By Amy Schechter

Exciting projects are underway at Boyette Springs Elementary. Since its inception last year, its Center for Gifted Studies, based on the groundbreaking work of Dr. Joseph Renzulli of the University of Connecticut, has connected students to higher level learning. However, an engaging academic curriculum is not only for gifted students, as the administration adopted Renzulli’s Schoolwide Enrichment Model to ensure all students have access to rigor.

Renzulli and his wife, Dr. Sally Reis, are credited with conducting seminal research leading to the design and development of programs and services to meet the needs of gifted students, and Boyette Springs has embraced their model which targets student interest and choice as the foundation of curriculum development. Lead teacher, Jane Wells is excited to implement the three phases of the study. Currently, Boyette Springs is in phase one. They invited the entire school to respond to a survey on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) activities. Students suggested topics ranging from photography to food to construction, and these surveys also helped teachers learn more about their learning styles. All units of instruction eventually center on student participation in some form of service-learning project for which students can give back to their community. Wells notes, “Our goal is to pay it forward, so students can work together as a group and to learn to be philanthropic people who care about other people and our environment.”

This year, student learned about the Alaskan Iditarod, the last great dogsled race. They researched Alaska and its environment, communicated directly with people who participated, and found out more about the Siberian husky. This connected students with a Clearwater-based non-profit, Husky Haven of Florida. Students then designed, built, and sold sleds with the proceeds benefiting Husky Haven.

One project can naturally lead into another as many students became interested in endangered animals and focused on local species. Teachers took groups outside to the preserve on Boyette Springs property, and students decided they needed to help improve the animals’ habitat. They researched how they could clean the water in the area, including ways to get rid of algae, and conducted experiments. Finally, they contacted the Army Corps of Engineers to come out to discuss more ways to clean the local bodies of water.

With school-wide efforts fully underway, Wells looks forward to phases two and three where hopefully students will break off into small groups and individuals to pursue issues about which they care deeply. “As the lead teacher, my role is that I take those kids at the individual level who really want to go further. We have one girl who is interested in animals and wants to help out in a local vet center. We connected her with Seffner Veterinary services and she volunteers there,” Wells explains. A final showcase is slated for May 19 from 1-2 p.m., and the community is invited to see what the students have created and learned.

Because many of the enrichment studies hinge on community involvement, Boyette Springs seeks local business partnerships and guest speakers. Guest speakers are welcome in person and via technology, like Skype. They also seek donations for upcoming projects and community service. Interested businesses and individuals can contact Jane Wells at 671-5060 ext. 240 or via email at jane.wells@sdhc.k12.fl.us. For more information on National Elementary Honor Society, contact Tawnya Andersen at tawnya.andersen@sdhc.k12.fl.us. For more information on Husky Haven, please visit http://huskyhavenfl.org/.