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The Renzulli Academy for High Performing/Low Income Students in Hartford Receives Grant for Summer Enrichment Program


March 2012 20,377 views One Comment

With a $250,000 grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Renzulli Academy in Hartford will establish a robust summer enrichment program for its high potential/low income students.

The academy, which opened two years ago, serves 110 students in grades four through eight using an approach to learning designed to affect the entire culture of the school and reach into the home lives of its students. Instead of a remedial and compensatory focus, the academy uses a learning theory called the Enrichment Triad Model that makes curricular topics more interesting and meaningful.

“The student success we’ve achieved has been unprecedented in Hartford,” says Joseph Renzulli, professor in the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talented Development, who developed the learning approach used at the academy. “In 2010, 89 percent of the student body scored either at goal or mastery level; and in 2011, 95 percent of the student body scored either at goal or mastery level.”

The academy, which recently moved out of a wing of the Simpson Waverly School into its own small building on Cornwall Street, will use the grant to establish a six-week summer program focusing on art, science and math, followed with an independent or small group project.

“One of our greatest challenges is helping all of our students have a background and context in which to understand big ideas in literature, history, geography, mathematics and science, so they can apply this knowledge to challenging academic work,” says Renzulli. “Most of the students attending the academy have never traveled to historical venues, have not attended live theater performances or visited a major university,” he says, adding that when the academy took students to a performance at the Bushnell, it was the first live production for 99 percent of them. “We have not had the resources to deliver the same types of opportunities to these students that their middle class peers enjoy on a regular basis.”

Sixth-graders work on writing projects with teacher Kim Albro at Dr. Joseph S. Renzulli Gifted and Talented Academy in Hartford on Dec. 14, 2011. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The program will begin this summer for students in grades six, seven and eight,” says Renzulli Academy Director Ruth Lyons.  “We are going to work with the Bushnell, Talcott Mountain Science Center, Connecticut Public Television, and with alumni from the University of Connecticut.  We are excited that this grant will allow the academy to broaden the horizons of our students. For example, this year we are planning a trip to Washington, D.C. It is our hope that this grant will provide our students with as many opportunities as their academic counterparts in more affluent areas.”

“We’ll expand the program over the next two years, so it is available to all our students,” adds Lyons. The grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is renewable for up to three years. Located in Virginia, this private, independent foundation is dedicated to helping exceptionally promising students reach their full potential through education.

“These enrichment activities help the students apply and transform factual information into usable knowledge,” Lyons says.

For more information about how to support Neag School programs like the Renzulli Academy, visit here or contact Heather McDonald at hmcdonald@foundation.uconn.edu.

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One Comment »

  • Gail N. Herman said:

    My visit to the school was excellent. I was greeted by Maria and brought to four classrooms throughout the day, from kindergarten to middle school. I was asked to tell several stories with my puppets to the kindergarten class. They were so eager and polite. They even participated in a retelling of one of the tales.
    My visit to the fourth and fifth grades occurred before lunch and during recess. I was impressed to see students working together, helping one another on social studies assignments and cooperating, without any bickering as they played games at recess.
    Later I attended an interest development activity. Students watched a colorful, informative film on the art and the business side of puppetry with the actor who created the character of Elmo. After about thirty minutes, the film was evidently a little too long for the interest of some in the group. The students became restless and chatty, so realizing this, the teachers saved the ending for another time.
    At the end of the day I participated in an Enrichment Class where older students had chosen to explore various topics about Africa. Since one group was interested in folk stories, I told them about dilemma tales, stories collected from long ago in Africa. These stories have no set ending. Instead, according to Bascom, the author of a book on African Dilemma Tales, the listeners were asked to volunteer to give reasons for which prong of the dilemma to choose. Which would be the best to choose or stated another way, which would have the least negative repercussions? Given our world and our problems of the times, we are faced with dilemmas all the time. So looking at how these tales are constructed, and seeing that there is no completely “right” answer to a dilemma, is instructive.
    Visiting the Renzulli Academy was enlightening. I found an elementary school that felt like an academic community, caring while promoting scholarship. Gail Herman