At South Middle School, teachers are putting students in charge with the Genius Project.
Seventh grade students are choosing what they want to learn about, from go carts and college basketball to chocolate chip cookies. As part of the Genius Project, students have worked individually or in teams designing computer games, creating a website, or building a go cart. Seventh grade teacher Tara Zelvy said the the question put to the students was simple.
“If you could learn anything you wanted to learn, what would you do?” Zelvy said. “Is there a problem in this world that you wish you could solve?”
Some wanted to learn how electricity works, and understand it better so they could fix things. Others had a common interest in college basketball. They sought to better understand the NCAA player eligibility requirements, and wound up tracking potential recruits and making videos. They then uploaded all the material they found on a website.
“It was pretty cool because of the fact that we are only like 12 and 13,” said Isaac Steiner. “We made a whole website and it had decent videos on it.”
Zelvy and five other teachers set about creating the Genius Project during the students’ guided study period. The project based learning approach encourages students to evaluate results. “We had to work on the concept of ‘failing forward,'” Zelvy said. “That didn’t work so what can we do about it? This is harder than we thought, so who can we bring in to help us?”