Fifth Graders Display Year-Long Projects at Genius Hour Expo

Jeffrey researched the fabric and texture of football gloves…Sophia was curious as to why humans forget their dreams…Katie explored the protection of kiwi birds…Haila was fascinated with why people impersonate Elvis Presley…Kira studied and raised money for leukemia research…Himanshu designed a cost-efficient prototype for a robotic wheelchair…Maggie designed a small home for the homeless that is energy-efficient.

The Process

During the 2016-17 school year, fifth graders in the Moorestown Friends Middle School spent one class period every six days conceiving, developing, and producing “Genius Hour” projects led by Fifth Grade Teacher Monica Burrows. What is Genius Hour? The search-engine giant, Google, allows its engineers to spend 20% of their time to work on any pet project that they want. The idea is very simple. Allow people to work on something that interests them and productivity will go up. Google’s policy has worked so well that it has been said that 50% of Google’s projects have been created during this creative time period.

On Thursday, June 1, students displayed their projects for family and friends in the Dining Hall Commons at the first-ever MFS Fifth Grade Genius Hour Expo.

After an introduction from Mrs. Burrows explaining the origins of Genius Hour, students dispersed throughout the room to present their individual projects to guests. The students were conversational and well-prepared to describe their work as guests moved from project to project.

“These were innovation opportunities, or as I often call them, passion projects, that fit well into the classroom environment,” said Mrs. Burrows.

In the beginning of the year, students went through an exploratory process to provide inspiration for their Genius Hour project. This included a “Passion Bracket” which helped students narrow down their topics from which to choose.

Shark Tank Helps Create Manageable Projects

Once students settled on a project idea, they were required to make a “Shark-Tank” style pitch to their classmates to elicit feedback to help develop their idea into a manageable project.

“Part of the challenge was helping the students to develop manageable projects,” said Mrs. Burrows. “Many of the projects started with very broad ideas, but the students helped each other scale many projects down to make completion more realistic.”

The culmination of their work the past nine months was presented at the Expo.

Fifth grader Maggie has always enjoyed building houses as a child and was also frustrated by the idea of homelessness. She built a prototype of a small, energy-efficient home to shelter a homeless person. “I really like Genius Hour,” she said. “I enjoy being able to study any topic you want.”

Read more about the Moorestown Friends School Middle School.