Wealth of learning: Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family

Holy_Family_School_photo

Holy_Family_School_photoEnrichment program challenges students, extends curriculum

By Caroline K. Reff
sun contributing writer

When fifth grader Hayley Cosgrove selects a library book, usually she is only looking for one on her favorite subject — horses. So, Cosgrove was pleasantly surprised when she opened the pages of Freedom Crossing by Margaret Goff Clark. She was drawn into the suspense of this piece of historical fiction, which revolves around two teenagers helping a young slave on his way to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Now, Cosgrove can’t wait to see how the story ends.

It is just that kind of enthusiasm that reading specialist Sue Lindsley hopes to foster in the 37 students at the Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family, Fairmount, who participate in the school’s Enrichment Program.

“It’s an opportunity to give these students the creative opportunities you don’t have time to do in the classroom,” said Lindsley of the challenges the program provides. “It also introduces them to books that are at a little higher level with a non-commercialized message.”

Started as a pilot program in 2007, the Enrichment Program is aimed at challenging students who have shown consistent academic achievement at a higher level than their classroom curriculum. Its purpose is to provide stimulating activities and experiences that allow students to sharpen academic skills such as research, creativity, problem solving and cooperative learning. Students in grades one through six are recommended for the program by their classroom teachers and must meet stringent requirements to enter the course, including high-performance capabilities, leadership skills, commitment and an average of 96 percent or higher. A maximum of four students from each classroom are accepted in to the program in order to provide individual attention and the resources to maximize the experience.

Lindsley splits her time at the school between the Enrichment Program and remedial services. The recent addition of on-site speech, occupational and physical therapy, as well as existing Title I services, enabled Lindsley to find more time in her schedule this year to work with the enrichment group. Each grade level meets weekly to work on curriculum-based projects and activities. All groups begin by reading a novel, and, because so many of the students are voracious readers, Lindsley strives to find lesser known selections. Sixth graders, for example, are reading selections from Greek mythology, while first graders are exploring “fractured fairytales.” If a book really captures their interest, some groups even opt to meet during their lunch periods for more reading and discussion.

Following the completion of the novels, the students have the opportunity to further their skills by writing a script for a puppet show. The playwriting process gives the students the chance to express their creativity through writing and performance, while also grasping skills in stage direction. Lindsley’s collection of colorful hand puppets — obtained through a grant from West Genesee Central School District’s PET Project — is a hit with all grade levels, and the students work hard to earn the privilege of putting on the puppet show for their classmates at the end of the semester.
The students enjoy the challenges of the Enrichment Program because they “get to create stuff,” said fifth grader Joe Sullivan, who leaves the lesson with his own copy of Harry Potter in hand. “I like any kind of book. I’m disappointed when a favorite story is over.”

Fifth grader Sean Relyea likes creating plays and puppet shows. “I like the acting part,” he said.

School principal Susanne Donze is proud that the Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family is able to offer such a unique program and is thrilled with the commitment and hard work of the students and their teacher. She hopes resources will allow the program to grow, allowing for longer class periods, more students, and, possibly some emphasis on other subjects.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to challenge these bright students and keep them excited about learning,” said Donze. “It is another example of the high-quality academic experience we offer at the Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family.”

Apply Now for ’08-‘09
The Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family is accepting applications for the 2008-2009 school year. The school offers nursery, Pre-K, full-day kindergarten and grades one through six, as well as before-and after-school care. For more information, call 315-487-8515 or visit
www.holyfamilysyr.org.

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