Derrick Smith and Nathan Bryd

Liberty Bell students making the most of Genius Hour


Groups of Liberty Bell students are fulfilling the namesake of their favorite class, Genius Hour, by presenting some findings from their projects during the final weeks before Christmas Break.

Over 50 projects were presented during one of Liberty Bell’s newest classes, which puts a spin on research in the library. While some libraries may be a bit subdued, Liberty Bell students are rushing from station to station in order to utilize different research methods.

“It’s really just a research project that they are doing, but they seem to have so much fun they don’t really realize it’s a research project,” Liberty Bell media specialist Dr. Johnnie Sue Hawley said. “So it’s still research in the library, it’s just a different style.”

Genius hour allows students the opportunity to pick their own research project, which they then must pitch to Hawley “Shark Tank-style” before getting the final okay. Then the students start to research the project before they make a presentation about their findings at the end of the semester.

Topics this year ranged from bovine medicine to bath bombs and many places in-between. But one common theme is that students never cease to amaze Hawley.

“They always knock my socks off, they just always impress me,” said Hawley through a smile.

Liberty Bell 7th-graders Derrick Smith and Nathan Byrd used their time to research a trending topic nationwide as they looked at ways to ease concussions in football. The duo decided to make a “super helmet” to lower the rate of concussions.

“The helmet didn’t just pop up in our heads first, it came with a lot of research,” Smith said. “We got to choose our topic and we figured that since we both had experience with football, this would be a great topic and a pretty good project. Our first thought was how can we make the helmet better?”

In order to do that, Smith and Byrd came up with the D and N collision helmet. They said they made the helmet stronger than a normal helmet because of the extra syntactic foam and gel packs they added.

While they haven’t performed rigorous scientific studies to qualify their statements, Byrd said that having the opportunity to study something he thinks is interesting is one of his favorite parts of the class.

“In most classes you can only do the project that they want you to do,” Byrd said. “With Genius Hour, you can work on any project that you think might be interesting.”

Hawley said that she researched different ways to implement a Genius Hour and that a common rule of thumb – even at Google – is to make sure it encompasses 20 percent of your time.

“They call it 20 percent time at Google and they let their employees work 20 percent of their time on whatever they want to work on as long as it will benefit the company,” Hawley said.

Liberty Bell students enrolled in the class are able to spend 45 minutes a day working on their project during the semester they are enrolled. Hawley said that she has noticed her students respect their freedom and stay on task without much suggestion, because they are researching things that interest them.

“I would strongly recommend this class to anybody, because anyone can fit in in this class,” Smith said. “This is one of my favorite classes by far.”

To keep up with Genius Hour projects throughout the year, use the #GeniusHour_JCS on Twitter.