I could never have envisioned what this school year had in store for us. Did any of us?! We were tasked with re-imagining our educational program within just a few days and I’m proud to say that Feynman School has hit it out of the park!
Feynman School teachers are second to none when teaching inside our school building and have far surpassed all expectations during this COVID-19 crisis. They jumped feet first into the unknown territory of online learning, all a while reassuring their gifted students that although the physical environment has temporarily changed, their learning community is still as strong as ever. They have shown incredible flexibility and compassion for both their students and their families by continuously making themselves available for both emotional and academic support.
According to NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children), Feynman School is employing best practices in gifted education for distance learning. First off, our teachers understand how important communication is during this time to help our students and families feel connected to the Feynman School community. Each day starts with a class morning meeting to set the tone for the day so that students feel prepared academically and emotionally. This second piece is critical, as gifted children tend to feel emotions deeply, so their social-emotional needs must be nurtured during a time of crisis.
Second, teachers have made themselves available to both students and parents throughout the day to answer questions about accessing work, technology, schedules and, most importantly, to discuss the emotional well-being of students and families.
In addition, our teachers are expertly blending asynchronous and synchronous learning experiences. Feynman School teachers understand that all-day Google Meets or Zoom meetings are not developmentally appropriate for any of our students. They have incorporated whole group meetings, small group meetings, one-on-one meetings, recorded video lessons, and off-line activities to balance the various constraints on our families and to continue to deliver differentiated instruction.
Also, our teachers are incorporating interdisciplinary learning opportunities for students, another best practice within the field of gifted education. For example, our third graders are working on partner projects in STEM and are engaging in a social studies unit that blends the reading of historical fiction within it. And fourth-grade chemists are enthusiastically learning about a self-chosen element from the periodic table, working on the project at their own pace and in their own way. Our fifth-grade coders are creating unique and hilarious Mad Libs to share at Morning Meetings.
Allowing choice within the curriculum has always been important in the education of gifted learners, and our teachers understand that this choice is particularly important at this time when students may not feel in control of their learning like they do within the walls of our school. This element of choice is critical for gifted learners to take ownership of their education. Plus, teachers are empowering our students to become advocates for themselves by hosting office hours and creating Help Needed website pages, a college-readiness skill that even students as young as second grade are becoming adept at.
And above all, Feynman School teachers are integrating FUN into their distance learning by hosting Spirit Days like Wacky Wednesday; assigning classroom jobs like a meteorologist, meme master, or idiom decoder; allowing pets to come to “school,” and using novel tech tools such as spinners to spice things up.
We are so proud of our faculty and students for being able to adapt so quickly to this new paradigm of learning, a testament to the amazing resilience of our community.