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Self-direction leads to engaged learners in Genius Hour project

A lot of study and a little trial period led to an opportunity for 4th graders to pursue their individual genius in Jon Abrahamson’s class at Vista View Elementary in Burnsville.

Fourth grader Miguel Nunez studies tornadoes for his Genius Hour project in Jon Abrahamson’s class at Vista View Elementary in Burnsville.

Abrahamson’s class is participating in Genius Hour, a concept that encourages student choice by providing an hour each week (or more often in some cases) for them to work on a project of their choosing. The idea originated with search-engine corporation Google and its engineers. 

Abrahamson says he was turned on to the idea through a fellow educator’s blog and then introduced Genius Hour to his class last year and the results were very positive.

“I feel that student choice is really important when it comes to learning,” he said. “It went great and the students were engaged in learning that they were passionate about.”

There are three requirements for Genius Hour projects in Abrahamson’s class: it has to involve some type of learning; students have to show their learning; and students should have fun.

So, for an hour every Thursday, students get to spend time learning about things they care about or have a passion for. The list of subjects includes Guatemala, making websites, writing stories, surviving in the wild, Zach Parise and much more.

“It’s an hour about you,” said Miguel Nunez about why he enjoys Genius Hour. “You get to do your own thing.”

Classmate Danielle Vitez says she chose to study how to make a website because “I didn’t know how to make a website and this is a way to learn that and then share it with others.”

Later this year, Abrahamson says students will be presenting their work using Google presentations, written reports, posters, digital storybooks, infographics and more.

Learn more about Genius Hour at

Posted: Monday, February 16, 2015 - 09:45