Opportunities to touch students in a more in-depth way is one of the best parts of my role as the Gifted Specialist. Our curriculum encourages the exploration of topics that give students a deeper understanding of self, school, and community.The 5th/6th Gifted Differentiated Engagement Block (DEB) learning theme for the year is Changes. The first half of the year we focused on coming of age, and how people change throughout their life.
The students participated in several activities where they learned how everyone has different life experiences that define and change who are they are as people. To develop their understanding of coming of age the students read several articles on a variety of cultural coming of age events. Some events the students read about were The Sateré-Mawé Bullet Ant Initiation, Inuit Coming of Age Tradition: North Baffin Island, Japanese Coming of Age Tradition: Seijin-no-Hi, and many more! The students enjoyed learning about these formal cultural events that transition teenagers to young adults.
I wanted the students to understand that coming of age events do not always have to be cultural or religious ceremonies. Coming of age events can be anything that signifies a new set of responsibilities, a new level of maturity, and a transition towards adulthood. Therefore, the students read the novel, The Red Kayak, by Priscilla Cummings. The novel focuses on the main character, Brady, and his two close friends. A tragedy strikes the town when a neighbor’s kayak capsizes, and it is found to be more than an accident. Brady needs to determine whether it is more important to tell the truth or stay loyal to his long time friends. This novel focuses on several coming of age events, including telling the truth, dealing with the loss of a loved one, taking care/protecting family and friends, bullying, making difficult decisions, and many more. The novel led the students and I into great discussions about life and becoming responsible adults.
To show their understanding of change, more specifically coming of age, the students created public service announcements (PSAs). The students were asked to choose a topic they are passionate about and that they want to see changed either in their school, community, country, or the world. The students and I had an in-depth discussion on how a PSA would show what they learned about coming of age and change as a whole. We concluded that they would be able to learn about issues in the world through research and by showing/telling others how to handle real life situations through a call of action in their PSA. Also, many of the PSAs demonstrate positive character attributes, such as responsibility, respect, and citizenship. I am proud of the work the students created. They spent several days researching, outlining, and putting together their PSAs to make them meaningful and special.