Best Genius Hour Ideas For High School

By Rick Gonzales | Published

The Neurodiverse Student: How Teachers Can Help Them Succeed In The Classroom

Best Genius Hour Ideas For High School

It goes without saying that teaching in today’s environment can be something of an adventure. Teachers oftentimes are dealing with students who are unmotivated, unprepared, and uncaring, so somehow keeping them engaged can be quite a challenge. One trick of the trade that is becoming more popular is called the Genius Hour and it is becoming especially useful in high schools. So, what exactly is the Genius Hour and what does Google have to do with it? We’ll look at all of that and then the best genius hour ideas for high school.


Many teachers point back to the 2014 TED Talk where Google’s Daniel Pink spoke on “The Puzzle of Motivation” concerning Google workers and workers in general. In his talk, he spoke about Google’s 20 percent time policy, a policy that the tech giant implemented that allows employees to spend 20 percent of their work week working on their own passion projects. This is sometimes what is referenced when thinking about the best genius hour ideas for high school.

“Employees are able to spend up to 20% of their time working on projects they’re interested in and passionate about,” says “The study and work are motivated intrinsically, not extrinsically. The big idea for Google is that employees motivated by curiosity and passion will be happier, more creative, and more productive, which will benefit the company in terms of both morale, ‘off genius productivity, and ‘on genius’ performance.”

So, with that basic principle in mind, teachers felt that this approach could help motivate students, paving the way for the best genius hour ideas for high school. By giving them the opportunity to be their own boss in the classroom, to come up with their own ideas and work on them and present them, teachers felt they could truly engage with their students, some of who were becoming very dissatisfied with the trajectory of their schooling.

Teachers knew, though, that their time was limited. They were already pressed to make sure they got all state requirements into their teachings, so how were they to add something that wasn’t recognized as a state requirement? Ultimately, teachers felt that it wouldn’t be a huge amount of time that needed investing, so the Genius Hour came to be.


Basically, for teachers to be able to get the best genius hour ideas for high school into their curriculum, they just have to plan it. They don’t need permission; they just need to know they have the time to make the Genius Hour work for their students while also making sure their students get the other learning they need.

There are generally five steps to a Genius Hour. Of course, not all of these can be completed within the initial timeframe, but it gives students more to look forward to. The five steps include proposing, researching, creating, presenting, and reflecting. Consider this when planning the best genius hour ideas for high school.

Proposing – This is the first stage and it is where students select the topic on which they desire to work on. Students (along with teachers’ guidance) can brainstorm ideas, choose a couple of them, then present them to their teacher for approval. While a certain ideal may appeal to the student/s, a teacher’s input can be instrumental in showing just how viable an idea is. A teacher can answer if the project is too big or small. Is there enough there to sustain interest? The best genius hour ideas for high school need to be realistic.

Researching – After students decide on the project they wish to move forward with, their next step would be to start the research on the subject. There are many ways to accomplish this that can include books, articles, videos, and websites. Students can also find experts on their subject and pick their brains for information.

Creating – Once students have collected all the necessary data, their next step is to actually create it. The teacher COULD tell them how they would like to see the project presented, but since it is the Genius Hour, students should choose the best way in which they feel their project should be presented. This can come via a PowerPoint presentation, a video, a written report, a painting, or they can even present with a paper-mâché. Obviously, it all comes down to the project at hand. Again, the best genius hour ideas for high school will come from the students themselves.

Presenting – For many students, this part is the rough one. Not many students like standing up in front of the class to give a speech or present material. Unfortunately, this is all part of the Genius Hour. What can make this part of the process even more stressful is that some teachers like to invite the student’s parents to watch the presentation. To keep things moving along and not get bogged down, teachers also typically implement a time limit for how long the presentation should run.

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Reflection – This part of the Genius Hour comes after you complete the presentation. Students can do this in several ways like a journal, a simple worksheet explaining what they learned, or even a reflection video. Students can answer questions in their reflection such as did they learn anything? What went well for them? If they could do it again, would they do anything differently? Was these the best genius hour ideas for high school students to have chosen? Do they have a target for the next Genius Hour?


best genius hour ideas for high school

It may seem like there are a bunch of rules for a Genius Hour, but there really aren’t. What appears to be rules are more like guidelines. Okay, maybe those “guidelines” can be considered rules. But the true goal of a Genius Hour is to allow students to be in control. Let them run the show and have teachers be there as guides if needed. But, if we are to look at specific “rules,” there may be three worth noting.

  1. Students need to begin their project with an essential question that they cannot go over to Google to answer with a simple search. It must be deeper than that.
  2. When students are conducting their research, they must be using reputable websites.
  3. All students must create something. The idea behind a Genius Hour is to let students do their own thing and with that in mind, there need to be concrete results. This can come via digital or physical means.

Another thing that could be considered a rule is that nothing inside the Genius Hour is graded. The point here is not to stress them over grades or final tests on their project but instead to allow them the freedom to work on something without worry. There is no right or wrong, just doing.


We know that sometimes even high school students have no clue how or where to start. So, if you are going to implement a Genius Hour in class, you may want to also have a couple of ideas that can get the young high school brains cooking. Here are a few choice ideas:

  • Write. This can be a story, a song, poetry, a blog, and if truly motivated, a book.
  • Have students build a website or an app.
  • Learn photography.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Create, market, then sell a product of your design.
  • Who doesn’t love sports? Create a new one of your own.
  • Investigate a specific moment in time or a big event from the past.
  • Learn about different careers.
  • Conduct a science experiment.

As you can see, these are just a few ideas to get kids started. Perhaps this shortlist will spark students’ imaginations. If so, expand the list. Right their ideas down for future Genius Hours. And whatever you do, don’t put a cap on their imagination. The whole idea behind Genius Hour is to get students motivated. To take them out from their hum-drum daily school life and breathe some new, fun, and exciting ideas into life.