Young minds make most of ‘challenge’ projects

Ever wondered which is the largest internal organ in the body, or how we could possibly learn more about space?

Parents and grandparents witnessed Our Lady Star of the Sea Miranda students’ love of learning and got answers to these questions and more in a showcase of challenge projects completed by Newman Selective Gifted Education Program students from Kindergarten to Year 6.

Black holes, queen bees, Venetian masks, textiles, aeronautics, scientific theories, and educational games were among the topics students covered in their projects on display at the event on 18 September.

The students had nine weeks to research something they knew little about, checking their work against a rubric to help demonstrate their deeper understanding of their chosen topic.

It has taught me how much you can learn from just a tiny idea.

– Max Watson

“It was more of a challenge than a passion project,” said Newman teacher Gabrielle Jessop.

“We wanted them to learn something new. They’ve done an amazing job of showing others what they have learnt over the course of a term.”

Ms Jessop said balance and good extension programs were critical to help students reach their potential.

“Our teachers differentiate learning for all students, but research indicates that gifted kids also need extra-curricular activities that go with their regular classroom learning that will give them the push that they need to be stimulated cognitively,” she said.

“Through a project like this you get to see those students who might be a bit more reserved in the classroom really shine because they get to show something that they’ve learnt so much about.”

Max Watson, in Year 4, explored how impulses and the different lobes of the human brain work. He chose the topic because of his interest in space, and hopes it will be possible one day to evolve the human brain to learn more about the cosmos.

“Impulses are basically electric currents that run through our nerves to make us move and they’re created when brain cells move super fast,” he said. “I believe that we can  evolve the brain using dark energy which is expansive and could make our mental and physical abilities better. I’ve also learnt about nerves and neurons.

“I like that you get to collaborate with the teachers and everyone else to make a really awesome thing, where you can pour all your ideas out. It’s really fun and it has taught me how much you can learn from just a tiny idea.”

It was more of a challenge than a passion project.

– Gabrielle Jessop.

Year 5 student Zavier Manciameli scripted, narrated and produced a children’s version of that sugar film to present his research on the effects of sugar on children’s health, mood and behaviour.

Zavier researched the sugar levels in five items that are common to school lunchboxes. He said one popular breakfast drink has the equivalent of four sugar cubes was consumed by a fifth of his classmates.

“It can affect you in such a big way but you don’t realise,” he said. “When you eat a lot of sugar, you’ll have a sugar high and after about 45 minutes you’ll feel really deflated because that sugar will have burnt off so quickly. That signals your brain to eat more sugary foods and if you don’t you’ll get that adrenaline rush to tell you to eat more sugary things. That can lead to anxiety, and even worse, panic attacks.”

Zavier edited his film over one month, adding multiple transitions.

“That was a big learning step for me in the film editing process,” he said. “Now I can really appreciate the big films and how much they have to edit.”

There is so much famous architecture in Venice, it’s hard to put it all into a book.

– Jessica Tasome

Year 6 student Sophie Chew compared the size of various organs in the human body.

“I chose the topic because I want to be a vet when I’m older and that’s kind of similar to being a doctor,” she said. “I’ve done a bit of experimenting with how big the organs are and how much they weigh in comparison to each other. It turns out the largest internal organ is the liver.

“I liked presenting my research and I really like looking at other people’s projects as well.”

Jessica Tasome, in Year 4, chose to research Venice after she fell in love with the Italian city during a recent family trip. She made a detailed model of a Venetian bridge and surrounding buildings using polystyrene foam as part of her research showcase.

“As I researched I found out that there is so much famous architecture in Venice, it’s hard to put it all into a book,” she said. “There are 417 bridges and 72 private bridges. There was more than one type of mask – that was surprising. My favourite was of the plague doctor.”

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