From #20Time to #GeniusHour: Rethinking Passion Projects

From #20Time to #GeniusHour: Rethinking Passion Projects

Today I began my second year of implementing passion projects in my classroom. As I’ve become a more connected educator, I’ve grown more and more inspired by the innovative works of so many teachers who help students develop passions, explore 21st Century skills, and integrate problem and inquiry based learning. I started to consider 20% Time after reading Kevin Brookhouser’s The 20 Time Project and gave it a shot last spring. I had successes and challenges, and I learned a lot in the process.

Now I’m eager to continue to reflect on that work and to continue to push myself and my students forward. Last year, I blogged about my journey in a series of posts called 1st Time #20Time. These posts explore my process, inspirations, workflow, assignments, students products, and reflections from beginning to end. Find them all here, or at the following links: #1 My Intro to #20Time Projects, #2 What I’ll Do Better Next Time, #3 Managing Student Workflow, #4 Sharing Student Products, and #5 What My Students Think.

I also have begun to present at local conferences about passion projects to discuss best practices and strategies and share my ideas and resources. Find my presentation, co-presented with my friend Chrissy Romano-Arrabito at September's #NJPAECET2, below.

Genius Hour 2016

Before a new introduction to passion-based learning this year, I reflected on my work and my students’ work from last year. Specifically, I reread my last post in the 1st Time #20Time series, #5 What My Students Think, which shared their reflections. It also shared my own goals for this year, which I now have the opportunity to revisit.


This reflection led to a change from #20Time to #GeniusHour. While these two concepts focus on the same big idea, I chose #GeniusHour this year because I didn’t want to imply any limits to the time we would devote to passion-based learning. In my tenth grade English curriculum, I have some freedom in content as long as I can always bring it back to developing essential skills. As I tell my students, we can develop skills, like reading, writing, critical thinking, curation, and creation, through any content, so I want to really embed this learning throughout our work for the entire quarter.

Inspiration & Passions

I really want to help students find their passions. Instead of asking them what they like, I want to push them to consider what they hate, what drives them nuts, and what or who they want to be. This year, I plan to use more multimedia tools to help them discover themselves and rethink their perspectives. TED Talks, other videos, memes, and current events need to be a more regular part of my classroom to help push students forward in thought and reflection.

We started with an inspirational pep talk from Kid President. We discussed his claim and ideas, then examined whether or not the American public school system helps make them possible for students. Students discussed the role of schooling, education, college, and more, setting a great stage for further thought about passion and learning.

Be Awesome

Taking after Kid President, I want to push my students to research, learn, create, and do something AWESOME. I can’t wait to see how it goes and we produce.

Find the start of my Google Slides desk for this year’s #GeniusHour projects below. It’s a work in progress and will be updated live, but I’m very happy with the resources so far.

How do you incorporate passion-based learning, #20Time, or #GeniusHour into your classrooms? Share your ideas, questions, or experiences in the comments or on Twitter.

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Adam Schoenbart is a high school English teacher, Google Education Trainer, and EdD candidate in Educational Leadership. He teaches grades 10-12 in a 1:1 Chromebook classroom at Ossining High School in Westchester County, NY and received the 2014 LHRIC Teacher Pioneer Award for innovative uses of technology that change teaching and learning. Read more at The SchoenBlog and connect on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.