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posted: 10/1/2017 7:00 AM

High-ability students find challenges in gifted classroom

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Springfield Elementary School fifth-grader Eva Bauer sees herself following in her father's footsteps; he is a robotics engineer.

Fifth-grader Sarie Bond said she wants to be a professional chef and sees herself on the Food Network with the likes of the Barefoot Contessa, aka Ina Garten, and Bobby Flay.

Sixth-grader Ayden Chapala wants to be an archaeologist. He's interested in finding out how life was in the "olden days," and maybe digging up a dinosaur bone or two.

All three are getting their start in Sheila Sobecki's high-ability classroom at Springfield Elementary School in the Michigan City Area Schools. Sobecki teaches a multiage Gifted and Talented classroom. The students are in fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade.

MCAS school spokeswoman Betsy Kohn said the program is at three of the district's elementary schools, with students bused from other neighborhood schools if they qualify and choose to attend. The other two schools are Knapp and Joy Elementary schools. There also is a cluster group of high-ability students at the three schools in kindergarten through third grade.

The two middle schools, Krueger and Barker, also have high-ability programs. A select group of eighth-graders is participating in a new program at Michigan City High School for half day to take a foreign language, Algebra 1 and biology. Kohn said the high-ability students attending the high school have many options including Honors College and several dual-credit courses.

The Michigan City Area Schools has a total of 5,601 students, with 357 in the high-ability program.

Sobecki has a special certification to teach gifted and talented students, which helps her keep those high-ability children challenged and engaged, Kohn said.

Springfield Principal Lisa Emshwiller said the school is fortunate to house one of three elementary high-ability classrooms in the district, and she called Sobecki a phenomenal teacher.

"She differentiates to meet the needs of her students and allows them to reach their highest potential through project-based activities," Emshwiller said. "She understands the social/emotional developmental needs of the children and teaches students to be good citizens."

Sobecki said the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Challenge, which students worked on Sept. 22, was designed to introduce students to the concept of energy transfer, from potential to kinetic energy.

"Students followed a design plan to construct their cork launchers, measured the lengths of five trial launches to find the mean or average distance of the cork disc, and then they will brainstorm modifications to their cork-launchers to improve the distance. This is an introductory activity to begin a unit on forces and motion, focusing on Newton's Laws of Physics," Sobecki said.

Every one of the students said they love the class, because it challenges them to work harder.

"This is my first year in the class," said fourth-grader Rachel Berttoti with a big grin. "I love this class. I'm with the smart kids."

Bauer said they've done a couple of STEM projects so far this year, and in the first one she built a bridge.

"My bridge was able to hold more than 40 pounds of sand. I've been in this class since fourth grade. I expect we'll do many interesting projects as the year goes on," she said.

Chapala said the class helps students who were getting bored in regular classes, and tend to "ace" all the tests. "This class has given me harder work, so that I can challenge myself. This project today is just the tip of the iceberg. We'll do many more interesting projects," he said.

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Source: The (Northwest Indiana) Times

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Information from: The Times, http://www.nwitimes.com

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