Life in middle school: A genius approach to learning

Life in middle school: A genius approach to learning

By Nathan Shaughness

19 April 2022

Schools teach core subjects to give students basic insight into vast and diverse fields of study, one in which they may choose to pursue a career. This diversity allows students to explore their individual interests and allows them to excel in their favourite subjects. This is why I believe it is essential to give young minds the freedom to pursue their interests. It is also why Cayman International School offers an elective dedicated exclusively to student passion projects.

This elective was conceived of and introduced to Cayman International School by middle school teacher David Navis. After naming it “Genius Hour,” the course was first put into practice last year for a class of eighth-graders. The school year concluded with projects that exceeded expectations, showing us current eighth-graders that we too could enjoy the freedoms offered by Genius Hour.

The goal of Genius Hour is to inspire students to become lifelong learners and it accomplishes this by providing time for students to research a subject of their choice and then create a project using that knowledge. Success in this class is entirely dependent on the motivation of its students, as they are judged on both their learning and the quality of their final product.

“If [students] don’t want to learn, Genius Hour will just be another class for them," says Navis. "But if they are motivated, then it will be the best class they’ve ever had.”

As this school year heads toward its close, Genius Hour will likely have been a great success once more; the current class is avid, with many ambitious projects. One student is learning to create 3D models and animations using an application called Blender. Two other students have worked as partners, conducting research and conferencing with the middle school counsellor to create a mental and physical health tracker. Another pair of students have filmed a tutorial on recalibrating and using a 3D printer, and are currently engineering an aquaponics system for the middle school art teacher. These are only a few examples of the current impressive projects.

I firmly believe that classes such as Genius Hour are essential to student learning. They allow students time to excel in school by pursuing their interests while also teaching them how to be responsible for their learning. I am proud to be part of a school that strives to expand its students’ knowledge beyond its core subjects.

This article was originally published in the April 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

middle school student portrait

About the author

Nathaniel Shaughness is an eighth-grade student at Cayman International School.

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