Sophomores become “geniuses” in English II Honors classes


English teacher Jennifer Dee assists a student with her "genius project," the research component of English II Honors

Trying to piece a problem in the world and a creative project together is something that requires time and thought. Instead of writing a research paper for class, sophomore English II Honors students are required to create a “Genius” Research Project. Originally known as Genius Hour, it is a ‘movement’ allowing individuals to invest time in their interests and encourage creativity during class.

The idea of a Genius Project came from Google’s 20% Project, where Google allowed its engineers to spend about 20% of their time working on any project they wanted as long as it was creative. The concept was very simple: give a chance to work on something that sparks employees’ interests, and their work ethic would have a higher possibility to increase. This proposal worked so well that 50% of Google’s projects, such as Gmail and Drive, were created during this program.

English teachers Allison Beesley and Jennifer Dee agreed to replace the research paper with the “Genius” Research Project for English II Honors classes, and present a five minute Ted Talk by the end of May. Compared to what the students did during freshmen year, this was an entirely new concept. Beesley said, “[I am] hoping that it can encourage students to take risks and to worry more about their ideas and their growth than they do about their grades”.  Students have a responsibility to upload blogs onto their websites every Friday to inform other students about their proposal.

Sophomore Justine Bulawin said, “The genius project this year sounded really exciting for me, and to be honest it has been, especially since there’s a sense of freedom to do anything we want.”

For about a month, the honors students spent time thinking of proposals that were based on problems in the world today. “I want to help those in need. I was planning to raise money for a program for the disabled and donating dolls to a children’s hospital,” sophomore Jane Jung said.

With an entirely different idea, Bulawin plans to go through a series of tests and weeks where she is experiencing a “stress-free life.”

The possible proposals can range from donating to recycling. “I liked working with groups last year, but I like this year’s project a lot better. It is more helpful and useful,” Jung said.

Bulawin also said, “It’s more fun than last year since it requires us to actually get involved with the research part of the project.”

Beesley said, “the genius project is an opportunity for us to encourage students to think about why research is important to improve themselves and their communities. But that said, it’s harder than it looks and it’s probably harder than a research paper.”