This school year marked a new era in the Richmond County Schools Academically and Intellectually Gifted Program, and students, parents and teachers will soon showcase projects for the community to show how much students have learned and grown under the new program.
AIG students and teachers will host a showcase Thursday at 6 p.m. at Cole Auditorium. This program serves as the culminating event for this year’s AIG initiative, and according to AIG teacher Kim Leberth, provides an opportunity to increase the community’s knowledge about the AIG program. Leberth serves students at L.J. Bell Elementary, Cordova Elementary and Rohanen Primary.
“Everyone will have an opportunity to see what we’re doing in our AIG classes,” Leberth said. “Even more importantly, it gives these students their night to shine. They always work hard and do their best, and now they can share all of their experiences with their families, peers and others.”
Richmond County Schools revamped the AIG program after the State Board of Education approved new AIG standards in July 2009. School districts were charged with developing new AIG plans to meet the new requirements. As part of Richmond County Schools plan, five teachers took the helm of the AIG Program: Lauren Adams, Nikki Covington, Charla Jacobs, Kim Leberth and Alison Parsons. Parsons serves students at Washington Street Elementary, West Rockingham Elementary and Mineral Springs Elementary and says everything in the new program is designed to challenge the students.
“Nearly all of our work is project based.” Parsons said. “We’ve all been classroom and we know how difficult it can be for teachers to challenge high achievers to the next level.”
Students in grades 3 through 5 at the elementary schools have worked on several projects to strengthen math and reading skills. Students worked on a restaurant assignment earlier in the year, which allowed them to design a menu, and hire workers to determine operating costs. “Bare Books,” a project started when the AIG program was awarded a Pee Dee Electric Bright Ideas Grant, has helped students with literacy skills. The students will have their personalized books on display at the showcase night. Washington Street Elementary fifth grade student Natalie Dawkins explained the books as she worked on drawing her illustrations.
“They’re called fractured fairy tales, so their not exactly parallel to the real versions.” Dawkins said. “We are changing them however we want to, and then we draw the pictures.”
Research conducted by organizations such as the College of William and Mary Center for Gifted Education plays a major role in the approach that many AIG teachers employ while developing lessons. Charla Jacobs, AIG teacher at Monroe Avenue Elementary and Fairview Heights Elementary, says that since the new program started in the fall, she and other AIG teachers have worked together to design lessons based on research.
“It’s all about high expectations, and higher order thinking skills,” Jacobs said. “We plan our lessons to ensure that are students are working on meaningful projects that are relevant to the real world.
Students in the AIG program have taken notice of efforts to increase the level of difficulty in their work, Skylar Hudson, a seventh grade student at Rockingham Middle School said he enjoys being in the AIG program much more now.
“It’s really challenging, but that’s what makes it fun,” Hudson said “Before, we didn’t do as many activities, and now we’re actually doing several projects.”
Students at the middle school level have also worked on a variety of projects, over the course of the year, and have focused on student research and use technology to prepare presentations, movie clips, and other ways to deliver information. Several middle school students have participated in events such as Science Olympiad and two Rockingham Middle School students, Haley Mason, and Aaron Locklear will compete at the state level this weekend. Nikki Covington, AIG teacher at Rockingham Middle and Ellerbe Middle who serves as their advisor says the program has boosted Richmond County’s prominence in competitions, and provides students an opportunity to explore their academic interests.
Additionally, a few of the eighth grade students are also participating in the RCS I-3D internship program, and will continue to work with the program when they move to the ninth grade school next year.
Covington and Lauren Adams, AIG teacher at Hamlet and Rohanen Middle, say they are excited for the direction the AIG program will continue in for next year, and hope the program will expand and extend more opportunities for more high achieving students. They also hope that the showcase event will generate awareness and excitement for AIG programs and offerings.
Shyla Garner, an eighth grade student at Rohanen Middle School also hopes everyone understands the importance of AIG for students and the future of the community.
“It’s more that just having knowledge, it’s about how we apply our knowledge to solve everyday problems. Garner said “When we are able to do this, we can make our lives the best they can be.”