Over the last five years there has been a shift in my teaching of middle school science. I have always believed that students should learn science through inquiry and hands-on activities. I have been very successful in giving my students these opportunities as well as the opportunities of incorporating math and technology within my science classes. What I have come to realize is that despite ensuring that my students have these opportunities they are still missing one important piece. They’re not being given the opportunity to truly problem solve or deign their experiments. When I think about what I would like my science class to look like I came up an environment in which students are allowed to collaborate, solve problems, design their own experiments based upon their own interests. The class looks like more of a workshop where I’m more of a facilitator of the discussions and the work.

In order to achieve this type of class I have decided to incorporate genius hour (genius engineering) once a week within my 8th grade science curriculum. I currently have only one section of 8th grade science with around 38 students including diverse learners. Last year my class periods were only fifty four minutes and it was often a struggle to complete lab activities. This school year all of our core classes will be sixty minutes long giving us a little more time for instruction. I follow NGSS standards and STEM based lessons but I’m missing the engineering practices in my lesson. I want students to be involved in engineering challenges to help foster student collaboration and problem solving. I hope by incorporating genius hour students will feel empowered to take science beyond the sixty minutes they have science each day. Incorporating genius hour will hopefully impact students beyond my science class. My though is that as my students take science beyond my class it will inspire their siblings or other students explore science and their wonderings.

I would like my students to be to:
  • Identify a problem
  • Determine what questions have yet to be answered about the problem
  • Propose a question that defines an engineering problem
  • dentify criteria for a successful solution

Implementing genius hour with my students will require me to scaffold the process in the beginning. I will introduce my students to weekly engineering challenges to get them used to collaborating to solve problems and then eventually progress to individual challenges and ultimately students will design their own challenges based on their own interests. I will use activities from the following sites as well as other resources:

http://teachers.egfi-k12.org/category/activities/
http://pbskids.org/designsquad/parentseducators/resources/index.html?category=electricity

The 8th grade curriculum is centered around physical science and some of the activities included on the above listed sites can easily tie in to some of the physical science concepts whereas others will not. I feel that the one tie in that connects genius hour to the curriculum is reenforcing the scientific method. The scientific method is about asking questions and solving problems. Applying this process to the engineering challenges will help students have a starting point when thinking of their own challenges.
When I consider the outcomes of my year long project I would like to see the following as a measure of success:
  • Students drafting their answerable questions and designing a solution
  • Constructing their design and presenting it to the class
  • Students collaborating and offering each other feedback
  • Students actually presenting their problem and solution to the class
  • Students actually using technology beyond google to enhance their projects

I’m fortunate to be at a school where our middle school students have access to technology everyday.My 8th grade students have their own tablets as well as access to chrome books and a MAC lab. I would like to also change my students understanding of what can be considered technology. My 8th grade students have their own tablets as well as access to chrome books and a MAC lab. I definitely want to embrace the TPACK framework of teaching because I know it would ensure the successful implementation of genius hour in my classroom.