Monthly Archives: March 2020

EDUC6103: Genius Hour Project

EDUC6103 Education for Sustainability & Entrepreneurship

A Genius Hour of Genius Hour At Montrose School

By Danielle Shrumm


The purpose of this Genius Hour project has been for me to go through the Genius Hour process using Design Thinking as a tool to plan a Genius Hour project for my grade 3/4 students at Montrose School. 

Background Information:

This is my fourth year teaching at Montrose School and my third year doing Genius Hour (GH) projects. Over the years we have made big and small changes to GH, yet the common theme is:

Doing. A. Genius. Hour. Project! 

We have learned many things along the way and our learning will not be over anytime soon!

This is how Genius Hour has progressed for us:

*First of al I should let you know that he “us” I refer to is my teacher partner, Helen at Montrose School (on my Grade 3/4 team)!

Year One: We feel like should do a GH project, but we have no idea what to do, so we decide to learn more about it and try next year

Year Two: We’ve done some reading, but there is a lot of information about GH, so we decide to just start and see how it goes!

Year Three: The kids loved doing a GH, but we had a big question for ourselves: How can we make GH better? *Note: This is the year that I started my class off with doing Genius Hour and then our Inquiry Support Teacher took over. I was given the opportunity to get our whole school’s Friluftsliv (Outdoor Education) program up and running. When I was out of the room one day of our six day school cycle, it made sense to leave my replacement (the Inquiry Support Teacher) something that he could build on from week to week. It also made sense for him to actually do a Genius Hour with a class instead of telling people how to do one without ever going through the process himself. The challenge was that I was disconnected from the process and felt that I wanted to be more hands on. The students were given a booklet to use as direction this year, but again we needed to evolve our expectations of GH and I knew that I needed to play more of a role in it.

Year Four: (This current year): Our plan as classroom teachers was to work with our Inquiry Support teacher, but he had other plans. Fast forward a few months and…still not started. This Genius Hour assignment has been a great motivator and opportunity to get things going! Working with my amazing teaching partner, we began the process of GH ourselves!

*One important addition is the suspension of schools due to Covid-19. This has created a change in how I have been able to implement and oversee the “test” phase of the Design Process, yet has still offered valuable information. Once we are back at school I will be able to try again teaching this process “in person”.

Genius Hour Process/Design Thinking:

Some of the major influences, for me as well as countless others, when it comes to Genius Hour and Design Thinking are John Spencer and A. J. Juliani. If you are unfamiliar with their work but interested in doing your own GH projects, PBL (Project Based Learning) strategies or Design Thinking then visiting the websites of these two authors is a great way to start!

We have definitely used resources, templates, videos, etc. from these two in order to help shape what we have created during this Genius Hour of a Genius Hour!

In fact, my favourite videos to share with parents and students to explain what Genius Hour is are:

My teaching partner Helen and I teach very similarly and we use a team teaching approach for most of what we teach. Her help during this process has been very valuable to me for this particular project, but our ability to work together to further our students’ learning is also incredibly powerful.

In a previous course (EDUC6109: Transformative Education: Teaching for Creativity) I did an assignment about Genius Hour and how I could do a ‘revamp’ of what I already do. We used this as a tool to help us plan our own GH project!

Image of the Design Process that I created in my previous course

D. Shrumm Teaching for Creativity Genius Hour

(PDF version of my previous assignment)


What matters to us is that our students are taught meaningful learning tools and strategies that they can use for a variety of subject matter and after instruction will be able to work on independently for things they are curious and passionate about.

Step 2: DEFINE-

Our students need a Genius Hour that uses the Design Thinking Process because it will teach them how to learn in ways that are important to them about material they are curious about.

Step 3: IDEATE-

  1. Find a prepackaged Genius Hour template and let the students work thought it
  2. Create a Genius Hour template from scratch
  3. Find Genius Hour resources and make tweaks to what our students need
  4. Let the students figure out what Genius Hour is and isn’t on their own
  5. Create a school wide “Genius Hour” fair (like a Science Fair)


We’ve decided to move forward with Idea #3. To do this we will ‘scour’ the resources out there and make the ‘tweaks’ we think make sense for our learners.

*More on our PROTOTYPE later!

Step 5: TEST-

The test phase has changed from what our original plans were. Once our prototype was complete we sent it off to our school division’s printshop and were going to spend the last two weeks of school before Spring Break to do a GH project with our students using our prototype and testing it out! However, due to unforeseen circumstances, our test phase has moved to being tested at home during our “virtual teaching and learning sessions”.

*More on my “new” version of the TEST later!


-In order to put together a GH project for our students, we searched for resources and also created our own. We felt that at this point, this IDEA from the IDEATE process was the best fit.

We worked on a lot of things at once!  In the end this is what we have come up with!

We used a template we had found from for the students to keep track of their Design Thinking Process.


We had our package back from the printshop and had our schedules ready for the last two weeks of school before Spring Break to test out our prototype. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 our plans needed to be shifted. With classes being suspended we needed to be able to send the project home. Each student was sent home with a paper copy of our GH package and were asked to wait for further instructions. I created resource for parents and students explaining what GH is (including videos, storybooks read on YouTube, etc.) called “Before You Begin Genius Hour” and an audio recording to match a photo of each page in the package. 

This is the video I sent to the students before I posted their GH assignment!

Genius Hour Before You Begin!

(PDF of a GH overview for the families)

Genius Hour Process

(PDF of some reminders of the order to do things in)

(Audio with image explaining the “Step by Step to Genius Hour”)

(Audio with image explaining the “Design Thinking for Students”)

(Audio with image explaining  “Ideate/Prototype”)

(Audio with image explaining the “Research Log”)

(Audio with image explaining the “Self Reflection”)


-Students still had a lot of questions and were unable to use their parents as their guide (still wanting my approval on everything)

-The Empathy and Define sections needed much more explanation. The students simply wanted to “jump in” and make something (they were treating this more like a Maker Space activity)

-Not many students were ready to participate in the GH project at this time. I think the families are feeling overwhelmed with working from home. I offered this as an optional project and it is my assumption that it’s too much for home (for now at least)

-This is a much easier process to do in person than it is online

-It makes me reconsider our approach in general. If the students are coming to us without ever spending much time doing Maker Space type projects or have had choice in what they learn, then they really just want to explore and discover on their own

-We are unsure at this point which tweaks we will need to make as we are not able to know exactly what has been used by our students


-An option for us may include starting the year with more “free” design thinking plans and work our way up to more of a structured plan

-Perhaps as a school we have a system that is more like a continuum approach so we can ensure students are getting this type of learning across all the grades. If this were to happen then we’d need to share this vision with our administrator and see what role the Inquiry Support Teacher could play

-More emphasis needs to be on empathy and how that can lead to a project, developing a guiding question and what role research plays in all of this

-Differentiating between GH, Design Thinking and Maker Space opportunities

-Creating different expectations for grade 3 and grade 4 students, or for students with varying needs (like a “beginner” and “more advanced”-wth this one being for the more advanced)

-Do whole class projects first so students understand the process and expectations better


-This process has been very valuable for myself and my colleague. We have come up with a process for our students that has the potential to work, with again some tweaks! 

-This has proved that we are open to giving things a try, even when we aren’t sure they will work. This is a good lesson to share with the students as it shows we are all learners and that learning is a process

-We’ll try again when we get back to school!


-There is so much potential to use sustainability as a focus in a Genius Hour and Design Thinking Process project. Incorporating sustainability is my goal in all that I teach and to me I think a GH project is a perfect avenue to embed sustainability in seamless and natural ways. I believe this is where the empathy piece can really come into action. I included a section on sustainability  in my “Before You Begin” page for students and families. Had I been teaching this process at school this is where I’d really stop and focus on what sustainability is and remind students why this is so important to us as humans. This is a step in the process as a whole that I feel cannot be left out.


I’d like to thank my colleague, Helen Mather-Oliver, for her support and collaboration during this process. 


Chris Kelser. (2013, September 6).  What is genius hour?-Introduction to genius hour in the classroom [Video File]. Retrieved from

John Spencer. (2017, March 9). What is genius hour? An overview of genius hour and 20% time in the classroom [Video File]. Retrieved from

John Spencer. (2017, August 25). You get to have your own genius hour (a video for students) [Video File]. Retrieved from

Makers Empire. Design thinking for students. Retrieved from

Spencer, J. & Juliani, A.J. (2017). Empower: What happened when students own their learning. IMpower.

Spencer, J. & Juliani, A.J. (2016). Launch: Using design thinking to boost creativity and bring out the maker in every student. San Diego, CA. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.





EDUC6103: The Cost of Convenience-Deep Learning Food Challenge

EDUC6103: The Cost of Convenience-Deep Learning Food Challenge


Over the years I have felt both upset and guilty from the conveniences we have grown to expect as we shop for groceries and consume snacks and meals in and outside of our homes. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the “cost of convenience” and have used this Deep Learning Food Challenge as a way to question my own consumption habits and invite others in my life to do the same. Taking the time to really look at our choices, consider alternatives and choose ways to make changes in our own lives is a great way to make positive impacts in our world. We don’t need to do everything perfectly when it comes to clean eating or waste free living, but even if we each focused on one small goal we’d be making a positive impact. One goal practiced enough times becomes a habit and once something has become a habit we can choose a new goal and continue with this pattern. It makes “big ideas” such as waste reduction easier to manage and to stick to.

Don’t worry about being perfect…just find a place to start!

Why is convenience so important to us?

In my opinion, one of the most important reasons is: Time!

We are in a hurry a lot of the time and when we can eliminate or ‘shave off’ time in someway, it is very appealing to us. Some ways we use to help save time include: getting groceries delivered or using a grocery pick up service, using a meal subscription service, eating out, etc. These ideas save time with: thinking of meal ideas, purchasing or preparing food and even clean up. Time not spent doing the above tasks allows for more time to get where we need to be, balance a home/school/work lifestyle, spend the time in other ways (such as with our families and friends), etc.


Let’s consider what the convenience might be costing us

Questions to consider:

Have you ever…

-grabbed a coffee on a whim and used a disposable cup?

-bought fruit or vegetables that were pre-cut/washed and packaged instead of buying your own and preparing them at home?

-ate breakfast, lunch or dinner that you picked up “on the go” for no reason other than you wanted to?

-thrown away leftovers after days of keeping them in your fridge, instead of actually eating them?

-brought home leftovers from a restaurant even though you doubted you’d eat them?

-bought healthy foods that you knew you should eat but let them spoil?

-thrown expired food out in the container instead of reusing or recycling the container because it was easier to toss the whole thing?

-bought food because it was a good deal knowing that it would likely expire before you ate it?

-purchased a larger container/package of food because it cost less money, even though you knew you wouldn’t use it?

-have you used a food subscription service for its convenience?

-thrown food away and not think about what happens to it or worry about being able to get more food at your earliest convenience?

I personally can answer yes to many of the questions above. I am not proud of this by any means and am actually very embarrassed to admit that I am guilty of these actions, but this also is what has inspired me to delve deeper into this topic and make the decision to reduce making choices based on convenience. I know I am not alone in this and have decided to attempt to get others to question their choices too!

This is often what we see while at the grocery store. The temptation of shopping for convenience is all around us.

Ready for more questions?!…

-Have you ever bought a coffee in a single use cup, felt guilty about it and planned to use a reusable cup next time?

-Have you ever bought food that is already prepared for you and thought about what the store/restaurant does with the scraps and leftover food? (Do they compost? Is any food donated to those in need? What ingredients get repurposed for other food items?, etc.)

-Have you ever bought food “on the go” but then thought about how you could be more prepared and next time bring something from home?

-Have you ever brought leftovers home and made sure you ate them?

-Have you ever reused containers that food was purchased in? (example: yogurt containers, to go containers, etc.)

-Have you ever felt guilty about some of your purchasing choices and made changes the next time?

-Have you ever considered the idea of what convenience costs us?

If you have answered yes to these questions then you might be ready to make some changes with your purchases and understand that our desire to have things so convenient has a major impact on our planet.

What choice will you make?

How true is this statement?

Digging a Little Deeper:Even if we feel like we do a pretty good job about being careful what we purchase as far as food goes, we need to consider the conveniences we have at home that help us to:

-heat our food

-keep it cool and fresh

-clean our dishes, etc.

We rely on the conveniences of stoves, microwaves, fridges, freezers, dishwashers and other appliances to cook, store and clean our food and food ‘products’. When is the last time we’ve thought about those as a convenience?

Check out this video from Inside Energy to give yourself a little something to think about as you dig deeper into the idea of the cost of convenience!

Conversations About Convenience with Kids!

Recently I decided to take some time during our health lessons in my grade 3/4 class to talk to my students about the idea of convenience and what that might mean to 8, 9 and 10 year olds.

Question: What does convenience mean?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-convenience means that things are fast and easy

-we get things right away

-we don’t have to wait long to get something

-we can get what we need/want and move on

-we can do more than one thing at once

-it helps when we are busy

Question: When do you notice convenience when it comes to the food we eat?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-when we eat at a restaurant instead of eating at home

-when we eat on the way to a sports practice/after school activity

-when we go on trips and can’t make our own food

-when we use plastic bags for food instead of a reusable container

Question: What types of foods do we eat because they are convenient and what could we do instead?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-cheese strings instead of cutting cheese

-yogurt tubes instead of putting yogurt in our own containers

-water bottles instead of filling our own

-buying fruit and veggies trays instead of cutting up fruit an veggies

-when we have snacks after school (sometimes we eat snacks that come in a package instead of cutting fruit or veggies up)

-buying bags of popcorn instead of popping our own

Question: How else is convenience connected to what/how we eat?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-using a straw that comes with the drinks we order (at fast food restaurants)

-getting a whole bunch of napkins in the “to go” bag even if we don’t ask for them

-using the forks and spoons that you throw away after

-getting lots of ketchup packages (more than you need and there is only a little then you throw it out)

-so many plastic bags being used 

-can’t recycle ‘paper’ drink cups or coffee cups because of the wax on the inside

Question: What are some changes we could make in our lives that could make a positive impact?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-buy whole fruits and vegetables and cut them up instead of buying them pre-cut

-have a piece of fruit after school as a snack instead of having a granola bar in a package

-bring reusable forks, spoons and straws with you instead of using single use/disposable ones

-tell your parents to bring their own coffee cups instead of using a disposable cup

-before stopping for food/drinks ask yourself if you need it or just want it

-talk to your family about some of the choices you make and see if you can make better choices

Question: How can you talk to your family about convenience?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-tell them that you are worried about the environment

-tell them you are learning about things we sometimes choose to do because it’s easier and how these choices aren’t always the best ones for our planet

-ask them if we can talk about some ideas we have

-don’t be mean about it and blame parents for making certain decisions

-know that we can’t change everything at once

-share that one change can still make a difference

-offer to help with things like packing lunches and not asking for fast food

Question: What are some of the “costs of convenience”?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-there is more waste

-can be unhealthy sometimes (food choices)

-just because it’s easy doesn’t make it the best choice

-just because I think I want something doesn’t mean I need it

-we are always rushing but doing things together like making supper or baking can be really fun

-just because something takes longer to make or get ready, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it. For example: When we put yogurt into a reusable container, pack a spoon from home, eat it at school and have to wash the container it takes more work than just eating a yogurt tube and throwing it away. One is more convenient, but not the best choice when you think about a healthy planet

-something that is already made for you can cost more money than if you made it yourself

-sometimes we can’t help it but can think about the best choice in that situation

My grade 3/4 students have been very insightful as always! They understood what I was asking and also understand some of the ways that convenience “costs” us and ways we can make changes where our choices aren’t always the most convenient for us. Teaching these big ideas now and having these important conversations early is very effective. These students will go home and share what we’ve been talking about and many of their parents will listen to them and start making changes where they are able to. I always say that kids who care turn into adults who care. And we definitely need more people who care in this world!

Looking ahead:

Consider the following questions:

  • What role does convenience factor into your purchase and lifestyle choices?
  • Can you think of one thing you could change in your lifestyle that would have a positive impact on the environment.
  • Am I willing to make a change even though it might be less convenient for me and my family?
  • Why is convenience important to us?
  • What comes to mind when I use the words “Cost of Convenience?”

What Could I Do?

  • Spend more time preparing meals and snacks
  • Commit to reducing (and one day eliminating) single use plastics (cutlery, straws, cups, etc.)
  • Try starting a compost
  • Shop at bulk stores where you can use your own containers
  • Eat what you have before buying more food
  • Reduce eating out when possible. When you do eat out do things like ask for only the amount of supplies that you need (napkins, ketchup, etc.)
  • Consider your actions before acting upon them!

If you think about it…there is convenience in these waste reduction suggestions!

Have you ever thought about bringing your own container for takeout and leftovers? What’s stopping you? Is the notion that “this is weird” a barrier? If so, what can we do to change that?

We need more of this!

An example of the environmental cost of convenience

Concluding Thoughts:

Convenience is something that we as humans seem to be seeking as well as live with without even realizing it. I understand why convenience is important to us, especially when it comes to food. We have a limited amount of time in a day and what can seem like an endless list of “to dos”, so finding ways to spare some extra time makes sense. However, I think it is very important to think beyond ourselves when it comes to the choices we make and begin to consider what convenience is actually costing us.

Social Media Posts to Get Us Thinking:

Here are some Instagram posts I have connected to as I think about society’s infatuation with convenience, how convenience is linked to what and how we eat as well as some ideas to make positive changes…

This is a really important reminder…

Ask yourself… How can we change our relationship with food in a way that has a positive impact? How do these suggestions connect to convenience when it comes to the decisions we often make with food?


What can we do to make this statement true?

Let’s find out!

Changing our mindset is a great place to start making a change

Why do we buy so much?

Kindly refuse!!

Change has to start with each and every one of us!

Do. What. You. Can.

Words to live by!


This project has provided me the opportunity to do some deep thinking about a variety of ideas as well as include my students in the process. It has been my goal to deepen my own thoughts,  initiate a conversation with my students that they could then take home and continue at home, share some resources with others and to bring awareness to and encourage you to think about the idea of what convenience is costing us.

Interesting Articles:

Thank You Kindly…

-A special thanks goes out to my grade 3/4 students at Montrose School for their participation in our discussions and for their great ideas!

-Instagram photos that have been used from the following accounts:










-Click on the links to the articles and video for more information