20% Rule

Google asks employees to set aside 20 percent of their work week to projects outside of their normal workload.
I have a 9 year old and two 6 year old boys at home, and they each love to learn in their own way. They are constantly asking me questions or trying something to see what happens. I know they are just kids, but I would imagine they spend more than 20% of their week interested in something that is not homework or a lesson from school.
In contrast, many of my high school students seem to have lost this curiosity about the world. They don't ask questions like why or how, instead they ask me, "What do I need to know?" or "What is on the test?"  Did adults, schools, and teachers do this to them, or is this just part of growing up? This is a question that has been on my mind for years.
In our current education system that is based high stakes testing, how do we inspire students to learn for the sake of learning? This is where I come back to Google's 20 percent rule.
I recently read a post by Paul Solarz, a 5th grade teacher in Arlington Heights, Illinois, titled "Creating Passion Projects (Genius Hour)." Paul and his students have been following the 20% rule this year; however, it does not look like it was a quick and easy process. It did not happen overnight, but his students look like they are truly engaged during their Genius Hour.  Paul used the chart below to organize his students, and I love this part of it:
"As they researched, students added details to their KWHLAQ Chart (in the "L" Section). If they had any trouble finding what they wanted to know, they filled out the "A" Section with ideas for how to find the information. Any new questions that they came up with while they researched were written into the "Q" Section." - Paul Solarz

A little more research led me to the Genius Hour Website, and a video by one awesome kid talking about genius hour. I believe this might be a path to reignite the love of learning in some kids.
The end result? I am inspired to try this in my own classroom. I'm going to start small with a simple project after our AP Exam. My students are going to use the KWHLAQ chart and take a class period to create something about anything that interests them. I hope to be inspired by my students. I hope it is not too late for them to show me what they can really do.
What a wonderful place the world could be if everyone asked why and how instead of just what.

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