This May, gifted and talented students in fifth grade and from all three middle schools participated in a series of challenging learning activities as part of the district's newly-launched SAIL model. The new model, whose name stands for Students Accelerated in Learning, targets "students who demonstrate advanced academic skills in self-directed learning, thinking, research and communication," according to the literature provided by the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and fulfills state mandates for public school districts.
The model is designed with a 3-tier structure, with school, district and regional components. (For more information on the SAIL model, see related story on this site.)
In this, the first year of SAIL's implementation, administrators in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction introduced a series of activities for SAIL students at various grade levels to stimulate their thinking, help them develop problem-solving and ananlytical skills, and awaken their curiosity about new fields of learning.
The spring cycle of SAIL activities began on May 19 with "R-R-R: Revolutionary Roles Revisted" for fifth graders from all elementary schools in the district. Hosted by Bradford School, the University Magnet, this day-long event provided participating students with the opportunity to present research about the American Revolutionary War era done at their home schools.
Coordinated by Steve Nash, the first part of the fifth-gaders' day, Explorations at MSU, entailed the presentation of work they had done in not only history but math, science and language arts. The afternoon concluded with a video-conference with Newark Museum entitled "Colonial Portraits."
The Grade 6 SAIL activity, Olympic Challenge, took place on May 24. Hosted by Renaissance Middle School, the students were divided into five rooms, where they spent the morning participating in chess games, Sudoku, Mindbenders, a spelling bee, and a geography bee.
The previous day, May 23, seventh graders were bused to the Academic Bowl at Mt. Hebron. Grouped in 12 teams of approximately six students each, with each middle school represented, the students answered questions on topics ranging from politics, math, and art to geography, physiology, literature and science.
"Who was the President of South Africa when it opened its beaches to all races?" and "What number increased by 30% of itself equals 39?" and "Identify the SI unit of force named after a British scientist and equal to one kilogram meter per second squared" are examples of the questions answered by the seventh graders.
Said Jean Wuensch, Supervisor of Curriculum in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, "These are students who are gifted and talented in all areas. We wanted to give each one of them a chance to shine."
And finally, a SAIL Convocation for eighth graders took place on June 6. Hosted by Caldwell College, the all-day Convocation, called "Forensics Crime Scene Investigation," gave students a chance hear keynote speaker Lt. Cavanaugh of the Montclair Police Department speak about his job as an investigator and detective. Students were then given their own cases to solve.
At the conclusion of each day's activities, SAIL students were given prizes for their participation and returned to their home schools.
"These activities are intended to supplement the differentiated instruction that already takes place in the classroom," Wuensch explained. "We wanted to develop activities for our gifted and talented learners that are intellectually challenging as well as fun."
Along with SAIL subject matter leaders Lisa Vullo of Renaissance, Michelle Lofrano of Glenfield and Jane Fiore of Mt. Hebron, Wuensch was assisted at the Academic Bowl and the Olympic Challenge by the dstrict's Language Arts Teacher-on-Special Assignment Cenithia Bilal. As the new model gets underway, educators are expressing enthusiasm for implementing the activities at the host schools, and for the way students are responding.
"SAIL is going full speed ahead," Wuensch said on Friday. "It was a delight this week to watch the students meet other students from other schools and become team members. The artistry of teaching is all about the coordination between the teacher, the group and the individual ... We're very committed to continuing to provide these unique learning opportunities to the district's gifted and talented students."