5 Ways to Create an Enriched Learning Environment for ALL Students

It is imperative that building principals create a school environment that is inviting, engaging, and conducive to learning for ALL students.  One fundamental belief based upon the work of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences is that ALL students are gifted and talented in some (many) area(s) beyond the findings of any formalized assessment measure. Sadly, with all the demands of local, state, and federal mandates, an enriched learning environment for ALL students can get lost in the noise of bureaucracy and a false sense of accountability.

Do you want ALL your students to be enriched as a building wide campaign?

Here are 5 Ways to Create an Enriched Learning Environment for ALL Students:

  1. Believe and Learn

Believe that ALL students are gifted and talented in something.  There are countless articles in circulation about gifted and talented education.  Learn as much as you can about Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and other gifted and talented models and theories.  Gardner says that these differences “challenge an educational system that assumes that everyone can learn the same materials in the same way and that a uniform, universal measure suffices to test student learning. Indeed, as currently constituted, our educational system is heavily biased toward linguistic modes of instruction and assessment and, to a somewhat lesser degree, toward logical-quantitative modes as well.” Gardner argues that “a contrasting set of assumptions is more likely to be educationally effective. Students learn in ways that are identifiably distinctive. The broad spectrum of students – and perhaps the society as a whole – would be better served if disciplines could be presented in a numbers of ways and learning could be assessed through a variety of means (Lane, C., 2008). Be reflective and think about what ideal enrichment opportunities ALL students deserve would look like under your leadership?

  1. Share Your Enrichment Vision with ALL Stakeholders of the Community

Communicate your beliefs and thoughts about enrichment for ALL students with ALL stakeholders. This includes the superintendent, Board of Education, teachers, parents, staff, community advocates, and students of the community. Introduce this concept to your teacher leadership team, staff, and students if age appropriate in order to bring them onboard.  Be sure to share a variety of research articles on gifted and talented theories and programs. A great way to engage your community would be to hold a Principal’s Coffee or Tea and discuss your dreams of enrichment for ALL students. Finally, seek out and provide appropriate professional development opportunities when necessary.

  1. An Enrichment Team

Invite teachers, parents, community members, staff, and students to be part of the enrichment team.   This team must include stakeholders who are excited about creating innovative enrichment opportunities for ALL students. During these meetings, share research materials and sample programs from exemplar schools. Regular meetings should be held in order to keep the group engaged and moving forward.

  1. The Enrichment Plan and Soliciting Facilitators

Develop a clear vision and design a realistic plan for enrichment opportunities using the Building Level Enrichment Team as the driving force for enrichment opportunities.  Use informal surveys and questionnaires to help design the enrichment program that best fits the needs of your students (depending on age/grade level – teachers and parents can also assist).

Questions to ask yourself and your team: What types of opportunities best serve your students’ needs?   What types of opportunities do your students want? Do your students want to learn how to sing Opera or do they want to build a robot? Who will serve as the facilitators of these enrichment opportunities?

Ensure that you are utilizing the diverse talents of your teachers and staff as well as parents and community members to serve as facilitators.  Another great idea is to partner with your local college and university.

  1. Creative Scheduling

Do NOT let the daily bell schedule dictate the endless enrichment possibilities! What about a Friday afternoon block of time, lunch time eat and learn, eliminating study hall, or extending the day twice a month?  There are many creative scheduling ways that can be instituted in your school. Check out the concept of the Genius Hour: http://www.geniushour.com/

Effective enrichment programs can be instrumental learning tools for any grade level. Initially, identify one or two grade levels (depending on enrollment size) in your school to pilot the enrichment program.  Learn from the “pilot” and grow the program. An enrichment program can also be designed to include many grade levels together given the same course opportunities. In the end, providing enrichment to ALL students will benefit each student!

Lane, C. (2008). The Distance Learning Technology Resource Guide. Retrieved 04 25,2018,         from Multiple Intelligences: http://www.tecweb.org/styles/gardner .html

Dawn-Marie Blasl is an Associate Professor of Transitional Studies, Division Chairperson, and Director of College-in-the High School at Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson, New York. Her career in education includes teaching K-12 Italian, ESL, and serving as both an elementary and a secondary school principal during her tenure in the Yonkers Public School District in Yonkers.  She has received training in gifted and talented education as well as Montessori education.

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