By Betsy Singh, Coordinator of Gifted Programs, with special contributions from Gifted Intervention Specialists Michelle Kowalski and Sarah McKay
Cincinnati Public Schools serves students of a wide spectrum of talents and abilities, including those who identify as gifted. We are spotlighting some of the creative ways we engage our gifted students to help them achieve academic success.
The 2017-2018 school year brought new possibilities for students in grade three, as they tested a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) class period or bell. Classroom teachers and the gifted intervention specialists worked together to provide purposeful, challenging activities to the variety of learning levels and interests across the third-grade class. Here’s what that looked like:
Three days a week, all third-grade students are grouped with similar-ability peers to participate in hands-on activities, practice critical thinking and problem-solving skills to solve real-world situations or problems such as pollution, famine or homelessness, with the assistance of the gifted intervention specialists and four classroom teachers.
One of our groups took on the altruistic task of collecting plastic bags to weave blankets and pillows to be distributed to those who are homeless. Other groups put on their entrepreneur hats to design a new ice cream flavor. In addition to the STEAM bell, third-graders had the opportunity to participate in the Design Lab competition while working alongside local architects and project managers.
School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA)
Students in grade six at SCPA are working on passion projects that they might not otherwise get to do in the regular curriculum. Students who identify as gifted meet once a week with a gifted intervention specialist, designated as “Genius Hour,” a concept borrowed from the Google passion project co-principle that brought the world Gmail, Google News and Adsense.
After extensive brainstorming, each student found a question that they wanted to answer. Some example explorations include:
- Learning about Japanese culture (including the language)
- Creating a mash-up using technology and voice
- Creating a blueprint of a new working city
- Raising awareness of local animal rescues to provide support and funding
- Designing T-shirts for special needs awareness using social media to gain customers
- Developing an iMovie PSA to share the harm of shark killing
The students’ Genius Hour sessions culminate into a final presentation in which they share their projects with the rest of the sixth-grade class. The presentation style has a twist, though, as students have to use an unfamiliar presentation style or application, such as Emaze, Biteable or iMovie.
Why are we doing this? It’s a great way to keep brains growing. Genius Hour for students (also called “Passion Project” or “20% Project”) helps students with:
- Promoting, supporting and modeling creative, innovative thinking and inventiveness;
- Discovering and investigating one of their passions and reflect on/share their learning with others;
- Developing skillsets that are valuable in any learning situation (research, experimentation, collaboration, creativity, problem solving and critical thinking)
Try it with yourself or your child. The experience may amaze you.