Monday, August 10, 2015

Genius Hour Reflections

"How can we get kids interested in the culinary arts?" By: Ethan and Logan
We made a website for our genius hour project. Our question was “How can we create a website to get kids interested into the culinary arts? Our website has a lot of little snacks and meals that parents, and their kids can create. You can see it at .  

When we started, we had to research. Our topic didn’t involve a bunch of research, only bunch of trial with different recipes. We did look at many websites and some useful stuff. The kids can learn fractions, and also this can be turned into a job or just a hobby. The kids usually like what they make so they wont be disappointed. You won't need the best cooking gear for these recipes, but you will need some supplies. We learned a lot about cooking and its arts. It was very fun project to do, and we hope you can check it out.

“How can pottery help people?” by: Blair
 Research - Tools you can use are the designing point, clay cutter, ball point, sharp eag, whole maker . I used pottery tutorials on pinterest 179 pins.
I made a clay bowl with a little design on it and it has 2 little holes on it. You can also put pigeons on it and/or dragons.
My mentor was my 1st grade art teacher because she used to be a professional pottery maker in Japan then she got a job in the US. She became our art teacher.
I learned that pottery takes a lot of patience to do it. When you finish, you should be really happy with your results. If it is your first time, you might mess up a lot, but you just need to keep on trying. You will get better at it.

“How can I help kids not be afraid of what’s under their bed at night?”
By: Isabella Holdeman

     Hi, my name is Isabella and I am doing Genius Hour Project. For my project, I am making an under the bed lighting system. This lighting system will benefit parents, kids, and seniors. This system will benefit children by illuminating the underneath of the bed. This will allow them to easily see that there is nothing under the bed. It will also be a night light that will not affect their bodies melatonin. This will also benefit parents by soothing their kids so they won’t have to get up in the middle of the night to help calm their kids. My lighting system will also help seniors by illuminating the room so they will not get injured by something because they could not see it.


My name is Caleb.  I created a video game. I used a website called Flow Lab. It not only was a game creator site, but it also showed me how to create one. All you have to do is draw the block/charter then write the code. I learned a lot about coding blocks. I got information from scratch and codeacademy. I suggest Flow Lab if you are going to create a video game.

Hi, my name is Isaac.  I am new to the blogging world.  I have made a website so that you can make an informed choice about Energy Drinks.    I have chosen this topic because I realize that there are a lot more teens that drink Energy Drinks than I thought.  I made my website by talking to an expert, Kelly Spector--who is a Family and Nutrition Program Youth Advisor at the Purdue University Extension Office, over the dangers of Energy Drinks. Then, I gathered information off the web and combined all of it into one.  As I was making my website I learned some mind blowing facts!    First, I learned that the Energy Drink company bosses are rich!  The Energy Drink industry makes approximately $5 billion dollars a year!  I also learned that in 2012 the FDA investigated Monster for 5 deaths that led back to their company.   As I researched more, I saw that Energy Drinks are “loaded with vitamins.”  And they are right, they are jam packed with vitamins.  The problem is, your body can only take so much vitamins in a day.  Too many, can be harmful! Could you imagine popping 10-20 Flinstone vitamins in your mouth at once?  Of course not, because it’s bad for you. Many Energy Drinks contain 8,000% more vitamins than your body can handle.  These drinks are not designed to be sipped slowly like coffee or tea.  Instead, teens chug or gulp them down; therefore the body doesn’t have time to absorb the process.  I also learned that energy drinks actually do not help your athletics.  It actually decreases your endurance and leaves you more dehydrated.  Also, it is not a great idea to guzzle down an Energy Drink before a test or exam, because it could make you nervous or anxious, making it harder to concentrate.  Check out my website for more information on how you can be better informed about Energy Drinks .

Minecraft Tv Show
When we thought of what we really loved, and what was fun to do, well we thought… Minecraft! We have had so much fun doing this awesome project. We like doing a project on something we love. During this project we learned a lot of Minecraft, including that Notch is Markus Persson, he is Swedish, and that Minecraft is a Sandbox type game that lets you choose what you want to do. Did you know that Minecraft can help people design things that they are going to create in real life. Minecraft is one of the most famous games for PC/Mac, mobile devices, xbox, and Sony’s Ps3 and Ps4. Did you know Minecraft has the Table of Elements? Redstone in Minecraft is like electricity in the real world. In Minecraft YOU are the master, YOU get to make all of the rules, YOU get to create your own buildings/structures, and YOU get to control everything. Our resources for our project are Minecraft Wiki, Minecraft Forums, YouTube, and all of the Minecraft books by Mojang.  We learned that Minecraft can be very helpful in real life, and is a hard working game. If you play this game it really effects your life and if you don’t play it then you don’t have to think as hard as you would on Minecraft. We also observed that if you don’t know what Minecraft is then you will become interested in it and you will began to start researching about it and you will begin to play it. Therefore Minecraft is addictive when you get into it. It is like a whole different world which in a way it is similar like the real world. The last thing we learned is that when we were doing our research we learned so many NEW things about Minecraft that we had never knew. We can’t wait for our Minecraft Series to grow to be something people will go to a lot. We make videos about how to build cool and amazing structures in either survival mode or creative mode. We also do a Minecraft survival series where we show you how to survive 1 night and how to make your survival world get really amazing. Thanks to Weebly and Google because without them we wouldn’t be able to create our project. We created our website on Weebly, and we created our YouTube channel on YouTube which YouTube was created with Google. We are very thankful for Weebly and Google. We hope you tune into our channel (it is Matthew & Darby). We also have created a website if you would like to get even more information please visit our website!
My name is Angela and for my genius hour project I am creating a website showing people that riding and taking care of horses isn’t that dangerous.  I will also be showing people how to not fall off of and if you do how to not get hurt very badly.  My horseback riding instructor Sarah will be willing to help me with my project so I can use her horses to show people stall safety with actual  horses.
For our genius hour, we made a bot that answers the questions you ask. Along with the bot there is a 7 question trivia. We learned string methods from a couple of websites, and we learned concepts and ways to think when coding. Link's cousin taught us more complicated methods and and helped us solve more difficult problems when we got majorly stuck. Other than that Dylan would often go on and play with it and I would scout out websites for us to check out.

   Our research taught us less than Link's cousin, but we still learned a bit from our websites. Mostly the websites taught us strings methods and "if then" statements. "If then" statements are small coding snipits that tell the bot what to say and depending on what YOU say the bot will say what you told it to say back.
For example if i said:
que=input("How are you?")

if que=="Good":
   print("Thats good")
elif que=="Bad":
   print("Ohh get better then!")

And you would have a simple how are you statement from the bot and depending on what you say it will say something back.

For our genius hour project,we are making A & K fragrance beads to help make buildings smell better without using candles or areosol sprays. We learned that buildings can’t light candles because it is a fire hazard and is against the fire code. We made the A&K fragrance beads by taking about 2 cup fulls of beads and pouring them in a mason jar. Then add the fragrance oil and shake till its covered with oil and is a strong enough scent.Next add dye and shake till its covered with dye. Wait a few days and shake every now and then. We did some research on what hospitals use to clean with rooms and, our mentor told us that they use disinfecting wipes and cleaning sprays to clean the floor, and the sinks, etc;



Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Best Teaching in 60 Minutes

Envision a classroom where students are learning how to code, how wind turbines work, researching how to make a lighting system for under the bed, testing air pollution, or creating a culinary website for future cooks. This can happen in your classroom! For the past two years, I have incorporated Genius Hour in my instruction. It has ultimately changed how I teach today. What is Genius Hour? Genius Hour is a time in the classroom where students explore and learn about their own interests and passions. It started with Google when the company gave their workers 20% of their work week to explore anything they were interested in. As a result, Gmail, Google News, AdSense, Google Talk, and Google Reader were created by employees during their 20% innovation time. In my classroom, I give my students every Friday to work on their projects as long as they are caught up on work from Monday through Thursday. As a middle school teacher, I teach skills, concepts, and standards in various ways, but every lesson will not reach my students' interests. The idea of Genius Hour is for my students to be innovative while authentically engaged in learning an interest. It is a simple concept; give students time to learn something they WANT to learn. Before you dive in, here are 4 tips if you are thinking of incorporating Genius Hour:

1. Plan and be flexible. - This is not free time on the computers or iPads. Genius Hour takes planning, but you will learn the most through trying it out in your classroom. Each year will get better as you learn what works and what doesn't. The following link has a wealth of resources you can download instead of creating everything from scratch - Genius Hour Resources. I have also included a link to my Google Drive with all of my resources. For my first year, I created a timeline of what I would be doing each week. Twitter is fantastic for communicating with other educators and getting ideas or asking questions. Just use #GeniusHour to get in touch with others! Two great people to follow and ask questions directly are: @JoyKirr and @DonWettrick. (Follow me @NancyMcD8) Personally, I bought Don Wettrick's book Pure Genius. It will guide you through the whole idea of how to implement and run Genius Hour. (Don't worry - It is super short and a fast read. I highly recommend it!)
2. Give students time to think and discuss what their passions and interests are before you begin. - When I introduced this project for the first time, my students had no clue what they were passionate or interested in. I was a little shocked. My students have always been spoonfed what they were supposed to learn and how to do it. Genius Hour is the complete opposite. Students must be given time to explore ideas and also talk about them. I had students come up with guiding questions and then we discussed each one of them as a class. Through this process, students give their peers suggestions and feedback about their project proposal. It is essential to plan the time if you want students to find something they are truly passionate and interested in. If you do, they will find something and very rarely ask to change. Check out this Live Binder where teachers are encouraged to share and add questions students have come up. It is great to share with the kids when you introduce Genius Hour!

3. Have students set goals, track what they accomplish, and blog (if possible). - When students set goals and write what they accomplish each work session, it gives them purpose. It will also be easy for you as the teacher to check in with everyone each week. Mini-conferences are essential so you know where each student is in the Genius Hour process. All the links above have resources you can use for tracking and setting goals. (Bonus - These are perfect evidence pieces for your teacher evaluation.) This year I am having my students write blog updates and putting them on Twitter. The kids LOVE it! They think it is so cool their words are out there on the internet and others are reading about their projects. This is a powerful tool and I encourage educators everywhere to use it! (Check out my blog "Teach4Connections" and read the Genius Hour updates from my students for examples.) 

4. Be ready for students to finish at different times. - This was the hardest part for me my first year. Since everyone is working on different projects, they will finish at different times. There is a point where you have to set a due date for everyone, but it is okay if some finish ahead of time. Have them share their project to the class and let them choose another topic to start. It's okay if they don't finish the second or third or fourth project. The goal of Genius Hour is for students to learn and be engaged in something they want to learn about.

The genius of Genius Hour is it is all about the process not the completed projects. The students will be so excited for this time each week and will be fully engaged the entire time. If they aren't, they need to pick a different topic. My students continue to impress me with the topics and projects they are working on. Looking around the room on a Friday and watching students coding, creating websites, making videos, building, experimenting, researching, taking notes, interviewing others, blogging, etc. reminds me why I became a teacher. This is authentic learning and engagement at its finest. Children need opportunities to explore their passions and interests. As educators, we should honor that. 

Happy Connecting,
Nancy McDowell
6th Grade Language Arts & Social Studies
Center Grove Middle School North

Friday, February 20, 2015

Genius Hour Update

1. Mary: I'm working on my Genius Hour project with my friend Morgan. For my project, I'm making a website about protections denied to same-sex marriage and their kids. My question is: How can I help change people's perspective on how they think about gays? Right now we are working on making questions on an interview for a good friend of my moms who is gay.

2. Isabella: For my Genius Hour project I am making a lighting system that you can clip on the outer rim of your bed. My question is: How can I make a lighting system that will help kids not be afraid of what is under their beds?

3. Grace: I am creating a YouTube channel on different DIY tutorials for my Genius Hour project. My question is: How can I make DIY tutorials and make them interesting? Right now I am doing research on DIYs.

4. Ava: I am trying to find  a way to get people to stop smoking for my Genius Hour project. My question is: How can I help people stop smoking? I am currently trying to find information on the effects of smoking and how smoking effects other people.

5. Matthew: Darby and I are trying to make a website to help people learn, and start to play Minecraft. Our Genius Hour project question is: How can we make a blog with videos and tips on building to help people with Minecraft? I am currently working on improving our blog before we put a lot of episodes on it.

6. Noah and Miles: We're working on making a website to share the affects of gaming. Our question was how can we show the effects of gaming and how they can be good for you? We have found research stating that video games can help dyslexic kids read better.

7. Griffin: Hunter and I are making a website to share facts and videos about baseball bats. Our question is: Which baseball bat is best to use in a game? We are researching facts about baseball bats.

Happy Connecting,
Mrs. McDowell's students

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Life is all about connecting with people. The most important job I have as a teacher is to connect with my students. Instagram has been a major asset as a middle school teacher. My students love to follow me, and I love following their feeds as well. Right now I am focusing on my students connecting with the world around them. I have introduced Genius Hour/Passion Project and we are getting ready to dive into different ideas they have, but I want them to connect with others. I am planning on having them share ideas and projects through this blog, my Twitter account, website through Weebly, and/or my teacher YouTube account. Does anyone have any tips or ideas? I want them to understand there is a whole world out there they connect with! Of course, we are talking about internet safety as we go along. I would love to hear some ideas on how teachers are connecting their students with others.

Happy Connecting,
Nancy McDowell

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Trying Something New

Last week I was fortunate to attend the FETC Conference in Orlando, Florida. I learned a lot and had a great time with the best colleagues around! I am excited to start this next semester with fresh ideas on integrating technology in the classroom. I would first like to thank Tim Wilhelmus and Jeff Tron for their excellent workshop on "10 Teacher Creativity Skills To Enhance Any Classroom." I am so excited to use Blabberize tomorrow to summarize a novel we have been reading in class. That was the great thing about Tim and Jeff's workshop; they gave me something I can use the very next day with my students! I may even have the students do reviews here on this blog. If anyone has any suggestions or tips on Blabberize or even having students blog, please let me know!

I am hoping this blog will be a place of reflection, collaboration, and growth. It won't be perfect, but I embrace the challenge of a professional blog nonetheless! 

Happy Connecting,
Nancy McDowell