Gifted education on display

At age 10, Jeremy Bonanno, Jorja Suga, and Jonathan Caprarelli, already have an idea of what they want their future careers to be.

The Year 5 students at Holy Spirit Catholic Primary Carnes Hill have delved into the coding, collaboration and higher order thinking skills that will help them realise their goals through the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program.

They were among the students who shared their work on individual projects with parents and peers from other grades at the school’s second annual Newman Symposium on 17 November.

Holy Spirit is one of 39 Sydney Catholic schools who currently offer the program to extend gifted learners.

It allows us to express our creativity.

– Jonathan Caprarelli

Students refer to the classes as ‘Newman U’ – the U stands for University – a counterpart to the Clancy U extension program offered at neighbouring Catholic high school Clancy Catholic College West Hoxton.

The strong relationship between the schools allows Holy Spirit students to make use of Clancy’s Science labs for experiments and extension activities. It also provides a clear gifted education pathway for local students from Kindergarten to Year 12.

‘Newman U’ classes – held every Friday for two hours – have seen students complete projects and activities that use coding, robotics, 3D printing, design with Tinkercad and green-screen filmmaking.

They have also explored Maths challenges, the science of volcanoes, circuits and electricity, and creative pursuits including music and art.

Jeremy, an accelerated student, coded video games and links to other popular video games for his presentation.

“When I’ve played video games, particularly ones that are very creative, I’ve always thought  ‘Wow imagine coding this’ because I see how flawless it is and think this would have taken forever to code,” he said.

“I see myself doing a lot of electronic-based code in the future. I want to be known as the person who invented teleportation. Technically it already exists except we can’t teleport anything but an electron.”

A gifted child is not just gifted in the two hours they go to Newman U. They are gifted all week.

– Rina Hibbs

Jonathan explored constellations and said the project provided good general knowledge that could be useful to his peers during a Science test.

“In Newman U, we do certain activities to enrich us in different ways and to challenge us,” he said. “It’s good because it allows us to express our creativity.”

“My project does mainly focus on constellations, but you do need to talk a bit about stars because without them there’d be no constellations.

“I thought it was interesting that some constellations were categorised as circumpolar, which means they can be seen at every season. One is Alpha Centauri at a certain latitude near the equator. Not only is it circumpolar at certain latitudes, it also contains the brightest and newest star.”

I want to be known as the person who invented teleportation.

– Jeremy Bonanno

Jorja has coded two of her own websites as a hobby and plans to have a career in web design when she leaves school. Her Newman robotics project involved programming Lego NXT robots to move and light up in different colours.

“I have this book I got for Christmas a few years ago and I’ve coded two websites using HTML and CSS,” she said.

“I think lots more people should be part of Newman U because lots of people in my class look forward to genius hour each week. Newman U is like that because you get to choose your own topic and the teacher isn’t guiding you directly.”

Holy Spirit’s Diverse Learning Needs Coordinator Rina Hibbs said the Symposium gave students an opportunity to share what they had learnt with a broader audience.

“We try to give the students as many opportunities as we can across a wide range of tasks,” she said.

“This is our second year as a Newman school but we have always done gifted programs. This just formalises a structure to work within and gives professional development for the staff so they become skilled in gifted education strategies.

“A gifted child is not just gifted in the two hours on a Friday when they go to the Newman U. They are gifted all week, so it is up to all our teachers to ensure that we differentiate the curriculum for them and have challenging activities for them to enrich their learning.”

For more information on the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program, click here.

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