Saturday, May 27, 2017

Project Showcase!

On Wednesday, kids had the opportunity to present their projects to teachers and students at East Naples Middle School. All of the work that they had done over the course of the semester was about to pay off for them. Most of the kids made presentation boards similar to what professionals use during poster presentations at conferences. Each of the kids had a station so that others could come to their station, see their project, and ask questions. Some kids' projects were interactive (the kids who created video games had a large group playing those games), some had the kiddo's invented device on hand for others to explore, while others were service projects that intended to sign up participants for the cause.

We had quite a few classes of students come through the showcase as well as teachers and administrators. It was a good day for the kids. They got to see that their work really does make a difference and that others are interested in what they are doing. So many of the kids discovered that they really do have a voice. When projects got positive reactions, I could see the sense of accomplishment and validation on the kids' faces. Before going down to the multipurpose room to present, nearly every child wanted to back out. They did not want the attention and did not think that their projects were worthwhile. They were afraid to be embarrassed because they (and their projects) were not good enough. All year I have been pushing, coaching, and trying to convince these kids that they have something valuable to offer to the school and the world. 

Once we set up our presentations and classes started coming by to see the projects, the kids were all smiles. The attendees moved excitedly from one project to another. Some kids were more interested in learning how to podcast so they spent their entire time at that project. Some kids wanted to make music right there with Macy; she had a large audience the entire time. Other kids wanted to play Alfonso's and Jon's video games and so these two boys had a line of kids waiting their turn. The reaction of the other classes to the kiddos' projects surprised them. They did not expect that their work would be appreciated as much as it was. Now, some kiddos did not produce anything to show. However, they still got to experience vicariously the triumph of the others. Even the kiddos who did not produce learned a valuable lesson, that maybe their ideas and voice would be appreciated too if they only took the chance. 

In past years, at my other school, we had a smaller group of kids with two teachers running Genius Hour. For our final event, we conducted student TED talks in the auditorium. At my current school, because of scheduling, facilities, and staffing, I have had to tweak the program to fit our school. Every teachers has to do the same in order to get the most out of the kids. The variables that we have are time, resources, and facilities. It is up to us to adapt our Genius Hour programs to get the most out of our kids within the limitations of those three things. Our Genius Hour program fits our school. It looks different from our program of the past, and that is okay. It is the Genius Hour experience that is most important. Allowing kids the freedom to study or create something that THEY want is the most important thing we can do for kids. Any good Genius Hour program will be built around that premise. Days like Wednesday are so validating because most kiddos take advantage of the opportunity and do more than they thought they could.