Lincoln Elementary School's gifted and talented (GT) students are preparing to explore new frontiers this school year with EDGE Academy, a hands-on, integrated curriculum located in the former Exploratorium.
GT Coordinator Jennifer Sheffield and GT Resource Teacher Dianne Wade are collaborating on the once-a-week program, which will be held every Tuesday starting Aug. 21 for 4th graders and every Wednesday starting Aug. 22 for 5th graders. The two hosted an open house on Aug. 6 to familiarize parents and children with the academy and its goals.
"I have a little different background or take on education and what that means," Sheffield said, noting her previous experience in the construction industry. "I like to make things, I like to build things and I'm not scared of tools, so your kids are going to get some hands-on experience to tie the things they do to math, science … the things you can do with your hands."
Each week, EDGE Academy students will work together on projects and problems that incorporate subject areas from a more traditional classroom experience, rather than going through lessons in time blocks.
"We want to do things in a different way," Sheffield said. "We use those skills, but we're not going to say 'I am now officially studying so-and-so.' It's going to fall into something else that we're doing, something to do with the real world."
Students will still travel to and from LES on EDGE Academy days to avoid disrupting routines. Lunch will be provided at FSHS's cafeteria before the high school students arrive to eat, and students are also welcome to bring sack lunches.
Other than arrival and lunchtime, the program's schedule is planned to be fluid, and projects may be lengthened or shortened depending on what students are gaining from them. For Wade, EDGE Academy's structure and mission fits well with her personal goals as an educator.
"I love teaching kids how to think differently and take what they know and expand it," Wade said. "To explore new things and help them understand what it is they love doing … that will keep them happy for the rest of their lives."
Sheffield said the end goal for EDGE Academy is to foster growth, and noted that some students may experience their first failure to grasp a concept early on.
"Your child will probably not have a high score in August because we want to do things they don't know how to do," she said. "The goal isn't for everybody to be exemplary all the time or exceed standards."
In addition to learning advanced concepts, the instructors hope EDGE Academy will help young GT students cope with failures and seek out challenging tasks.
"You've got to learn how to fail because that comes with life, and if you're a GT kid that gets straight A's and you hit college and don't get an A, it's traumatizing," Sheffield said. "Our GT kids sometimes get into a mindset that 'it's easy, I'm good at it, that's what I should do, if it's hard I should avoid it because I'm not good at it.' Being smart doesn't mean it's always easy. The goal is to dig in and push, because you don't get a sense of accomplishment from things that are easy."