Furr High School Experiments With ‘Genius Time,’ Letting Students Choose More Courses

Some people question if letting kids learn what they want is the best way to improve education.

By Laura IsenseeFebruary 3, 2017 10:01 am, , ,

From Houston Public Media

Inside the auditorium at Furr High School, dozens of teenagers crowd the stage. They side-step, clap and spin to the beat for an intense workout.

Over in the school’s courtyard, another student coaches his peers in a form of acrobatic martial arts, known as tricking. They twist and flip in the air.

And in the park near campus, a dozen students learn how to train pitbull puppies, with call and response.

Welcome to “Genius Time” at Furr High, a school once known for its gangs and high number of dropouts.

Now Furr has gotten national attention for its innovation, since it won a $10 million grant last fall from a nonprofit run by Steve Jobs’ widow, the XQ Institute.

School leaders say that Genius Time is just one way that Furr will transform the high school experience.

“It gives them that ability to start having voice and choice and you can see it from the kid as they’re progressing,” said Fredalina Pieri, the magnet coordinator at Furr.

“Because at first they would go with their friends and little cliques kind of thing. And as time goes on, the kids start focusing on their interests and their passions that they have,” Pieri explained.

In that Zumba class, several students said they picked the course not just because it’s fun, but because they care deeply about health.

“There’s a lot of chronic diseases going on, mostly with minorities,” said Jainny Leos, 18. “I’m a Latina and I know because of my grandma. She has diabetes and I’m scared that will happen to me because I know she takes a lot of medicine and I don’t want that for my future or my brother and sister.”

So Leos has trained to teach Zumba herself in her own community.

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