Schools around the US are being inspired by Google’s “20% time” initiative and are giving 20% of their class time to student-led passion projects. Some students are making robots, some are learning a new language. Students in Michigan are documenting Detroit, while a group of girls in Illinois are using their time researching running shoes.

The 20-Time in Education movement is being used across grades to make students do their own research on a topic of their choice, ask their own questions and form their own conclusions along the way. It’s getting them ready for the real world.

Michigan teacher Nicholas Provenzano recently introduced the idea to some of his classes. In his list of commandments for the project: failure is an option. An important lesson, if you’re willing to learn from it.

Kids are constantly taught to avoid failure, but without the experience we start to fear it. It leads to stress and safe decisions. And who ever heard of an innovation coming from a safe decision? I want the creation by the tried and tried again entrepreneur.

20% Time is a great way to give children a safe place to explore their ideas and build resilience against fear of failure. It’s a guarantee that they will end up on their feet in the end.

Picture shows Jesse Pratt, third-grader at Warner Elementary School in Spring Arbor, Michigan, who learned how to make a marble run. He used class time to design the marble run and built the final product at home with his father. Read more about 20% Time and the ‘Genius Hour’ at CNN.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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