The CLASE FIESTA program (Future Innovators Elementary Summer Thinking Academy) brings Athens-area Latino and Latina students to the University of Georgia campus for an eight-day summer program. This program introduces students to community problem solving.
CLASE partnered with the E. Paul Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development to create the curriculum. Graduate assistants from the Torrance Center led the children through the community solving process, assigned the task of proposing a solution to their problem — which, for the inaugural year of the FIESTA program, was securing healthy food. Various field trips throughout the program reinforced the topics the students were learning through the lessons.
For the 2015 FIESTA year, which involved 24 students from Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School, children worked to solve their problem and eventually decided on a "Veggie March" to take place in Athens as the best solution to improve community eating habits. Students integrated classroom and field experiences to choose and plan this solution.
The Community Problem Solving curriculum exposes students to programming usually reserved for gifted education. As a result, it helps students develop their critical thinking skills while hands-on-equations curriculum engages students in interactive lessons about fractions and algebra. Field trips give students new experiences so they can strengthen conceptual understanding and academic language.
This program allows students to interact with bilingual student mentors who have completed college and encourage the use of Spanish. Students in the FIESTA program are also able to visit a college campus and their future middle school, helping them imagine their academic future.
As a result of the program's first year, some students expressed interest in pursuing a career in STEM fields after visiting sites where math and science were featured, and the overwhelming majority of students said they would choose to participate in the program again. CLASE will maintain the relationships built with many of the students through their after-school program.