As students file into Jace Dutweiler’s Flex Time technology period at Logan Elementary School in Logan Township, New Jersey, they grab kits of Legos and begin to build elaborate projects. Inspired by concepts in The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child, by Richard Selznick, PhD, Director of the Cooper Learning Center at the Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper, for 30 minutes each day this “special” period allows students to show personal gifts that may not show in the regular classroom.
Since the release of Dr. Selznick’s book in 2009, schools like Logan Elementary have been inspired to create programs that encourage students to learn through the use of hands-on tasks and visually-based activities. Flex Time, a program developed by Logan principal Bob Fisicaro, gives children a chance to express creativity through a number of different course modules or “cohorts”. The school completely revamped its curriculum as a result of the inspiration from Dr. Selznick’s book.
“When I wrote The Shut-Down Learner, I was primarily aiming to help parents gain perspective on their struggling children,” says Dr. Selznick. “Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought that a school district would revamp its curriculum based on concepts from my book.”
In his book, Dr. Selznick describes shut-down learners as students who struggle with reading, writing and spelling, leading to a lowered self-esteem and a dislike for school. They become so increasingly angry that they try to avoid school tasks such as doing homework or taking tests.
“The normal curriculum does not work for many children. Most subjects such as social studies, science, language arts, and math leave a number of children depleted,” continues Dr. Selznick. “Yet we persist with these in traditional ways largely because the curriculum is the way it has always been.”
The Flex Time program is motivating and energizing the students at Logan Elementary. Parents have also noticed the change in their children, sending the school a number of emails in praise of the program. In total, there are eight sessions throughout the year, each one lasting four weeks. In addition to the technology class there are also options for puppetry, guitar, piano, perspective drawing, movement/dance, and special math classes.