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Student with patient from Mother Mercy

Eighth grade students choose their own learning path with Genius Hour projects. 

Students in Mrs. Thompson’s 8th Grade Genius Hour class choose a passion project to work on and complete throughout their quarter long class. The very first assignment for students is to Google “Genius Hour” and define what it means to them.

Below are a few examples of student projects from this school year.

Research on 9/11 - Tysen

Tysen chose to research the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 after his dad recommended he learn more about it. Tysen’s reactions to learning about the events that day were shock and sadness. Seeing people jumping from the Twin Towers was especially heartbreaking. He was surprised to learn how much of a long-term plan 9/11 really was.  The pilots of these planes were training years before the attacks.

Also surprising were the events following in the aftermath. Congress passed 48 bills after 9/11, one of those being the Patriot Act.

Tysen is happy he chose this topic. He learned a lot and was able to share with his classmates. He also foresees talking about 9/11 in his future social studies classes in high school and is glad to know he will have a wealth of knowledge on the topic.

Etsy Shop - Grace

Grace’s project was born from a positive experience with the U of M Equine Center. Two of Grace’s horses became sick with an unknown illness. The U of M Equine Center took on the case to try and find a cure. One of Grace’s horses passed away, but the other, after several surgeries and treatments is now doing well. Grace decided she wanted to do something to pay them back for everything they did for her and her horses.

Grace has created crafts and taken pictures which she is selling in her Etsy shop. All the profits from her shop will be donated to the Equine Center. If you want to see Grace’s creations and purchase something to benefit her project, click here.

Bake Sale - Ariana, Nyra, & Lauren

Ariana, Lauren, and Nyra all decided to team up on their Genius Hour projects after discovering a shared interest in making baked goods and having a bake sale. With the holidays soon upon them, they chose to have a holiday bake sale and distributed order forms to the staff at the secondary school.

The trio agreed to each choose a charity to donate any of their profits to. The three charities chosen were American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Wigs for Kids, and Children’s Cancer Research Fund. With a goal of earning $150 total, the girls got baking! Some of the items the girls made were iced sugar cookies, Snickerdoodles, and Chex Mix (a special family recipe from Ariana). After receiving orders from 17 staff members, they organized their lists of ingredients and amounts in a spreadsheet and spent several evenings baking.

All three girls agreed the project was very fun but stressful. Finding attractive packaging, making all the goods, getting the orders and recipes correct was a lot of work - but worthwhile. In total the they made $270 and were able to donate $90 to each charity.

Chex mix and fudge
pretzels covered in chocolate

Making Blankets for a Cause - Morgan & Reanna

Morgan and Reanna knew they wanted to make blankets and both wanted to donate them to a worthy cause. Both girls have family members affected by Alzheimer’s Disease and agreed to work together to make blankets to donate to patients affected by the disease. Morgan describes Alzheimer's as “very disheartening.” Both Morgan and Reanna feel sad too see loved ones go through pain and not remember anything, not even people’s names.

The girls didn’t know how many blankets to make so they contacted Mother of Mercy Senior Living Center to see how many patients were affected by Alzheimer’s. The initial number of patients given was 23 and later rose to 25.

Morgan and Reanna weren’t sure if they could make that many blankets, but they set out to do as many as they could. They asked and received monetary donations to buy materials from the Albany and Avon Lion’s Clubs and were given $650 between the two organizations.

Initially the girls made 10 blankets, but were able to make them fairly quickly. Their families generously provided more materials to make more blankets and eventually the girls were able to make 26 blankets!

The project has taught Morgan and Reanna to be grateful for everything they have. “This really puts things into perspective, that it’s better to give than receive,” Morgan commented.

Students with patient at Mother Mercy

Video Game Design: Levels - by Connor

Hello! Connor Karki here reporting on my Genius Hour Project just for you viewers; lucky you! Anyways, my main topic (or essential question as we call it in class) I based my project on is “What factors help to create good level design within a video game?” I’ve always found video games to be extremely fun, so I thought I might as well do my project about them! That’s basically my only reason for picking my topic; no interesting story here.

Well, I started off my Genius Hour project by doing TONS of research relating to my topic, which was more fun than it sounds. I really enjoyed doing research on this project whether it was in or out of class because I was always learning more about what I’m passionate about, (video games). It’s also really satisfying to know more than you used to about anything in general! After doing my research, I compiled all of my data into one hopefully entertaining slideshow, which I will soon present to my class. I tried to keep explanations short and simple in my slideshow and I also made sure to put in numerous images so that the audience wouldn’t be bored watching my slideshow.

A really cool highlight of Genius Hour is that you get to pick any topic you want to work on, and class time is almost always yours to use! As long as you have something substantial to present at the end of Genius Hour, you can “experiment” with your project to get the best results!  Some tips I would give for future 8th graders is that you shouldn’t slack off. Ever. That will never get you anywhere during class or in real life. Also, pick a topic you KNOW you will enjoy so that it isn’t a huge bummer to work on your project. Lastly, take advice from Mrs. Thompson, she’s a teacher for a reason.

In conclusion, I feel that Genius Hour is a good time as long as you stay true to your topic and know what you’re doing. The games Mrs. Thompson lets you play are also pretty fun I guess… Goodbye! (written by Connor)

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Puzzle pieces taped to wall

Middle School counselor helps sixth grade students learn how to pursue personal growth through the Top 20 program.

The 6th grade students finished up their Top 20 lessons with me the last week of school before winter break. On the last day of our lessons, the students created their own puzzle piece in which they drew, wrote, or did both to identify what they will take away from the Top 20 lessons. During our time in Top 20 together, the students learned a lot of valuable information on how to pursue personal growth throughout their lives through their thinking, learning, and communication. Whether it was discussing how to be a bucket filler, learning to be mindful of their non-verbals, to be an upstander, or learning how to shred away their worries, the 10 lessons were created around the emphasis of helping students become lifelong learners who pursue personal growth in the TLC areas.

In January, I began my social and emotional lessons in the 7th and 8th grade advisories. These lessons will help the students learn how to pursue personal growth from a social and emotional standpoint. The topic for January is learning how to manage stress with healthy coping strategies. This is a lifelong lesson and skill which will help students be able to identify healthy ways they can cope with stress, and figure out other healthy alternatives to utilize in the future. I look forward to working in the 7th and 8th grade advisories these next three months!

Puzzle pieces taped to wall
Continue Reading This Article about Sixth Grade Top 20