After working with gifted and twice-exceptional children for over ten years, I’ve become firmly convinced that project-based learning provides incredibly fruitful results.

Project-based learning environments support students with a range of abilities and interests; the self-directed nature scaffolds each student as they connect with their intrinsic motivation and positive self-image.

The challenge, though, is that project-based learners are rarely born, they’re made.

When I say “made” I mean that the self-management skills required to become truly self-aware while connecting to our sense of purpose develop over time, and only for those of us who are lucky enough to be given the space for it.

In a previous post, I shared with you some of the thought and planning that went into the design of the Sunnyside Micro-School, a micro-school I founded for gifted and twice-exceptional families in Oakland, CA. Now I want to give you a deeper look into how we have structured project-based learning specifically for gifted and twice-exceptional children.

At Sunnyside Micro-School, we provide the necessary space for learners to develop a strong sense of purpose. In addition, we include the modeling, accountability, and guidance necessary for gifted and twice-exceptional children to thrive as self-directed learners. Our commitment to this ideal is the backbone of our group work periods.

Upon enrollment, Sunnyside students begin to lay the foundation for project-based learning via a series of Design Thinking challenges.

Each student is presented with a sequential series of design challenges and projects created to deepen their understanding of electricity, sound, structures, and more. These first projects build the groundwork and give each student a taste of what it means to think like an engineer or designer.

Of course, students come to us with varying skill levels and experiences, and as such, our projects are deeply differentiated to accommodate a range of learners. This is how we accommodate asynchronous learning in a group setting.

I was introduced to Design Thinking at an education conference in 2008 and loved how the framework enabled the designer to blow by perfectionism, while encouraging resilience and developing critical thinking skills. This creates a natural and often overlooked opportunity for social-emotional learning in the classroom, all the while engaging learners in tangible problems they’re eager to solve.

Humans, at their best, are all trying to solve problems and to improve conditions for ourselves and others. As I created the Sunnyside Micro-School, I sought to tap into that universal truth to design a meaningful learning environment for quirky, sensitive, and wonderful gifted and twice-exceptional kids. An environment where learners could stretch and grow while also being fascinated and delighted.

I’m happy to say that each school day, I see my students rise to meet new challenges. I see them solve problems, both in our curriculum, and in their own learning. They are not only becoming more adept at the material we study; they are becoming more aware of who they are as learners.

If you feel your g/2e learner would benefit from the space to discover their unique learning style, or if you’re curious what problem-based learning looks like in action, schedule a visit today. Use this form to contact us directly

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