The Project That Wasn’t

Recently one of my students asked if we could do a ‘bottle flip challenge’. Sure, I said. There’s all kinds of physics involved: inertia, angular momentum, mass, center of gravity. I got the bottles, made up some tally sheets and after explaining the science behind it I set them loose to experiment.

Not all projects are winners – sometimes the directions are just too complicated or it doesn’t work as well as when I did it at home. Occasionally, however, a project becomes something completely different. This was one of those projects. After a frustrating ten minutes or so, none of the kids had landed their bottles (I’ll be talking about fine motor skills – or lack thereof – soon!), even at the ‘right’ amount of mass. Amidst a minor meltdown, one girl added a bit of soap to her bottle, stating “Well, it can’t hurt!”. That led to other students adding soap, leftover tea, some sugar from packets they found in a cupboard. Soon, they were all creating ‘potions’, laughing and naming their new creations. The angst of the bottle flipping was fast forgotten and creativity was flowing.

I encourage these rigid kids to try to be more flexible; things don’t always work out as you expect them to and it’s okay to go with the flow. Amazing inventions have occurred when things didn’t go according to plan. But this is a difficult concept, for gifted kids and adults alike. As a teacher, I sometimes need to that reminder too.

Working with gifted kids, we (parents, teachers, other adults in their lives) feel a lot of pressure to challenge them, expose them to new ideas, and foster their interests. We come up with activities and imagine them studiously plugging away. As any parent or teacher knows, however, that’s rarely the result. How many times do we start with one activity and end with a completely different one? Do you go with the flow or keep encouraging the original project? If we slow down and take cues from them, we might be surprised at the things they are actually learning and experiencing.

While gifted kids aren’t usually known for their flexibility, if given the opportunity they can sometime surprise us with their creativity and ability to adapt – and hopefully we can learn to join them!

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