Students start research for Genius Hour projects


Ash Carini

Working Hard. On Nov. 23 sophomore Lauryn Ryan works on her Genius Hour project during second period.

Genius Hour started in the technology industry. Companies such as Google gave their employees 20 percent of their time to work on things that interested them. For example, an employee at Google didn’t like email, so he started his 20 percent project where he created what is known as Gmail, and that became an actual product that we have today. 

“The reason that we thought it was a good idea here was that with basically 18 months of being out of school because of the pandemic, there was a real disconnection in student learning and in relationships between students and teachers because you weren’t seeing anybody face to face. Everything was done through a screen, so the idea behind it is that teachers work alongside and encourage students. The reason Genius Hour allows you to pick a project topic is because we want it to be something that you really, really do enjoy or something that matters to you. We’re guiding you and helping you to find your way through it or help you find the resources,” Instructional Coach/ ACA Instructor Micheal Baker said. 

This is the first year this school has tried Genius Hour. Head principal Andrew Neely and Baker tried Genius Hour did a test pilot with two study halls last year before opening Genius Hour to the whole school this year.  

“We had them try and give us feedback. We also have a group of teachers who we consult with and talk with and try to work through what maybe we think could be issues that might come up,” Neely said. 

Neely and Baker make an informational video every month for students to watch. The video informs students what they are going to be doing each period. They attempt to have a lesson plan for at least four periods of the day. All the material for that day is provided to the teachers through a Google Classroom. There is also a Google classroom for the CTC students and students who miss the Genius Hour day. 

“I work very closely with Mr. Baker, who you’ve all seen in the videos as well. We are utilizing a lot of technology to keep track of what kids are working on. That’s why you guys have all those check-in and checkouts. We get all that information in there.  We want to give the students an opportunity to connect with other students, teachers and even folks that are experts from outside of school through email or Zoom meetings and maybe even some in-person meetings. That’s the next step that we’re working on is to connect students with people that maybe have a level of expertise that’s focused on the same type of project or same concept,” Neely said. 

According to Baker, there are no funds needed for Genius Hour, unless a student needs some for their project.

“As far as getting it set up, the only thing we spent money on is we bought a couple books that were about Genius Hour from another teacher. We have some money available for those types of projects where students want money. We may have a student that says ‘I’d like to build a park in my neighborhood that doesn’t have benches, and I’d like to build like four benches’. We can probably help find funding for that,” Baker said.

Neely and Baker are impressed with the ideas they have read so far. They are looking forward to seeing these ideas followed through. According to Baker, there are about 400 CTC students who miss half of the day and don’t get to work on their projects. Baker is hoping they will get 800 to 1000 finished Genius Hour projects.

“I like Genius Hour because it allows me to express my love for Christ and help other students learn to see how much he loves them too. I am working with some other students to hold Bible studies after school to educate them about the love of Christ and answer all their questions. I chose this project to deepen fellow believers’ relationships with God and to start relationships in nonbelievers,” sophomore Karinna Wolfe said. 

“I do like it but, personally I think it is a waste of time. Kenzie Doran and I are composing an arrangement of music from all of our music. I chose this project because I thought it was a fun experiment and it would help me grow in my music skills. If it is finished in time we may play it at the spring concert,” sophomore Randy Grove said.

Neely is planning on continuing Genius Hour. Neely wants to see kids tweak, expand and grow their Genius Hour projects throughout the high school years. 

“I mostly hate it due to it being painfully boring, but it’s nice not having to worry about doing actual classwork, so it’s sort of like a free day. My Genius Hour project revolves around vexillology, which is the study of flags. I chose vexillology because I am obsessed with flags and geography, and I love to talk about those topics at any chance I can. I think studying the symbols and artistic details of flags may help people understand the history and culture of different regions,” sophomore Ava Cabell said. 

“I like Genius Hour because it allows students to learn more about fields they are interested in. My Genius Hour project is trying to get support for having an agriculture class in the high school. I chose to do this project because I am passionate about agriculture, and I feel that our school lacks many opportunities for those in agriculture,” sophomore Andrea Slusser said. 

According to Baker, students think that Genius Hour is a trap to get them to do more work. Baker and Neely want kids to take the time and opportunities they have given students to do something with their passion, which can be anything they love. 

“I think it’s unlike anything that we’ve ever tried before. So I just asked students to keep an open mind and realize that we’re not tricking you. It is really what do you want to do. What do you want to learn about? It could be comic books, movies, music, whatever. It doesn’t have to be academic,” Baker said.