School of Education helps students ‘FLEX’ their minds in summer program

The FLEX Program is offered by Elon’s Master’s of Education program, with M.Ed. and special licensure candidates creating the curriculum and working with academically gifted students. 

Sixth-grade students talk about their invention — the Cupball — that they conceived of and marketed as part of the FLEX Program.
Aashna Wadhwani was hard at work telling the story of Fauna, a superhero she and her teammates conceived who will help protect endangered species around the world. In a computer lab in Mooney Building, the rising Western Middle School seventh grader edited a video that will help introduce Fauna, one of several superheros designed by those in the summer FLEX Program at Elon for academically gifted students.

Offered by Elon’s Master’s of Education program, FLEX gave Wadhwani and her fellow participants from the Alamance Burlington School System the opportunity to collaborate and be creative, while doing the same for the team of 10 teachers working with the students during the eight-day program. The teachers, who are either pursuing a master’s degree in education or seeking state licensure in gifted education, devised the curriculum for FLEX, created the challenges and worked with the 70 students in the program to give them the tools to succeed.

Students in the seventh- and eight-grade group talk about a video they made about an invented superhero who tackles a world problem. 
​“They work together, they collaborate and consult and they design the curriculum as teams,” Glenda Crawford, professor emerita and coordinator of the program, said of the 10 teachers leading FLEX.

Along with the superhero challenge for rising seventh- and eighth-graders, younger students crafted proposals to host the World Cup and designed and marketed Rube Goldberg-style inventions to accomplish everyday tasks and created a new Olympic event tied to a specific country.

“These students have learned so much about collaboration, which is important because sometimes gifted students prefer to work independently,” Crawford said. “They are learning to work together and are developing new skills.”

FLEX, which stands for Formative Learning Experience, is an internship experience for M.Ed. students that is the culmination of a curriculum designed to assist teachers in learning a broad range of skills needed for working with academically gifted children. The teachers have completed courses in areas such as the foundations of gifted education and the social and emotional needs of gifted students.

“These students are typically two academic grades ahead in their intellectual capabilities, but they are still children and they have the social and emotional needs of their age,” Crawford said. “The teachers have created a very inviting, colorful and visually appealing learning environment for FLEX. The students are engaged as soon as they come in the classroom.”

A FLEX program student explains her group's superhero before unveiling a model the group made of the superhero, and supervillain. 
​Hope Heverly and Lauren McAmis, both fourth-grade teachers for Guilford County Schools, crafted a curriculum for the third- and fourth-grade FLEX students that centered around studying a particular country and then creating an Olympic sport that draws from that country’s history and culture. For instance, Carys Hicks and her team devised a new competition for France that involved climbing the Eiffel Tower and then sliding down a zip line while avoiding croissants and cheese that were being flung at each competitor. Each event was then marketed to parents, who attended a Showcase on Wednesday, the final day of FLEX, and voted on their favorite event.

“This really allowed for all of the students’ creativity and interests to be put into play,” said McAmis, who is seeking her gifted education licensure. 

Heverly, who is pursuing her master’s degree, said that FLEX allowed her to put into practice many of the strategies and techniques she had learned about during earlier courses. “This program has really introduced me to new strategies, and offered me ways to differentiate my teaching,” Heverly said. “It has been amazing to be around these kids and see how they think.”