Best Sites for Genius Hour/Passion Projects

Teacher assisting female students using laptop in computer lab at high school
(Image credit: Getty Images/Maskot)

In the age of standardized testing—and teaching to that very test—both teachers and students can be reenergized by a different way to teach and learn. Whether it’s called Genius Hour, Passion Project, or 20% Time, the principle is the same: Students learn more and benefit in multiple other ways from pursuing their own interests and taking charge of their own education. 

Yet students still need the guidance and support of their teachers to embark on such projects. That’s where the diverse Genius Hour guides and videos below can help. Most are free and created by educators with experience designing and successfully implementing Genius Hour in their classroom.  

Start planning your Genius Hour today with these outstanding methods and resources. 

The Research Behind PBL, Genius Hour, and Choice In The Classroom
If you’re thinking about trying Genius Hour in your classroom, you may be interested in what the research says. Educator and author A.J. Juliani compiled, sorted, and analyzed a broad array of studies and surveys about student-directed learning. 

Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements
Do you know the seven essential design elements of project-based learning? Start planning your next Genius Hour with these helpful PBL resources, including video examples of actual student projects in architecture, chemistry, and social studies. 

Teacher's Guide to Passion Projects (Genius Hour)
A fine handbook for teachers who want to understand, design, and implement Passion Project/Genius Hour, this guide includes topics such as Why work on Passion Projects, Getting Started, Assessing Progress, Example Lesson, and much more.

Building a PBL Culture Right from the Start
More than a lesson plan or curriculum, project-based learning is about classroom culture. Does your classroom culture support and encourage genuine inquiry, student-directed learning and working independently? If not, try these four simple ideas to change the culture and expand learning.

You Get to Have Your Own Genius Hour (A Video for Students)
Educator John Spencer’s video serves as an enthusiastic introduction for students new to Genius Hour, as well as a prompt for passion project ideas. 

What is Project-Based Learning?
John Spencer compares and contrasts project-based learning with traditional education and explains how two teachers sparked a life-long passion for learning through PBL. 

Passion Projects Fuel Student-Driven Learning
Middle school teacher Maegan Bowersox provides a step-by-step template for a complete six-week passion project, from the initial setup to a sample weekly learning plan to the final presentation. Although she designed this plan for students bored by pandemic restrictions, it applies equally well to students back to the usual classroom. 

What is Genius Hour? Introduction to Genius Hour in the Classroom
A forerunner of Genius Hour, Google’s 20% passion project policy allows employees to work on side projects that have special interest for them. Gmail, one of the most successful email programs ever, was such a project. Award-winning science educator Chris Kesler explains the connection between Google and Genius Hour, as well as his method of implementing Genius Hour in his classroom. 

How to Plan & Implement Genius Hour in your Elementary Classroom
Elementary STEM teacher and edtech coach Maddie brings her high-voltage personality to this well-organized Genius Hour video. Watch the entire video or select time-stamped chapters of interest such as “Just Right” questions or “Research Topics.” Either way, you’ll find plenty of ideas to create your own Genius Hour.

Building Student Agency With Genius Hour
Third-grade teacher Emily Deak shares her strategies for Genius Hour preparation and implementation, from brainstorming with students to identifying relevant standards to criteria for the final presentation.

Engagement Strategy Toolkits
There’s no single way to construct a Genius Hour program, but engaging your students is a must. Each of these six diverse toolkits—Internships, Citizen Science, Tinkering & Making, Games, Problem-Based Learning, and Design Thinking—includes a detailed guide, standards citation, and examples of implementation. 

The Passion Project: Free Online Activities
A remarkable, unique organization founded by two young women, the Passion Project pairs high school students with younger kids to create a mentoring relationship from which both learn and benefit. Students can sign up for fall classes or apply to become a student leader now. 

Cama School District Passion Project Rubrics
Everything needed to plan and execute their own Genius Hour is within this document and the linked action plan, assessment rubric, presentation rubric, and Common Core standards. Ideal for educators who are ready to implement one this semester.

Teachers Pay Teachers Passion Projects
Explore hundreds of passion project lessons, classroom-tested and rated by your fellow teachers. Searchable by grade, standards, subject, price (nearly 200 free lessons!), rating, and type of resource. 

Diana Restifo

Diana has been Tech & Learning's web editor and contributor since 2010, dedicated to ferreting out the best free tech tools for teachers.