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Fifth-grade students work on pet projects, follow their passions on class time

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Tyton Rocha and some of his Welches Elementary classmates rehearse their zombie apocalypse film.Kalee Adams, a fifth-grade teacher at Welches Elementary School, has implemented an innovative way for students' imagination to flourish in the classroom. The program is called genius hour.

Started as an opportunity for technology tycoon, Google, to allow its employees to spend time on projects they're passionate about, genius hour has become a creative way to change up curriculum for teachers.

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Jeb Payne shows classmates his new robot. Google's model allows for employees to spend 20 percent of their work week on their projects, and 80 percent on assigned work. Popular email platform Gmail and Google News, were both brainchildren of employees participating in the initiative.

"(They're) really rigorous and high-energy, cross-curricular projects these students get to do," Adams explains of her class.

The class presented its projects at Welches Elementary's showcase at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 31, so that people outside of the class and the school could observe them.

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Emily Felipe works on anti-animal testing poster. Adams first got the idea to host a genius hour from old classmates who had found success with the program. When the class first began the process, it brainstormed "big categories" to create projects from, then created criteria.

Every student, before he or she can begin a project, has to submit and have approved a project proposal, the topic of which must require research, allow the student to create something and be presented to the class after completion.

"The whole purpose of genius hour is to reach as many people as possible," Adams says, noting she is looking forward to seeing what the students have accomplished on display that evening. "They've worked really hard and (that have) pride in it."

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Two students work on website design.Projects from Adams' class include a few short films, a project to build and program a robot, the research and creation of various types of slime, creating various posters and websites promoting causes such as ending animal cruelty and women's rights, among many others.

Anthony Felipe and his cousin Emily Felipe are creating a poster to present a strong anti-animal testing front. Anthony Felipe explains that once he found out about what was being done to many animals every day, he wanted to learn more.

"(One video I watched) showed, like, bunnies with horrible eyes," Anthony Felipe says. "I thought it would be fun to make a board to show it's not fun to be an animal in a cage."

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - One girl creates numerous types of slime she researched. The duo's poster will show not only problems with animal testing, but alternative products for people to buy that are free of animal products or haven't been tested on animals.

"I love my animals and would never want to hurt them," he says. Between the two of them, the students own dogs, fish, horses, chickens and goats. "It's fun (also) to see other people's creations."

Tyson Rocha says he's "always seen movies and I always want to make one." That's why he chose to direct a short zombie apocalypse film. "It's fun to see other people admiring and watching what you've done."

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