how we teach it. The Maker Movement offers lessons, tools and technology to steer a new course to more relevant, engaging learning experiences for all students.”

The Genius Hour concept grew out of Google’s practice of letting their engineers spend 20% of their time working on their own pet projects.  Their website states that, “Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school.”

When educators question how they will meet the rigor of new standards, they need look no further than these two promising resources for active engagement and real-world connections.  We have an opportunity to bring back passion and excitement to the teaching and learning process.  Let’s get going before the pendulum swings back in the other direction.