By Lisa Capobianco
With the lost of the SOAR program last May due to budget cuts, the Southington School District decided to devote its time over the summer to creating a new enrichment opportunity for gifted and talented students in all eight elementary schools and the two middle schools.
Superintendent Dr. Joseph Erardi said the new proposal stems from parental concern about the lost of the SOAR program and the hope of providing students with a new one.
“Our focus during the summertime was to recapture the immediate costs,” Dr. Erardi said last week during a Board of Education meeting.
Under the new “Like Learners” program, students will have a variety of opportunities to pursue their interests inside and outside the classroom on weekdays as well as weekends.
One program would serve as collaboration between each elementary school and the Talcott Mountain Science Center in Avon. On weekdays, “like learners” will have the opportunity to interact with Talcott Mountain scientists during 30-minute “free” block of learning without losing time in the classroom.
“It is an opportunity for students to experience Talcott Mountain Science Center activities and modules without having to actually be on site [there],” said Jonathon Cop, a special education teacher at Thalberg Elementary School who helped present the proposal during last week’s meeting.
Cop said students will have the opportunity to engage in web-based conversations with scientists on weekdays and weekends. They will also have access to a program called Canvas, which has similar attributes to Blackboard, but with an improved navigation system.
“This is a re-branding of Talcott Mountain Science Center,” Dr. Erardi said during the meeting. “We are very pleased to be a part of it, and every building will be unique in the way that it is delivered to the students.”
Another opportunity involves a partnership with Middlesex Community College in Meriden, where gifted students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades can attend Saturday classes for two sessions per year, according to Kim Kalat, a social studies teacher of DePaolo Middle School and Mark Hughes, the president of Meriden’s Board of Education. Gifted and talented students of the Meriden school district already started these classes last year.
“It is hands-on learning,” Hughes said. “[The classes] are very engaging as they align with the Common Core and STEM, and they promote higher thinking.”
Besides the enrichment programs at Middlesex College and Talcott Mountain Science Center, the proposal calls for two grants: a $250,000 grant for an enrichment program at the YMCA and a $24,000 grant to have a resident artist at all eight elementary schools for third graders. These grants have yet to receive approval from the state.
In addition to these grants, Dr. Erardi said students from all eight elementary schools will be included in the intervention convention, and all fourth graders will still have the opportunity to participate in the STEM based program at the YMCA’s Camp Sloper.
“I believe we have trumped what we lost,” Erardi said. “Our enrichment teachers are excited about the program, and they are going to do whatever it takes for enrichment.”