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April 27, 2017

The 20 Time Project --- Guest Post by Teen Board Member Jessica K.

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As I'm sure most teens know, high school can be very time consuming and tiring. From extracurricular activities to class work, there's not a lot of free time to invest in hobbies like reading. Being a freshman, I was used to having lots of free time to read, play piano, or just do anything else I was interested in, until the workload of high school really began. That's why the 20 Time project drew me in so much, and became one of my favorite parts in my school week.

"Besides giving students a relaxation from the usual intensity of school, teachers have observed the countless benefits this project has given students. The 20 Time project encourages creativity and a drive to work hard, and even improves critical thinking ability."

The 20 Time project began at Google, where they allowed their employees to devote 20 percent of their work time each week to do any project they wanted to work on. Gmail, AdSense, and other ideas were all created by the employees during this free time --- programs we, naturally, take for granted. After seeing the success Google had with this project, many teachers began to pick up this idea and apply it to their classrooms. In my case, my English teacher decided to give us each Friday in class to do whatever we want. Upon hearing this, my class seemed confused as to what this meant. Teachers giving us time during class to work on anything we wanted? Absurd! From what we knew, school was time for memorization, difficult math problems and stressful tests --- not entire class periods of freedom. Yet this project gave us exactly that.

Besides giving students a relaxation from the usual intensity of school, teachers have observed the countless benefits this project has given students. The 20 Time project encourages creativity and a drive to work hard, and even improves critical thinking ability. To create some order into this project, we followed a guideline of what to work on. The first week or two, we came up with what we would work on, and started forming an implementation plan. This outlined how we planned to proceed with our project throughout the semester. Then, we pitched the idea to our class, to gain support for our project or to help work out the specifics. Every week in the semester we wrote weekly reflections of what we worked on, and finally at the end of the semester, we produced a small presentation of our work.

Excluding the lenient guidelines, students were given the freedom to do anything they were interested in. Students in my class were ecstatic, and immediately became invested in their projects. One student taught himself how to juggle, and another became a vegetarian, learning different recipes and benefits during class. Other people learned how to code a website, created a short film, learned how to bake, or simply worked to decrease their mile time, studying different techniques during class. Others simply devoted their time to reading books in order to read more and learn the positive impacts of reading every day. For my project, I created a social experiment, forming a few assessments to test out on my friends and classmates, in order to learn how much a first impression actually matters in life.

I wanted to share about this project because I believe it’s something all teachers should include in their classrooms. My previously bored and unmotivated classmates finally had something to look forward to, become excited about, and could actually enjoy their learning for once. Allowing students the opportunity to study what they want engaged them more in class, and increased the value of their education. If teachers feel this will take too much of their time, remember, it’s only 20 percent.