Friday, March 25, 2016

Genius Hour and MakerSpaces

My last post was 5 years ago, which in cyber years is about 1 million years, but there are just too many great things happening in education not to be blogging. I considered starting a new blog after all this time, but I enjoy the homey feel of this little space and  I rather like the name "Reflective Leadings". It mirrors my career path, which is considered and intentional, but I allow events and interactions to lead me, often choosing the many roads not taken.

So what's all the excitement? Genius Hour and Makerspaces are my passion right now and both reflect my core beliefs of education. Engage, Ignite, Innovate, Create, Express

At Westwind (a K-6 public school in Ottawa) we have engaged our students using the concept of Genius Hour for two years. Here is an informative overview of how it works:

Networking with other OCDSB schools, we have in our second year of Genius Hour quadrupled the number of classes involved and student and parental feedback is a resounding thumbs up. What emerged this year was the number of Maker projects. Many students struggle with the idea of freely choosing their own topic, and tend to resort to a research type of project, interesting and informative indeed. But during our Genius Fair, the lines of students waiting to see, touch, smell, taste and hear the Maker projects were long and enthusiastic. The excitement and passion of our authors, sewers, knitters, bakers, song-writers, robots-masters and coders as they explained their projects gave definable evidence that when students create their own world of learning, their understanding and ability to organize and demonstrate that understanding to others is sound pedagogy.

Which brings me to our MakerSpace, which will be the thrust of these postings in the next few months.

Check out this link for a way better explanation of a MakerSpace than I can give:

We are in our second year of "Making a MakerSpace", and it has been somewhat of a slow-boiling pot. We knew intuitively it is a great idea, and our library technician, Cindy MacLean was not only on board, but a leader in this initiative. However, we struggled with lighting the tinder under this endeavour. Slowly, by introducing activities such as card-making for seniors during Kindness Week, setting up a Coding Corner using Scratch and expanding my classroom walls by bringing my students during non-circulation days to engage in activity centres of their choice, all curriculum-related, we began to imagineer a change in the culture of the library. We asked students and staff what they would like to explore in the MakerSpace and we invited all to contribute.

We are now poised to light up the fires of passion and energy, and truly move forward with our MakerSpace. Over the next posts I'll detail what activities we are doing, what works and what doesn't, how it all can hold up to curriculum scrutiny and why every child deserves a chance to find his or her passion.

This journey cannot happen without collaboration and reflection and I welcome your comments and insights. Where is it leading? I'm not sure but I just can't get the word MakerFaire out of my head today.

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