It all started with one question …

What if we had a chance to build a school from scratch?

On Mars.

And so with a great idea from fellow educator @ajjuliani the #MarsChallenge was born.

By chance, ten days before our school was due to go on Christmas break I mentioned the idea to three of my former students while passing in the hallway.  They were hooked!

This is their idea of what a school on Mars should be …

This all happened very fast and, aside from the idea (which I didn’t even come up with but merely passed on), the whole project was totally student driven and done over the course of a few home play-dates.  However, this experience did remind me of a few important educator “take-aways.”

Whether you call it Genius Hour, Passion Projects, 20% time, or any combination thereof, what it really boils down to is that when students are self-directed in their learning they are having fun.  When they are having fun, they are engaged.  When they are engaged, they are purposeful and passionate about their learning.

And really we shouldn’t need to build a school on Mars to make this vision of learning happen.  As 2016 is winding down it is that time of year when we all take stock of where we are and what resolutions we want to set for ourselves in 2017.  For myself professionally, I resolve to remember that my classroom should be a place where my students smile and have fun – especially because in 2017 I am also going to be purposeful with integrating our Genius Hour projects weekly!  Promise.

And how about you?  What is your 2017 professional resolution?

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