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Cluster Showcase shows off student projects, activities

POSTED: April 12, 2013 12:36 a.m.

Spout Springs School of Enrichment on Thursday evening presented its annual Enrichment Cluster Showcase, featuring nearly 50 different activities students can choose to participate in over the school year.

Clusters are a feature of the school. Offered each Wednesday, the classes are 75 minutes, made up of multiple grade levels sharing a common interest. The topics are outside the typical curriculum.

Fifth-grader Matthew Lance was absorbed in K’Nex, a collection of colorful rods, connectors and bricks that let kids build structures with moveable parts.

Matthew was the group leader, in his cluster, for the project being showcased.

“I like being able to build and have your imagination on it,” he said.

Math and K’Nex cluster teacher Carol Laur explained that not only does this cluster encourage math and engineering skills but creativity as the students determine what to build and then how to problem-solve to make their creation come alive.

In addition, since they work as a group, Laur said that students are exposed to group dynamics, and that Matthew, in particular, “learned how to be a good leader.”

At the beginning of every school year, faculty and students are surveyed to determine both their interests and personal learning styles. Students then make their selection and are matched with their top three.

In an enrichment cluster, the teacher is a facilitator; children are challenged with problem-solving. At the end of the semester, students must produce a product, performance or service using the relevant knowledge and associated solutions determined by the group.

Among the enrichment clusters at Spout Springs are: Junior Master Gardeners, Click It (photography), CSI (forensics), Building Excitement (K’Nex) and Shaping Seminoles (health and fitness for girls).

This is the fifth year the showcase has been held, and the parking lot was filled to capacity as parents and students visited classrooms to sample the various activities while a variety of performances was held in the gym.

Mom Rebecca LaPlante has seen two of her three children go through the cluster setting.

“The cluster component has really kept these children engaged,” she said.

In addition, her fifth-grade son’s grades have improved so much he achieved Beta Club status.

Clusters by nature incorporate values, the importance of working together and a child’s ability to think autonomously and then express it to others. In the gym, a choral performance integrated costume selection, movement, public speaking and singing of selections about honesty.

Shaina Kriews, in third grade, was blending smoothies for classroom visitors.

“I love how we learn about different foods and it’s good for your body,” she said.

Monica Santos’ daughter sipped one of Kriew’s creations and is a part of the class as well.

“Yesterday they got to go to the Four Seasons (restaurant in Atlanta). The chefs there cooked for them,” she said.

“The parents are very enthusiastic about the displays,” said Tammy Dudley, enrichment specialist. “Parents are excited to see the different types of learning.”

Enrichment clusters, said Dudley, “... are beneficial for all students and all levels of learners. That makes me excited to teach again — when they feel successful; it’s what teaching is really about.”

Spout Springs’ mission as a school of enrichment serves kindergarten through grade five, ages 5 through 11 years old and has an enrollment of approximately 850.

“Our goal to promote a love of learning and provide opportunities for in-depth research, access to technology, interest-based investigations, and authentic experiences among all of our students…” said Steve McDaniel, the school’s principal.


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