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Tadmore University engages kids with curriculum
Students learn through art, music, cooking
Tadmore Elementary School students, from left, Eduardo Tello, Junior Ruiz and David Teisier work on a Lego project Friday during one of the Tadmore University classes. - photo by Tom Reed

Tadmore Elementary third-, fourth- and fifth-graders might not have to think about applying to college for several more years, but they're getting some "university" experience anyway.

The students are part of the school's Tadmore University program, which allows the older students to take a six-week creative class to inspire a different type of learning.

"The kids really enjoy it. It's a different atmosphere, and it's neat to watch them," Principal Robin Gower said. "We have special education students in the older grades who participate as well. One of the special education students who is basically a nonverbal kid took dance last session. The teacher told me she was just amazed at how the other students took her under their wing."

Another student in last session's cooking class approached Gower and told her she would never have tried ground turkey if she had not been in the class.

The program was piloted last January and splits the year between four six-week sessions.

Basketball, Lego architecture, painting, healthy snacks and cooking, string instruments, recorders, ceramics, running, drama, present wrapping and newspapers are some of the things students can do this session. Other opportunities for future sessions include baby-sitting, hip-hop jazz and yearbook.

Each class has an academic base to it, using the speaking, listening and viewing Georgia Performance Standards. The standards are taught through creative media instead of a classroom lecture setting.

"We're trying to do things they can go home and do on their own," Gower said. "It's really good for our students who have trouble fitting in because it gives them a chance to do something."

In the drama class Friday, students were split into groups to audition for the school's Veterans Day play. Through the six-week class, they'll work on directing, set decorating and acting out different characters.

"(Drama) helps the kids with self-confidence and it gets them experience with reading," said Kelly Harrison, a fifth-grade teacher in charge of the drama group. "One of our standards is we should read like we speak, and drama is one of the ways you can do that."

Katie Nottingham, 10, is a fifth-grader in the drama class this session. She said she enjoys acting and took the class to meet more friends.

"I know this was my only chance to learn how to play a string instrument," said Jason Flores, 11, a fifth-grader taking the string class, which centers around a teacher who can play the ukulele and banjo. "If I started with a ukulele, the others would come easy. I wanted to learn about the different instruments and their cultures."

Each class is expected to have a presentation or a project by the end of the six weeks. For example, Gower said, the newspaper class puts together a newspaper and sells it. The proceeds go to the school's Relay for Life team.

She said the Tadmore University program is similar to enrichment clusters at other Hall County schools, but it's not quite the same.

"They have a lot more structure because it's under their charter," Gower said. "We're not looking to go charter right now. We're not so locked into a program. ... It gives us the flexibility to find what works best for our kids."

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