The FlexSchool Chess Club, run by International Chess Academy, will run Thursdays 3:30–4:30 starting March 26. The club includes both Introductory & Intermediate/Adv. ICA charges a fee for classes. We are opening this club up to the local community as well.
We are proud to announce that our robotics team walked away from the FIRSTTech Challenge event with the 2nd place Inspire Award and 1st place Design Award! These awards qualify the team for the NJ State competition for the first time! Flex on ‘em, Flexagons!
As I reflect on my third week at FlexSchool and gear up for Week 4, I’m noticing an evolution of sorts.
During Week 1, we at FlexSchool worked hard to create a community in which children could feel safe and accepted just as they are. We nurtured relationships and established trust. Of course, this is an ongoing process.
Week 2 brought with it the opportunity for teachers and staff to learn about each child and discover strategies with which to help them learn and grow. This week involved a lot of trial and error while finding effective ways to motivate and encourage the students. Boundaries were tested, and everyone at FlexSchool began to find their ‘groove’. Again, this will be ongoing.
In Week 3, we were ready to begin tightening up the structure and routine of FlexSchool. We know that humans crave order and structure and that children feel ‘safer’ when there is predictability. Some students cleverly argued that this isn’t very ‘FLEX’ible, but we explained that flexibility comes from structure. We are flexible within the methods by which students engage in and with content, in the level or depth of the content, and in the way students can show mastery of the content. We are flexible when they need a quick break, or need to talk to someone. They will learn via their strengths while managing their challenges.
We are still working to uncover and nurture the strengths of each child, and finding ways to allow them to use those strengths to learn at the appropriate pace and depth. Ultimately, our goal is to help students develop a growth mindset. We want students to use their resiliency tools to tackle content that is just out of their reach, content that requires an element of struggle. We want them to fail just enough to realize that it is in failing that we learn and grow. We want them to become lifelong learners.
So what will Week 4 bring? Challenge. We will start raising the bar for our students so they can develop a sense of self-efficacy. Of course, they will be scaffolded and supported through it all. But we want them to grapple with interesting, thought-provoking content and go home feeling fulfilled and inspired.
Over the past 8 years of teaching, one of the most incredible things I have learned is that a child can be both gifted and learning disabled, also known as twice-exceptional (2e). I, like many others in education, did not truly understand this concept. Sure, I had seen movies like Rain Man and was amazed at the special abilities portrayed by characters who were on the ASD spectrum. After teaching gifted and talented for a few years, I discovered that savant syndrome is rare, while 2e is more common than people realize. These children are education’s metaphorical unicorns. Do they really exist? Could they be languishing or struggling in our classrooms? How can we spot them? How can we help them succeed?
The drive to understand these learners and the passion to create an environment that nurtures their strengths has led me to FlexSchool. I am honored and excited to start this role as Opening Head of School at FlexSchool’s newest campus in beautiful Bronxville, New York! We are excited to be able to offer an exceptional learning environment where gifted and 2e students are accepted, valued, and supported. FlexSchool enables students to embrace and celebrate the unique and incredible people that they truly are, and to make lasting friendships with peers who can relate to and appreciate them. Our teachers are compassionate and knowledgeable, and students are able to learn in a way that best fits their strengths. FlexSchool allows students to experience the joy of authentic learning in a way that’s just right for them. I welcome anyone who is interested to come by for a visit to see FlexSchool in action.
The first edition of Wilder – A FlexSchool Student Magazine is here! You may download the PDF here. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this magazine happen! Our students never cease to amaze us!
Recently, Jacqui sat down with our friend Debbie Reber, host of the wonderful Tilt Parenting podcast and author of Differently Wired both of which are phenomenal resources for parents of twice-exceptional children. In this podcast, you will hear Jacqui speak about why she began FlexSchool, why it is designed as a network of small schools, how our schools meet the unique needs of 2e learners, as well as how parents and communities can bring a FlexSchool campus to their area.
“I mean, I just have to say when I came down to check out the school and I walked in and I just loved every student immediately. It was like these are the cool, differently wired, awesome creative kids! It was just such a great vibe.” – Debbie Reber
Ever since I was a kid, I tried to start my day with some sort of physical activity. That is, until three years ago, when I finished Grad School and became a Dad. I suddenly found myself with a different schedule and different priorities. Since then, I have found that I have far less energy than I used to, and it impacted virtually every aspect of my life. Sure, it could be that I’m getting older, getting a LOT less sleep, but, what if this change to my daily routine had something to do with it? So, as any good scientist would, I decided to test this hypothesis. I decided that I would force myself to do what I’ve always done, even if it meant getting EVEN less sleep. So, with my alarm set for 4:45 a.m., I began my experiment.
The first week was tough, I am not going to lie. My body ached, I was cranky, and I was ready to hit the pillow the second I walked in the door from work. The second week was easier, I found myself gaining more energy and generally feeling more positive. By the third week, I found myself waking up a few minutes before the alarm and having more energy than I could remember in a long time. But, the most profound change I noticed was how focused and productive I was at work. As an Exercise Physiologist, I know the research, exercise has positive effects on mood… exercise impacts cognitive function…. blah, blah, blah. But, it wasn’t until I experienced the impact first-hand that it hit me. What a difference starting your day with a physical activity makes!
Then I started thinking why is it that schools don’t have physical education first thing in the morning? Wouldn’t it be great for all students to start their day full of energy and ready to concentrate? As a good Scientist, here is where I give you the “facts and figures” in Geek Speak. There is well-established research demonstrating the positive effects of exercise and physical activity in the general population with regards to overall health and disease states. However, the research on the impact of exercise in the preadolescent and adolescent population and how it affects cognitive function is in its infancy. A review of current literature suggests that improvements in cardiorespiratory function have positive effects on mood and self-esteem and is positively associated with higher academic performance.1,2 A study specifically evaluating preadolescent students suggested that aerobic capacity was positively associated with academic performance; including total academic achievement, mathematic achievement and reading achievement.3 Several studies have delved further, examining effects of physical activity in the classroom setting with evidence supporting that single acute-bouts of moderately-intense aerobic exercise (e.g. walking) increases attention and academic performance.4,5The benefits of exercise go beyond those seen in the general population when we look at the 2e population. Recent studies have shown that students that have ADD/ADHD perform better in the classroom throughout the day due to the release of dopamine during exercise.6 Furthermore, research has shown that a single bout of moderate exercise can increase executive functioning immediately afterwards, and with continued stimulation can have a long last effect.7Pretty cool, huh?
So, what does that mean? It means that motion stimulates creativity, improves student well-being, and fosters academic stamina. To me, those results sound like the frame work of a good Mission Statement for any up and coming school, no? That’s why I firmly believe that starting every day at FlexSchool with physical activity is important to my students’ health and academic performance. I devote the first period of the day to Wellness, to allow each of my students to “rev up” or “supercharge” their brains for the day. Whether or not everyone of my students will experience the benefits observed in the “research” is arguable. However, do I care enough about my students to give them every opportunity to thrive? ABSOLUTELY.
Ortega, F., Ruiz, J., Castillo, M., Sjostrom, M., Physical fitness in childhood and adolescence: a powerful marker of health. International Journal of Obesity, 2008; v32: 1–11.
Singh, A., Uijtdewilligen, L., Twisk, J., van Mechelen, W., Chinapaw, M., Physical Activity and Performance at School. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med.2012;166(1):49-55
Castelli, D., Hillman, C., Buck, S., Erwin, H., Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement in Third- and Fifth-Grade Students.JSEP, 2007; V29(2): 239-252.
Hillman, C.,Pontifex, M., Raine,L., Castelli, D., Hall, E.,Kramer, A., The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children. Neuroscience, 2009; v159(3),1044-1054.
Donnelly, J., Lambourne, K., Classroom-based physical activity, cognition, and academic achievement. Prev Med. 2011; v2:S36-S42
Guiney, H., Machado, L., Benefits of regular aerobic exercise for executive functioning in healthy populations. Psychon Bull Rev, 2013; v20:73-86.
Xiang, Q., Yih Xian Ho, C., WuenChan, H., Zheng Jie Yong, B.,Wee-Song, W. Managing childhood and adolescent attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with exercise: A systematic review. Complementary Therapies in Medicine,2017; v20:123-128.