Friday, June 24, 2016

Genius Hour & Global Day of Design

School has been out for awhile, giving me time to reflect and relax. I have been wanting to write about the end of the year units I did with fourth grade (Global Day of Design) and fifth grade (Genius Hour) as they were highly successful, very integrative, and gave students a lot of voice/choice! You can see examples and a few informative videos at my school art website: http://www.lgirbino.com/

Both units were co-designed with our school media specialist, an innovative and technology-savvy person (she even created a MakerSpace and Club in our Media Center). Theoretically, any content area collaboration could work (e.g. Math/Art, Social Studies/Art, etc.). We started with the limitation of end-of-year activities really interfering with the Specials schedule in our upper elementary building. In fourth grade, the "Global Day of Design" project would be implemented in both Media and Art, and we shuttled projects back-and-forth between the two classroom areas (finally getting smart and having students do it after about a week). By having the projects go on in both content areas, students were able to really take their time. The fifth grade "Genius Hour" was comprised of two separate projects, created in Media and Art. In Media, students could work in teams; in Art, they completed individual projects (but a lot of peer-coaching ensued--a delightful development). Although the fifth grade projects were different for Art and Media, having the same concept allowed students to deeply explore what a "Genius Hour" really is, plus I was able to discuss the unit progression with the Media Specialist (and vice-versa).

The breakdown of "Global Day of Design" was:


  1. Introduce class project--design either a mini-golf course hole, a board game, or a roller coaster for a marble. Each class chose a theme for their project after learning the design parameters (size limitation, hole must be play-able for a marble, coaster must work for a marble, game must have instructions that make sense).
  2. Students created GoogleDocs for game instructions or task management after selecting their teams.
  3. Lots of time was planned for the design (about 4 weeks).
  4. One week for testing/redesign.
  5. Final week was presentation and critique. Students also graded themselves using the Art rubric.
The breakdown of "Genius Hour-Art":



  1. Introduce and discuss what a "Genius Hour" is, including how Google utilizes it. Give students their choice : an art-based “Big Question” to explore, such as “How do I draw a realistic dragon?” or “How can I construct a chair?” Alternatively, students could chose an “anchor artist” based on a Thrively strength they identified using an online questionnaire in Media . Finally, students could visually answer a “Wonderwall” question (created in Media) via an accordion book. Sample “wonder” questions include “I wonder why tree branches are brown?” and “I wonder how Steph Curry got so good at basketball?”
  2. Students were given a planning sheet, which included a list of Thrively strengths and suggested artists. This sheet also ended up working for students who wanted to choose their own project without getting on a computer for research. The Art room had ten computers available for research, and two class periods were allotted for research, planning, and 1:1 teacher conference on project.
  3. I created a class-by-class list of who was doing what, and used colored markers to put checks on the progress (orange=needs work, blue=solid progress, green=ready to present).
  4. Students spent three class periods on their projects. These were as varied as stop-motion animations, accordion books, papier mache, origami---the list was impressive! I had Snap-Guides for tech-based projects, Art Room books for drawing-based projects, plus prepared instructional resources for accordion books, weaving, and papier mache.
  5. The last week, students presented, although a few presented the prior week near the end of class. I had most students who did stop-motion animation (on their own devices, we are a BYOD district) send me their files ahead of time so I could project them on my Smartboard. The presentations were simple: tell us what you made, what you liked, and what you learned. Then, students could ask for at least two comments/questions.
As an instructor, I was blown away by the creativity and work ethic students exhibited in both "Genius Hour" and "Global Day of Design" units! I think that having students do a smaller choice-based project earlier in the year scaffolded several skill sets they needed including time management and grit. We lost some time in fifth grade for their end-of-year activities, so I would start a little earlier next year and also start laying the groundwork for the "Genius Hour" project during the first semester by letting them start researching as soon as they want to.
I also learned that you can never have enough cardboard, paper towel tubes, and packing tape! 

The Sketchbook Project

The Sketchbook Project: 2011

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