Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor Community School District Gifted and Talented (G and T) Director Emily Higgins has been one busy teacher since the new program began at the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
The G and T’s central hub shares space with the Boothbay Region Elementary School Resource Room. Higgins said the space is perfect since there is often crossover between G and T students in need of the Resource Room.
Higgins gets the students she does based mostly on their academic excellence, but some of it has to do with scheduling and resources.
“Because we only have one math teacher for (grades) 5-6, you can't be in fifth grade and take sixth grade math without missing social studies … My math students are pretty happy to just do math, but one of my goals is to have them do some projects as well, use their skills and learn some new things.”
G and T’s lone sixth grade math student, Abby Orchard, is in the midst of a project involving proportions, geography, coding and 3D printing. Orchard had to pick a statistic to model about states; She picked forestation and made models of all 50 states according to how much forest per acre each state has.
Louisiana was just finishing on the 3D printer while Higgins pointed out the variables Orchard is using. “She made a spreadsheet and for each state she made the height equal to the percent of forestation. The Great Plains states are very flat while the west and east coasts are much taller.”
Higgins said while Orchard was planning, a lightbulb went off when she realized she wasn’t putting her media to best use. “That’s when she thought 'well, that's interesting, but it would be cool to use different colors,' so then she grouped the states by temperature.
“… She's learned to use Tinkercad, she's learned to use a spreadsheet ... percentages and proportions ... They've been learning states in sixth grade, so it crosses her social studies curriculum.”
The fifth graders, currently working with decimal multiplication and division, are putting their knowledge to work with projects including building model houses and making a quilt. Higgins said it pushes students to challenge themselves in a creative way and the students have been responding quite well.
Higgins and fellow BRHS teacher Ben Powell co-taught a class on engineering which incorporated coding and 3D printing. Earlier this year, students presented some of their projects including chess sets to the CSD School Committee. The collaboration helped Higgins learn new skills and bring them to BRES for more hands-on building to complement Technology Coordinator Zach Gray’s coding and tech instruction.
One of Higgins’ biggest responsibilities outside her semester to semester programming is to consult with and support teachers at BRHS and BRES when they identify students or groups of students with different needs. Sometimes that means dropping into a class to come up with math problems or reading assignments on the fly, said Higgins.
“I'm fortunate in that as a community we were able to build this program so it includes all different kids. We have quite a few kids that also receive special ed services. Our demographics – students who receive free or reduced lunch – is proportional to the kids in the school who receive free and reduced lunch. Most programs in the state, that is not the case. That speaks to our teachers who are willing to look at kids and identify the different things they are bringing and how can we support them.”