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Innovative classroom projects spark creativity

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By Tarek Grantham with Margaret Hines and Brittany Anderson

Thanks to a University of Georgia First Year Odyssey service-learning seminar course and an undergraduate service-learning course in educational psychology, faculty members and graduate students in the University of Georgia College of Education are collaborating with teachers and students at a local elementary school.

The results are not only supporting teachers and the school at large, but also giving students new tools to create change inside and out of the classroom.

The projects—Community Problem Solving and Math Hall and Ball—take place at H.B. Stroud Elementary School. Each places First-Year Odyssey students in classrooms every week to serve as enrichment assistants, while faculty and graduate students work with teachers and administrators to plan professional learning experiences. The undergraduate classes teach the UGA students academic content while also giving them culturally relevant experiences as part of the service-learning component. All the while, the classes help to develop talent and creative potential in youth.

Community Problem Solving, or CmPS, is a component of the Future Problem Solving Program International, a program founded by Dr. E. Paul Torrance that helps teachers nurture creative potential in students. UGA faculty, graduate students and teachers serve as coaches and prepare a team to solve a problem that exists within the school, local community, region, state, nation or world. This year, the Stroud CmPS team researched multiple local issues and selected the underlying problem of bullying. For this beginner CmPS team, the two-year process will continue in the fall when team members engage the next phase in the creative problem solving process and generate alternative solution ideas and determine the best solutions before developing a plan of action. The result is a project that includes authentic problem solving, documentation in the form of a six-page written report with an addendum, highlighting main points and providing evidence of their work in a scrapbook and a multimedia presentation.

**Math Hall and Ball **is an after-school math enrichment and acceleration program of Project U-SPARC. At Stroud, Math Hall and Ball is designed to increase student math achievement, enhance the math curriculum and develop creative potential in advanced math students. Stroud's pilot Math Hall and Ball program targets boys who:

  • Demonstrate high math performance on report cards
  • Are rated highly on traits, aptitudes and behaviors associated with high math potential
  • Enjoy using technology and being challenged in math
  • Can work independently and constructively receive feedback

Math Hall and Ball coaches then work to develop the boys' motivation to learn and achieve in math while cultivating strong bonds among the group. This serves not only to help the boys support each other as scholars and students, but also to allow them to reflect on their own abilities and desire to excel in math. The program begins with a "math hall" study time where participants work independently or with coaches. They are encouraged to have fun with each other while they master their math skills. The "ball" segment takes them to the Stroud gym, where the boys play basketball for about 45 minutes. This takes place twice a week, every Wednesday and Friday after school.

Through both of these programs, faculty and teachers have noticed important gains in students' motivation to learn, problem-solve, and to support one another using academic and creative strengths. At the same time, teachers have taken part in professional development that promoted using creative strategies within content areas, and administrators have learned ways to identify traits, aptitudes and behaviors associated with student strengths.

This projects, as part of Project U-SPARC, represent the next phase of the pioneering work started at Stroud Elementary by professor and scholar Mary M. Frasier and nationally recognized educational leaders such as Sally C. Krisel, former state director of gifted education and Maxine P. Easom, former Fourth Street Elementary School principal. Their university-school partnership through the UGA National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented has helped change the state and national landscape of gifted identification policies and practices through the use of multiple criteria.

© University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602