Launch Exceptional Learner Services: Gifted Education Services

Did you know that 60 percent of Missouri school districts do not offer certified gifted programming? Once the leadership team at Launch learned this statistic a few years ago, we knew we had to find a way to help. We
By Savannah Waszczuk

Did you know that 60 percent of Missouri school districts do not offer certified gifted programming? Once the leadership team at Launch learned this statistic a few years ago, we knew we had to find a way to help. We quickly hired a team to write gifted curriculum, then added gifted-certified teachers to our roster and began offering gifted elementary courses statewide for the 2021-2022 school year.

Fast forward to 2023, and we have a bit of experience under our belts. And just as with all Launch offerings, we’re continuing to adjust our gifted programming to best serve partners. “We’ve made the schedule a bit more flexible this year,” says Launch Elementary Principal Helen Williams. “Students can take the classes live or asynchronously. We are also able to serve both full-time or part-time students. Really, if a student wants to take a gifted class with Launch, the only requirement is that they qualify for gifted services in their home school district.”

While Launch’s gifted curriculum is focused on core subjects, a lot of the gifted content revolves around taking student interests and exploring topics further—this is how we’re able to offer exciting class selections such as Paleontology,  Oceanography, Microcosmos and Myths & Legends. The curriculum is also designed to include both affective and thinking skills, which helps gifted students better understand and examine content and helps them work on their communication and problem-solving skills. “There’s a lot of peer-to-peer interaction in these classes, too,” Helen says.

Now halfway through year two, Launch has students statewide enrolled in gifted classes—and they’re telling us they love it. ”I think that  students who are excelling in our gifted program enjoy it for a lot of reasons,” Helen says. “They get to have live lessons with their teachers and classmates, which is especially rewarding for those kids who are online full-time. They also have the chance to interact with kids outside of their traditional grade level, and they get to know other gifted students who think the same way they do.”

A Glimpse of Gifted Programming

Meet twin sisters Jane and Lily Holland, two full-time virtual fourth graders who enjoy learning and interacting with other kiddos in their Launch gifted course.

Ask fourth graders Jane and Lily Holland their favorite thing about their Gifted Launch course, and they’ll each have a list of answers. “I like the ‘-ology’ section we’re doing now,” Jane says. “Last week we learned about herbology, and we each chose a specific herb to study. I chose lemon grass, which has a scientific name that’s very hard to say!”

Lily joins in on the conversation by sharing her favorite things, which includes the class’s small size. “We are in there with five other kids,” she says. “We get to talk with all of them a lot. They’re all very nice!”

Residents of the Ladue school district, Lily and Jane have been full-time virtual Launch students since the 2021-2022 school year. And while the twins also both particularly like Launch because it allows them to work at their own pace—and because their kittens can sit on their laps as they learn—their mother, Kristy Holland, says she likes the small class sizes and the student-teacher interaction. “The teachers are accessible and interactive,” Kristy says. “Overall, Launch has allowed them to excel.”

When it comes to Launch’s gifted program in particular, Kristy is excited to have the option for her growing girls. “They started gifted Spring of last year, when we learned it existed through Launch,” she says. “It has been very fun and enriching for them. There’s interesting and unique material, along with lots of games and brain teasers.”

Looking ahead, the girls look forward to learning about time travel in their Spring 2023 gifted class, all while continuing to strive for the future of their dreams. “I want to be a YouTuber, and also live in a camper van and travel the world,” Jane says. Lily’s current list of career aspirations aren’t quite as final—she’s dreamed about being a photographer, a teacher and working with kiddos at a daycare—but  she does know that she’s heading South. “I know I want to live in Florida and live my best life,” Lily says.

An Assignment at a Glance

In the First and Second Grade Gifted course, students enjoy a fun interactive “Dino Dig” assignment. For this engaging activity, students drag and drop pieces of sand from a roped-off area to a pile of sand near the shovel. They then work to piece together their discovered dinosaur bones to form a skeleton. After completing the skeleton, they infer the type of dinosaur they believe they constructed.