Revived North Springs Talented and Gifted Program unites and soars to offer student Seminars, Field Trips, Life Pathway Opportunities, and More.
A “TAG-Team” Feature
By: Isabelle Mokotoff and Saaniah Hardy
In Georgia, a gifted education student is defined as “one who demonstrates a high degree of intellectual and/or creative ability(ies), exhibits an exceptionally high degree of motivation, and/or excels in specific academic fields, and who needs special instruction and/or special ancillary services to achieve at levels commensurate with his or her ability(ies).” This information from the Georgia Department of Education website is accompanied by the statement that “many gifted education decisions and procedures are left to the discretion of local school systems so that they may address the unique needs of their communities.”
Students in the TAG cohort who formerly were not serviced by programs that benefit from TAG instructional strategies, including A.P. or Honors, typically had to fend for themselves educationally and extracurricularly with the stoppage of older “push-in” and “pull-out” seminar models and the departure of instructors who were willing and able to carry on seminars outside of classroom time. Some North Springs students might not even know that the program existed!
All that changed when some of North Springs’ most innovative teachers (Ms. Pekatos, Mrs. Arruda, Ms. Kaminsky, and Mr. Throne) put their heads together and revamped the program, making for a story so big that The Oracle needed two staff writers to cover it. (A “Tag-team” effort, if you will.)
The purpose of TAG is to help students expand their studies and gain opportunities, through a mix of seminars, internships and enrichment activities. And, to ensure that the TAG Program has a designated space for its students to thrive, the TAG Room was designed by Rooms To Go. This room serves many purposes as it hosts study sessions, student seminars, lectures, and TAG testing. Spartans should note that only TAG students are allowed into this room with adult supervision.
You may be wondering: “What is a TAG seminar?!”The Oracle staff members definitely were, so we got the inside scoop. Seminars are offered to TAG students during lunches four days each week; TAG students must attend nine seminars each semester. TAG seminars cover topics from serious to silly, and, as varied as they are, Ms. Kaminsky agrees that they all have one underlying factor: “Seminars are designed to pursue deeper understandings of special topics usually chosen in conjunction with student input. This year we offered seminars involving choosing college majors, interview skills, resume building, Harry Potter, and analysis of comic books”.
Through TAG’s Directed Study Program, TAG students can tailor-make their own course to pursue their own passions. Our TAG Spartans are already working on their creative ideas to make their own positive impact on the world. TAG student Virginia Fuss dreams of one day becoming an architect. In TAG, she is given the resources to explore into this field through an eco-friendly lens. Fuss gushes about how beautifully natural surroundings can be incorporated into architecture: “the house I built in the mountains has solar panels that follow the sun’s movement and the one I built in the desert traps in the cold night air and circulates it throughout the house as an non-traditional air conditioning system”.
Student Lindy Feintuch is collaborating with our CBI (Community Based Instruction) teachers and students to “get a better understanding of developmental and learning disabilities”. Feintuch praises the program, detailing how it better prepares her for her intended career: “Through interviews of the students and their teachers and literature reviews, I can practice the research skills that will help me as I pursue a pre-med track in college”.
Finally, Isha Perry studies the effects of poverty on a child’s brain development and neural pathways, researching public health criteria to see if poverty can be classified as a public health issue. Perry also highlights the merits of Directed Study, pointing out that with her research, she can forge her own path in the scientific field by “exploring the idea on whether or not it is feasible to declare poverty as a public health issue.”
TAG opportunities were offered first semester as weekly seminars in everything from getting career ready to exploring comics and fantasy worlds. The “Hire Me” seminar is the required seminar for a TAG internship. The “Choose Me” seminar gave students the opportunity to dive more into the world of choosing choosing a major and applying to college. Also offered were seminars about Harry Potter and exploring the ethical dilemmas of comic book Super heroes.
Beginning the week of January 13th, “Choose Me” and “Hire Me” are both being offered again this semester as lunchtime seminars, as well as “Sell Anything!”, a look at the modern world of marketing and PR that allows students to practice and polish their own press skills and pitches.
Seminars are not the only new component of the program. The TAG team soared to new heights with the creation of its own headquarters — A classroom situated in an unused classroom near the media center that at one time housed unused desks and chairs, but has now been converted into a modern study and workspace, complete with desks, workstations, projection screen, carpeting, and sofas. Students working on projects or independent studies can take a breath and also have a change of scenery away from cinderblock walls in an environment that charges their creative juices.
Recently, TAG Spartans ventured to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the heart of Atlanta on the first TAG field trip. Mercedes-Benz is the well-known home of both The Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, but it also holds another claim to fame: it is the most sustainable sports venue in the world! Along with this very important factor, the TAG teachers selected Mercedes-Benz as the location for the field trip for its affordable price and welcoming nature toward the educational community. “They reached out to us and we were so thrilled!”, says TAG Kaminsky, herself a devoted United fan.
The trip was organized by Ms. Pekatos and Ms. Kaminsky, and chaperoned by the whole team, along with Mr. Singer and a parent volunteer. The Mercedes-Benz field trip gave TAG Spartans a chance to learn about eco-friendly sports and business practices, eat in the stadium seats, and, much to student Jessica Hopper’s excitement, “explore the fields and locker rooms. It was a true game day experience”!
The TAG team notes that this excursion featured all of the necessary components for a successful TAG adventure: it showed the real-world applications of what students are studying in their courses, illuminated possible career pathways, and stimulated the creativity of the students in our community. With these key factors present in every TAG field trip, Kaminsky hopes that more students will join TAG activities because of their intrinsic love of learning, NOT because they are worried about receiving a grade or any other external reward.
This semester, The TAG team wants to take students to places of historical significance that Spartans have in their own backyards, including the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, The Temple, and Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Always mindful of the future of the TAG Program, Ms. Pekatos notes, “I would love to have more students in directed study where students design their own course and study the stuff that they’re really passionate about, whether that be more researched-based or design-heavy.” Next year she’s hoping, with the added flexibility in the proposed block schedule schedule, that more students can pursue studies that allow them to pursue their passion.
For more information about TAG, TAG trips, and the upcoming seminars, students can contact a member of the TAG team.