Students in District 13’s enrichment program got a reward for all their hard work this year — more time in school.
The district hosted its third annual Explorations Day for gifted and talented students on May 5 at the James A. Dever School. Children were able to pick from a variety of interactive educational programs, while also enjoying a pizza dinner.
In one classroom, students were taught stop-motion animation so they could make their own Lego movie. They learned skills such as scene manipulation, lighting, pacing and camera methods.
Down the hall, there was an origami class, where participants explored mathematical concepts by folding geometric patterns and making a paper cube. In robotics, students learned commands to make a robot run and performed desired routines. The Design Thinking workshop asked children to use their problem solving skills to come with new innovations.
Garrick Neuner, a fifth-grader at Dever, was one the students in that class. He used Legos to design his programmable walking robo-toaster — a prototype, of course. He was given the task of inventing something to make a better breakfast.
He said he chose that class because he wanted to put his creativity to use. “I was curious and it sounded interesting,” he said. “I learned that inventing a long process.”
Lisa Sells-Asch, the assistant superintendent for special services, said that Explorations was open to all gifted and talented children in grades 4-6, and about 35 took part in the evening program. Parents were invited to come in and learn right beside their children.
Sells-Asch said that all presenters were asked to make their programs interactive. After a short introduction, they led the children in hands-on activities. “We want them to be engaged as much as possible and to create their own learning,” she said. “The more interactive, the better.”
By having students from all four elementary schools come, Sells-Asch said it gave the children the chance to make some new friends. “It gives them the opportunity to meet other students who might be in other buildings,” she said, “and work together.”
Sarah McGrath, a fourth-grader at the Willow Road School, took the origami class. She said she tried it once at home and enjoyed it, but wanted to get better.
Adam Thompson, a sixth-grader from the Wheeler Avenue School, was particularly excited for the robotics class. “I’m very good at technology,” he said. “Robotics is going to be very useful in the future. It’s useful now.”
He said he learned how to program a robot, which can open up some career possibilities for him in the future. In terms of life skills he picked up, Thompson said it’s OK to make a mistake as long as you learn from it.
Richard Rosenfeld, the district’s gifted and talented teacher, said while it may seem strange for extra time in school to be a reward, it certainly was for his students. “The lessons are so good, you don’t realize that you’re learning,” he said.
He explained that the workshops last week expanded on the district’s strong technology and art programs. Additionally, Rosenfeld said, it gave parents a chance to see their children engaged in learning.
Thompson said he had a great time at Explorations Day, and took a lot of knowledge from it. “Most people would not enjoy being at school more than they have to,” he said, “but I think it’s a good experience for me.”