Guest Blog: Genius Hour at Antioch High School

by Jim Vera, Social Studies Department Chair, Oswego East High School
What do you wonder about? What have you always wanted to do? What would you do if you could change the world?

These are questions the students at Antioch High School deal with on Fridays in Global Studies. This year-long service project, started by Lauren Krickl is something that she has her freshmen deal with every Friday as part of a program called “Genius Hour.” Students get a chance to spend a year making their plan to change the world! It started with Krickl, but now Grant Murray, Social Studies Department Chair, has been able to expand this process to include all Global Studies classes, and it is now part of the curriculum. Genius Hour was the focus of their presentation at the 2017 Democracy School Annual Convening.

Getting students to think outside the box is a challenge for all teachers. Krickl, Murray and Antioch student Monica Wilhem talked about their successes and failures with this program. Creating projects that are completely student-driven helps to create a culture of good civic learning. Antioch students are able to engage in service learning through the year, while they explore their passions. Monica’s story proved especially moving as she shared her noble ambition of curing cancer. To some, this may seem too lofty, but she was able to move her school to raise money, and impact her community through her Walk On the Move fundraiser. Her passion was clear, as was the effect of Genius Hour on her and her peers. It’s a program that changes the way students look at their world.

It is difficult for teacher to “step away” sometimes, and let the students find what moves them, but as we learned, it’s an effort that pays off for everyone. It’s a class that has obviously had a positive impact at Antioch, and is a great way to instill the importance of student action.

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