Online Learning for Gifted Students: Open Window Online

5 kids's faces are shown from below looking up into their faces. Their heads are touching and they are smiling

Online Learning for Gifted Students: Open Window Online

We all want our children to be successful in school. However, sometimes they are highly successful but are not challenged. They might say school is boring or not interesting, but the report card comes home glowing. For parents, finding a school that meets their needs can be tough. And public and private programs for academically talented students are all over the map, so finding a good fit can be a challenge too.

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As one of Washington’s premier schools dedicated to understanding and teaching gifted students, Open Window School is excited to announce a new program open to gifted 4th and 5th graders in Southwest Washington – Open Window Online.

The pandemic gave almost every parent and child experience with online school at some point, with varying degrees of satisfaction and success. It is important to recognize, however, that the distance learning experienced by most families during the pandemic was nothing like programs intentionally designed to be taught online. Far from being a fad, effective remote learning has been happening in K-12 education for decades and when designed well, has proven to be highly effective. Also, experts interviewed in a article predicted that anywhere from 35%-65% of adults will work remotely for at least part of their workweek as we move forward. This suggests that it is practical to help students learn how to work, communicate, and collaborate in online spaces and Open Window Online has been developed to do just that.

Open Window School has decades of experience working with gifted families and we know that gifted students make connections between a wide array of ideas and content. To meet that need, our teachers designed Open Window Online focused on integrated, cross-discipline projects which inspire students with real-life, engaging, and complex questions, problems, and challenges. These projects require students to learn content across several disciplines (math, science, social studies, writing, etc.), actively practice collaboration, and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills to successfully demonstrate their learning to an authentic audience of teachers, business leaders, scientists, and others.  

Along with solving real-life challenges, we know that gifted students benefit from spending lots of time and energy exploring their passions and interests. Open Window Online students will have opportunities to dive deeply into ideas and topics that matter to them. Whether it is sharks or space, ballet or computer programming, students do not have to wait for school to be over before they can explore their personal passions. 

A woman in a classroom sits in front of a camera showing  diagrams on a white board

As they explore and develop their passions, Open Window Online students do real work that matters. The program is structured around student collaboration because how students learn is just as important as what they learn. Our program teaches students how to collaborate in diverse situations: from a class meeting of 12 to small groups to partnerships. Students are not expected to innately know how to work together–we spend time teaching them those tools along with the content. 

Another benefit of Open Window Online is that our teachers can differentiate to a greater extent than is possible in a normal classroom. This does not mean just giving students more challenging work; when students are working on individual understanding of certain topics and concepts, they will have multiple opportunities to meet one-on-one and in small groups with teachers as they receive instruction and content to fit their current level.

A unique aspect of Open Window Online is our frequent field trips. As we build a community of learners across Western and Southwestern Washington, we will meet in person (likely in the Puget Sound area) every 5-6 weeks during the school year. Each excursion will have a dual focus on building a strong learning community and deepening the learning of whatever current project students are working on at the time. By spending time together, students build community and become friends.

We know it can be hard to find a great school for your gifted child, and we are excited to offer the Open Window Online program as an option for gifted 4th or 5th graders in Southwestern Washington and beyond. We would love the opportunity to be a part of your family’s educational journey. Learn more by visiting our website at

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Dr. Cary Kirby is the director of teaching and learning at Open Window School and is the founding director of Open Window Online. Cary has a passion for gifted education and has more than 15 years of experience working with students who are identified as gifted. As a 4th- and 5th-grade teacher, Cary focused his work on creating innovative teaching techniques to further learning. He has done extensive research into student-to-student collaboration in online learning environments in intermediate classrooms and has presented his methods and research to hundreds of educators. He has also coached and mentored teachers, been a lead teacher, and a curriculum coordinator. Cary lives in Issaquah, Washington with his wife and two children.

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