Purpose Projects and Genius Hour

posted Sep 8, 2016, 7:11 AM by Kevin Roughton   [ updated Sep 8, 2016, 7:14 AM ]
Yesterday I launched Purpose Projects/Genius Hour in my AVID 8 Class.  I used this presentation and really used the day as a day of inspiration. You will want to download the presentation and play it back through Powerpoint as Google Slides just doesn't handle the layered animations very well.

I didn't hand out proposal forms yet or go into much depth about how we'd be using our time. I just wanted to wind them up and see what happened. 

Before I actually find that out (and with the possibility of absolutely nothing happening...) I wanted to outline how the day went. It felt right and I don't want any potential negative outcomes to color my initial view of it so here we go!

On the board since last week I've had a running countdown. I never said a word about it and neither did the kids. I don't know if they noticed but I think little things like this help to build anticipation and, even if sub-consciously, I think many of them wondered at least once "why are there numbers counting down on the board...?" Today, I wrote the word Launch! in giant letters at the end of the countdown and drew a rocket (terribly) on the board. I still didn't address it but I know they noticed it now.

For the last couple weeks my class has been reading through I am Malala and writing their own autobiographies. We've been talking around the edges of purpose and passion for the first three weeks. I also had these same kids last year for AVID and we talked plenty about sparks and Growth Mindset. They really couldn't have been more prepped. Providence, however, found a way. It just so happened that we were on chapter 21 of Malala which is the chapter when it all goes down. It's short so I continued on and we read 22 as well which is when it all continues to go down. It is intense and emotional and led perfectly into the challenge I was about to lay out for them.

So, directly from there I went into the presentation. It starts with a few questions about one's willingness to stand up instead of stand by - again, perfect flowing from Malala. It then rolls into a countdown video to just continue the build (and tie back to the countdown on the board.)  I've said it before but countdown videos make everything more exciting. They just do. 

I continued through the presentation and they kids really reacted well. I hit the high point with the quote from Malala's UN Speech. 

"One Child, One Teacher, One Book, One Pen can change the world."

I said "we've got tons of books, pens everywhere. I'll be the one teacher. All I need are some childs." (Yes, I said childs on purpose. It worked, they noticed. They were paying attention!)

I then went through the second half of the presentation which explains what Genius Hour is and briefly outlines what will be expected of them. At this point they looked shellshocked - which I completely expected. Combined with my extra chapter of Malala we ran a bit longer than I planned which also worked out wonderfully. We hit our period break right at the Objection! activity of the presentation. I told them that I could see they were overwhelmed. I told them that I could see that, if I was lucky, about 4 of them were absolutely jumping with excitement on the inside ready to take on the world, and the other 28 were just sitting there thinking about all the reasons why they couldn't do this. I had them all write down at leasts one reason why they personally could not do this. I told them to take 5 minutes to decompress and chat and that when we came back I'd address every single one of their objections.

I think this objection activity was by far the most important and powerful segment of the whole day. If you're going to launch a project like this I highly recommend taking the time to do this.

During the break I was beyond pleased to hear many of the students already talking about ideas. I also heard the immediate fixed mindset response of "no, that's too big" and "I don't think we can do that..." But I also heard "Imagine if we really did cure Asthma..."

Now, that's what I want to hear!

So, we came back in and I randomly chose a student to read out their objection.  I heard almost all of the anticipated fears.

-I don't have a big voice/audience.
-I won't have time
-My parents won't be able to support me.
-Nobody listens to kids
-I don't know as much as adults
-If doctors/scientists can't do it, how can I?
-I'm terrible at public speaking.
-I have no idea what to do.

I took the time to answer every fear as best I could. I was giving them the time. We would work on building audience. Kids have a huge voice because nobody says no to a cute kid. We don't have to know everything, maybe we can raise money for the people that do. We'll practice speaking - a ton. We'll do an idea factory on Monday to get you going.

I asked if there were any more. This was there chance to be negative (which I pointed out is a key ability of teenagers.)

Then I heard the most honest one of all:

"What if I fail?"

I responded very honestly and said "That's exactly why it has taken me two years to finally launch this project. I kept asking myself that same question. But, I finally decided you're worth it and the world is worth it. If I fail miserably, oh well. I can take it. The world needs me to try. It needs you to try. Don't you believe the world is worth taking a risk?"

I wrapped up the presentation by talking about two charities that raise money by playing video games (my true passion.) I pointed out that if they can raise money with what seems like an absolutely worthless passion then we can find a way for you to use your passion too. You are a genius in something and we need you.

Four times I asked "are you with me?" And, while there was still some normal teenage nervousness I heard plenty of voices saying yes. 

We were in, but now what?

Now all my fears could set in. What if the idea factory didn't work? What if I take too much time to get it going and lose this momentum? What if they can't find projects? What if they don't do it? Etc.

Then I woke up to this email (sent at 10:13 PM)

 Mr. Roughton can I just say that your presentation was spot on because I have been thinking about it all day! I have a lot to talk about. I'll tell you about it tomorrow but I just wanted to let you know that I can't wait to start my project! Of coarse I don't know what to do yet but I have a lot on my mind ! Good night .

Well, I can't ask for anything more than that can I? I know that if one was willing to take the time to tell me then other students are feeling it as well. I doubt I have all of them yet, but I will. We're going to do this. We're going to change the world.

And by the way, that email came from the same student who just hours before asked "What if I fail?"
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