Leonardo Gifted School is partner or member of: COBIS - Council of British International Schools, ECHA - European Council for High Ability, WCGTC - World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, AERO - Alternative Education Resource Organization, BPLUSA - Big Picture Learning Design USA, University of Bucharest - Faculty of Phychology and Educational Sciences, University of Connecticut - Neag School of Education, Simon Fraser University - Faculty of Education
First hand, we offer an environment of love – we cater for their social emotional needs. Children don’t listen to what we say, as teachers, but in particular, they follow our energy „They learn who we are”.
We know we need to facilitate their learning, to offer a life model, a behaviour model for the children. Children retain mostly our high energy, our high level of enthusiasm, high feelings and effusions, which are contagious. They also feel how we behave one to another as colleagues, as a team in the breaks, or during the co-trainership courses.
We do co-trainings, most of the times, which means that in the classroom there are 4 trainers: a leading teacher, a teacher’s assistant, a specialized teacher or a psychologist co-trainer and a volunteer. The leading teacher is the main driver of the course. The other 3 trainers have the role to observe, to intervene on emotional or bring empathy to the situation.
Working with parents
We have a strong pillar in the program: we work with kids, as well as parents – they have a dedicated program of formation of over 20 hours of group and individual work with counsellors and psychologists (to develop new skills, attitudes and tools to offer the same nurturing environment and quality relationship also at home – with dedicated programs which work on developing the skills to understand more the needs and the road the child has taken in the program.
Differentiated our nurturing environment has in its main core coming from the the differentiating CURRICULUM with its 4 components which are differentiating an advanced enriched content, PROCESSES (thinking or feeling involved in learning), the PRODUCTS (shows, panels, copy-righting, exhibitions, mind-maps, designs, essays, drama shows, etc) and the LEARNING ENVIRONMENT (i.e. a nurturing environment where they reach an exposure to attitudinal learning, and peers of their group age, of similar high ability, with whom they make friends, and share same interests, passions, ideals; adults around them are having a positive stance and they remark children daily for the positives and help them with their „unacceptable” parts, by reflecting them; we have psychologists working with them on the spot, if a recurrent trauma comes in, even during the course – this is a great add-on to the program because the kids can go home with an issue off their hearts because they can choose to speak about them in a safe, respectful environment with someone who is there only to listen to them, a qualified professional licensed psychologist; we use mostly visual materials adapted to visual – spatial thinkers, and we adapt the curriculum to a holistic thinking (accelerated learning cycle) which follows from the BIG PICTURE, from the whole, and then to the parts, by helping see the children from the start the answer to the question: „Why are we learning this, what is this good for in my life?”; a learning environment where „any idea can be exposed” (if respects the code of conduct); „one vote for each” (kids vote their own rules for conduct); „we are all equal, teachers and kids”, accepting the differences between kids as valuing factors to develop a bigger picture, accepting the differences between the ideas; non-violent communication (Marshal Rosenberg) – we develop a non-conflict environment, an environment where we take charge of what is happening between us through empathic and through an attitude that shows we believe that we can solve through our own powers anything that comes up in the relationships; negotiating the content – or what will happen next if we have an affective situation; empowering kids to learn about their self-management in learning – to own their learning process and development; we negotiate the group rules together- this creates a stimulating, equidistant, specific and centered on the gifted kid which is very beneficial (we have 100% satisfaction rate amongst kids) .
The processes include: learning through games, accelerating methods of learning, as well as mind-mapping across all curriculum, using HOTS –Higher Order Thinking Skills, Question Matrix – global as well as holistic and critical thinking; involving all multiple intelligences, multi-sensory instruction, group and peer-to-peer work, dialogues, debates, hands-on experiential learning (90% we have learning through an experiment or experience), case studies, Teach-Me cases (children teach one to another), solving mysteries and enigmas, SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environment- see Sugata Mitra, the researcher who developed the School in the Cloud – we are using this method of self-learning oriented towards the abilities and self-capabilities of instruction with children – we offer them only support (through mediator, setting the framework, etc) to develop the negotiation, research skills, as well as presenting and team work skills), field trips, technology inventions,
The products that children develop following and during a course include working on their interests and with their abilities to create (see Bloom’s pyramid) individual or group projects which include among many others: essays, paintings, designs, shows, drama-shows, group exhibitions, illustrations, collages, self-advocacy, presentations, exhibits, mind-maps, experiments (self-designed). The final product of learning has to solve provocative situations of current issues of interest to them (students are allowed choice in their learning) and contains a high level of originality, time pressure – or not- depending on the assignment, team work or individual work, creativity, and coordination – flow – to finalize in due time.
The high quality curriculum is flexible, authentic, creative (teachers develop their curriculum based on the group at hand, every year!) oriented self-directed learning, fueling student interest, adjustments in pacing and variety, grouping on interest, on learning styles. We work on a final product that gives the kids an opportunity to solve real-problems, to come to perform and put on stage results which are true-to-life and transformational for themselves – that represent themselves. We invite kids to find their own materials or to be creative and to approximate real-life situations, where you need to plug from what materials you have and develop new things.
We work to integrate in a course the previous courses from different backgrounds, and to make links in the mind of the kids between subjects, as well as draw mind-maps that show the links between separate subjects. The advanced curriculum goes into abstraction, through depth, breadth and complexity.
Our focus is to develop INDEPENDENT thinking „Use your own head” thinking, by stimulating the understanding beyond here and now (provocative thinking through HOTS and Question Matrix ; Thinking and Problem Solving Skills; Most Difficult First; Big Picture) and to offer an environment where kids build on what they KNOW, not on what they don’t know (SOLE, Mind Mapping, Concept Maps, Graphic Organizers).
Collaboration is key
Also, our focus is on COLLAB Working, because team work makea the dream work – we emphasize that the power of many is much larger than the mind of one, and this is our continuous strive, to help them realize the power of the TEAM, across the curriculum.
Our team work makes the dream work
In addition to this, we have a dedicated team of teachers developed in excellence psychopedagogy, who are motivated and in love with the subject at hand. Children are copying the amount of self-respect and self-love they see in us, so they copy first our attitude towards them, amongst us, and the reality per se. They are inspired and some copy this as their new life model. They tend to bring this explosive new energy into their school classrooms and to build from there a new life attitude which we call a great success for our school: building life attitudes, abilities and skills is our focus, not only knowledge.
Our continuous development
We all are professionals who recognize the special education and counselling needs of gifted children and are going through a continuous self-development on gifted education through regular, formal, informal and non-formal trainings on the subject with our own team of psychologists or with international specialists in the field, such as prof. Dr. Florian Colceag, ECHA representative in Romania.
Our team is very energetic, where optimism and positive energy are at their home, even with our training assistants and volunteers – we have developed a special kit of formation for this category in the project, and we always focus on positive welfare for the child through our care, high energy and responsiveness.
Direct work with Psychologists
A great value adding feature of our school is that we work currently with psychologists. Their role is very fruituous for helping children cope with inner discomfort, or unfortunate events, which often happen, and show their effects much later than when they produced. By being there for them, in these moments of discomfort, of crying out for help and healing, these situations can be worked out on the spot. This is of immense benefit for the child. So if a recurrent trauma comes in – even during the course – the child can really be safe to tell his heart out. Then the child can go home with an issue off his heart because here, in our environment, they can choose to speak about it in a safe, respectful environment with someone who is there only to listen to them, who builds a rapport – a qualified professional licensed psychologist.