Connecting a Snow Hike to #GeniusHour and #20Time


© MBFXC 2014

I had meetings and a long to-do list planned yesterday, but Mother Nature intervened.  My son had a snow day and my to-do list quickly became going on a snow hike. He happily packed his backpack with a bottle of water, binoculars, a world atlas and my iPad (just in case we needed to look anything up on our hike).

We were on an adventure to find animals and their winter habitats. We found nests, carved out trees, crevices and footprints in the snow. We went to Salamander Pond (a name my son gave a pond years ago) to see if we could investigate where the salamanders go in the winter.  We stood in silence listening for clues and heard the sound of the snow falling.  It was a spectacular snow day and an even better snow hike!

In fact, it was one of those moments in life that you want to freeze and capture. As I write this post now, I have tears in eyes reflecting on the importance of being present.  When my son was in preschool, we spent every Friday going on learning adventures.  We called them Friday Fun Days and during our snow hike yesterday, we reminisced about all of our previous discoveries.  My son then asked, “Why can’t we have Friday Fun Day anymore?”  I responded, “You are in school now….”

My response kept me up last night, thinking and wondering why this type of learning has to end just because you’re in school five days a week?  I began to connect the concept of our Friday Fun Days, an opportunity for exploration, inquiry, discovery, curiosity, wonder and awe to what educators are doing with #GenuisHour and #20Time.  I reflected on how Nick Provenzano and Joy Kirr embrace this type of learning with their students and I was immediately filled with hope.  Then countless our educators in my PLN came to mind and my list of exceptional educators could go on and on….

My take away?  I have a few – be present and in the moment, cherish moments like a snow hike or Friday Fun Days because nothing in life is more important than the time we spend with each other.  Let students take the lead in their discoveries and learning.  If you are on the fence about Twitter and creating a PLN, you are missing the most incredible opportunity to connect and collaborate with passionate educators committed to student leadership and student voice in their classrooms everyday!  And lastly, I can only hope and pray that every child has a teacher like Nick and Joy, as well as all the educators I know and respect in my PLN.


  • Marialice, Why CAN’T we all have Friday Fun Days? Or even… Fun in EVERY day? I have tried to find a balance – some days with my students are quiet ones, some louder, sometimes independent work, sometimes group work. Sometimes we use the tech (if we can reserve it in time), sometimes we use the white boards….. but FUN should be included in EVERY day. I try to get the kids to dance a little, or sing a bit or at the very least get out of their seats and talk to someone else! I’m lucky to have an 80 min block, and feel that my curriculum is such that we can take TIME for … being people. For talking about real life, and not just the curriculum. That makes the curriculum even richer, because I can then help connect it to my students’ lives. I’m so very glad you shared your story here – and so very glad you and your son had another fun day together! Keep it up – I hope he can find the fun in his school day, as well (or make some of his own)! 😀

  • Thanks for the inspiration for the post, as well as the comment! You are spot on about bringing FUN into the classroom each and every day! In fact, every time I attend a teacher/parent conference, I’m not interested in hearing about benchmarks or the goals he has obtained. I’m only interested in finding out what makes my son happy during his day at school. I want to know what makes him laugh and who he likes to play with because at the end of the day, if you’re not happy nothing else matters!

    Thank you for introducing me, as well as my graduate students to Genius Hour! You are enhancing their local field experiences, as well as helping them see the potential of having a classroom that resembles the horizon line instead of just four classroom walls!

  • I love this post. It reminds me to try and incorporate at least FUN each day!

  • Marialice – I love that you went on a winter hike with your son! I miss those days as my own children are older now. This post reminds me that I need to get back to providing my students the opportunity to ‘explore’ those things that are of interest to them! Not sure why I haven’t started Genius Hour yet – but am making a commitment to myself and to my students that we will start this week!

  • Love it – the natural world is so good at reminding us to live in the moment! My animals always remind me to be present…whether it’s the cat’s birdwatching or the dog’s napping their great inspiration. Have you read the Mutts Comics by Patrick McDonnell? He also has a book with quotes from Eckhart Tolle called the Guardians of Being, I’ll bring it tonight.
    School shouldn’t take away the enjoyment children experience from being outside, it should embrace it. After all, we are part of the natural world no matter how much we resist it. I feel that children are inherently attracted to the wild but they learn to disregard and fear it and before long they don’t notice it at all. I love that you did/do Friday Fun Days and that all your little guy wanted to do last week was go on a snow hike. That’s an awesome testament to you as a parent and an educator.

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