Innovation stations at Coal Creek Canyon K-8: CREATING OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENT EXPLORATION AND CREATIVITY
Research Behind the Idea
Curiosity or a strong desire to know and learn is something teachers and schools want to foster in students, but sometimes gets lost. Looking at the school day as a series of separate non-connected classes or instructional minutes can make it hard for students to build connections and foster creativity to combine principles from multiple subjects. Teachers and schools across the world are looking for ways to elevate the importance of passion, creativity, and curiosity. One idea, Genius Hour looks at embedding curiosity and creativity into school.
Genius Hour as defined by Denise Krebs and Gallit Zvi, authors of The Genius Hour Guidebook: Fostering Passion, Wonder, and Inquiry in the Classroom is “an inquiry-driven, passion-based classroom strategy designed to excite and engage students through the unrestrained joy of learning. We (and many other Genius Hour teachers) accomplish this by setting aside time in our weekly classroom schedules when students are able to learn about and create whatever they want, unencumbered by teacher control.”
Shifting to this model especially in a secondary classroom can seem overwhelming. There are lists of standards that must be covered. How does a teacher fit one more thing in? But if we know giving students opportunities to create and be curious are essential to creating learners ready for 21st century, how can we ignore it? One school has dipped their toe into Genius Hour using their early release time to create cross-curricular, multi-age, student choice opportunities for an entire school.
Idea Behind the Day
At Coal Creek Canyon K-8, leaders decided to create a new series of opportunities for students. Throughout the school year, they have scheduled a series of events for students called Innovation Stations. During early release days, a block of time is set aside to allow teachers and community members to lead opportunities for students outside the traditional core subjects. These opportunities can be passion projects for teachers, opportunities to learn side by side with students, ideas that students generated, or service projects for the school. Innovations stations provide opportunities to connect to the Jeffco Generations Skills in a unique way. These stations connect multiple skills to life. Most stations give students the chance to tackle real world problems, professions, or skills that single subjects are unable to do.
Each station is designed for multiple grade levels, giving students the opportunity to build leadership and tutoring skills with younger students. Some stations are geared K-2, others may be 4-8, and even others may be K-8. Future iterations may include K-8 opportunities in most stations, allowing for even more partnering and peer tutoring from intermediate and middle school students with primary grades. On the most recent innovation stations, November 2nd , students have a vast array of opportunities to explore for a 90 minutes learning block.
What the Day Looks Like
Before November 2nd, all students choose an innovation station to sign up for. Stations are advertised on a wall with descriptions and grade ranges. Students sign up with their teachers for their preferred choice. On the date, students are guided to the location of their learning opportunity. Early learners, kindergartners and first graders are provided with name tags to ensure they get the additional support they may need. Each “teacher”, this can be classroom teacher, administrator, parent, or community member gets their group and starts the adventure for they day. Students can be found spread out throughout the entire school campus. In the gym, Sphero tag is being run by the principal, Jen Livingston. Students are learning to drive, code, persevere, critical think, and collaborate. Students are huddled around chromebooks correcting code and cheer when they successfully use block coding. In the Modular Robotics station students are challenged to design a robot using Cubelets. Students are in pairs, but must work collaboratively among groups to each design a robot that can complete the task the students designed. In Cushy Tushy, students are creating a class set of chair covers for the science classroom stools. Students and teachers saw a problem with the science furniture and designed a solution. In the library, a parent from Ball Aerospace gives students the opportunity to learn about the Keppler telescope as it was being decommissioned. Students could ask questions, use models, and discuss the impact Keppler has on current scientific research. These are just a few of the amazing examples of opportunities granted to students on this day of choice learning.
Impact on Kids & Learning
Possible Resources to Learn More
Coal Creek K-8 realizes that early release days can be a challenge instructionally and chose to try something new. Finding opportunities in a school calendar to start genius hour small, creates manageable risks for teachers to try something new. It may grow into a full weekly genius hour or 20% time or a schools own way to address creativity and curiosity during the school day.
Below are additional resources that share more inforamtion about passion projects, genius hour, and 20 percent time.