Graduate students take School of Education’s FLEX Program virtual

This year the FLEX Program offered academically gifted students from the Alamance Burlington School System the opportunity to learn fresh, engaging lessons virtually from M.Ed. and gifted licensure candidates.

When preparing for the Elon School of Education’s FLEX Program, Director Lisa Eilers went from asking herself, “Are we going to do this?” to “How are we going to do this?” That decision to move the summer enrichment program online took extra planning and adapting it for Google Classroom and Zoom, but Eilers said it was well worth it, for both the local students involved and the Elon graduate students who took the lead in the virtual classrooms.

“I think we all realized that the kids need this,” said Eilers, an instructor in education. “They need the mental stimulation from each other. They need the emotional time to spend with each other.”

The FLEX (Formative Learning EXperiences) Program is a summer enrichment experience for academically gifted students from the Alamance-Burlington School System. This year, the program provided 50 rising fourth- through eighth-grade students a unique virtual learning experience while home for the summer.

FLEX also serves as an internship for graduate students in Elon’s Collaboration, Consultation and Innovation capstone course that is part of the Master’s of Education curriculum. The candidates are licensed teachers who are either pursuing a special licensure for teaching academically gifted students or are working toward their master’s of education degree. FLEX pushes the candidates to open their minds to new ways of teaching.

I think we all realized that the kids need this. They need the mental stimulation from each other. They need the emotional time to spend with each other.

— Lisa Eilers, director of the FLEX program

Fourth-grade participants went on a new adventure with “Survivor StayCation Edition.” They learned about different regions, created shelters, had both mental and physical challenges, and learned about the importance of teamwork. Though virtual, the fourth-grade participants were very engaged and were able to work collaboratively.

“This FLEX Program experience has helped prepare me for distance learning for 2020-2021 by reminding me that students are capable of so much more than we give them credit for,” said AIG licensure candidate Melissa Quimby. “If we allow them to engage in project-based learning, they will amaze us with their abilities.”

Fifth-grade participants focused on exploring art through the five senses. They used topics of nature, astronomy, culture and movement to explore the different senses and art forms. Throughout the program, participants created different art forms, played interactive games, and held competitions between small groups of students. Participants were also able to use many technological resources, such as Kahoot, Lino, and Goosechase.

The theme, “Beyond Borders,” had sixth-grade participants playing the role of travel agents, conducting research, and creating products to market a chosen country. Traveling virtually around the world, allowed participants to grow and open their minds by viewing spectacular buildings, exploring different cultures and the history behind them.  The theme, “The ‘Make-It’ Edition,” had seventh- and eighth-grade participants engaged in a plethora of activities centered around inquiry-based learning, hands-on activities, problem-solving and creativity.

In her reflection, Rachel Yarbrough, a candidate in the M.Ed. in Gifted Education Program said, “FLEX Camp has been one of my favorite parts of the M.Ed. program. It was wonderful to be able to apply all of the instructional strategies, methods, technology, and everything else that we have learned in the program to this camp in the form of teaching and interacting with students. I know that I will be able to use the knowledge and skills I gained from this experience to my classroom in the future.”