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Future STAR Students? A definite possibility

The county’s elementary school is filled to the brim with students who have bright futures ahead of them.

The technological advancements in computers mixed in with a passion for learning of traditional hard-covered book creates a highly evolved child.

And all that happens before the child spends one day in a kindergarten classroom.

Today’s children are just smarter. Plain and simple.

But if you were to visit the fourth-grade wing of SCES and slip into educator Dierdre Teal’s room, you would see students work in groups of four. They, however, are not studying items normally connected to their ages.

That is because these students are accelerated learners. They are in the school’s ZOOM, which stands for “Zany Opportunities for Open Minds” – a program also available is for students at the middle school.

Third graders on one day review the differences in stalactites and stalagmites of the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. They write stories about the bats that call the caverns home and then compose then in a computer-based powerpoint show.

Teal said the reason for the research lesson on bats was one of her students became interested in bats and requested the class study them.

So they did.

“The emphasis has been placed on learning to use research and technology skills as well as learning a useful environmental lesson and dispel myths about bats,” Teal said. “With the enrichment model we have in place in our system, we are able to explore things that are not being offered in the regular classroom curriculum.”

While their fellow students mentally ingest cave information, other ZOOM students study vocabulary words like “corpulent,” which is an alternate for “fat.”

Although these students stay on task well, they still are 8-year-olds. One child got momentarily discouraged with a project and said “I can’t.”

Teal’s response: “No, ‘I can’ts.’ No ‘I can’ts.”

Sixteen second graders are in the gifted program. Third grade has a total of 21. The fourth grade has 15, while fifth has 23.

The number of gifted students varies according to those placed in the program each year and the ones moving in and out of our county, Teal said. A state rule dictates elementary gifted classes be limited to 17 students at one time.

“That is why it is necessary for some of my classes to be combined,” she said.

For example, one third grade class has 16 students. The other five third graders are combined with another grade level.

“Gifted children love to learn new words,” said Teal of her ZOOM students who also are high performers in Accelerated Reading. “They delight in knowing and using words that are not commonly heard.

“Since my students read on a level two or three grades higher than most students their age, they will most likely encounter the words that they are learning in our vocabulary lessons in the literature they choose to read in the future,” Teal said.

Jeff Alsup, director of pupil services, said he tested 75 second graders this year for ZOOM.

The students tested for the program are children who excel in the classroom and score high on standardized tests. They also must have good behavior habits.

Elementary school gifted program students have the opportunity to become members of ZOOM at the middle school.

A total of 63 students are in the ScrevenCountyMiddle School gifted program. Twenty-six eighth graders, 14 seventh graders, and 23 sixth graders comprise the ZOOM enrichment classes that are 45-minutes periods.

Teacher Gini Bland said each class currently is working on a long-term in depth project of their choosing.

While the eighth grade students develop a mock trial and video production, the seventh graders have created a small business and now are playwrights. Both of the sixth grade classes are working on the production of a Web newspaper.

“The beginning of the year was an adjustment for all of us,” Bland said. “I came out of the classroom with all of its structure and they lost a teacher who had been with some of them for several years.”

Last year Bland was an eight grade educator while Krista Aaron served as the ZOOM teacher. Aaron retired at the conclusion of the 2007-2008 school year.

“They had to get used to a new personality and I had to learn to let go of traditional teaching methods,” Bland said of the students.

All three grades participated in the International Festival sponsored by Georgia Southern University, Bland said. They represented the countries of India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Finland. The student representatives for India took second place overall.

Bland said the students’ current projects are a result of the adjustment of one teaching style to another.

“They are learning about, creating, organizing, and producing complex projects that require commitment and great effort to be successful,” Bland said. “I’m very proud of their progress and am really enjoying watching them grow as they work together.

“To me, this is education at its best,” she said. “I provide background knowledge, point them in a direction, then hang around to answer questions as they take control of their own learning.”

The gifted program sponsored an SCMS Quiz Bowl Team for the state PAGE Quiz Bowl competition. The students had to compete for a place on the team that included seventh and eighth graders from a combination of gifted and regular classes.

“They won three of six matches their first time out,” Bland said.

The eighth grade students researched Christmas decorations from around the globe. Bland said the students then decorated trees with each country’s theme. The new creations were placed in various parts of the school.

“A seventh grade class has taken over the back patio area and has cleaned out the plant beds, planted flowers in one and onions in the other,” Bland said.

The instructor said the seventh graders plan to do more planting as the weather permits.
“Our culminating activity will be a Fine Arts Event showcasing student work,” Bland said.


 

The showcased work includes writing, drama, dance, music, video production, photography, drawing and painting. The event will be May 14 and is open to the public.

 

And the ZOOM learning goes beyond the typical classroom. The sixth graders went to Florida for some educational learning, while the seventh and eighth students are taking in the sights of New York City this week.