Students unlock potential at Southampton Academy

Published 1:04 pm Saturday, October 31, 2015

Southampton Academy sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students participate in the Unlocking Potential program. -- SUBMITTED | PATTI RABIL

Southampton Academy sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students participate in the Unlocking Potential program. — SUBMITTED | PATTI RABIL

Middle school students at Southampton Academy are being challenged academically like never before, thanks to the district’s newest scholastic program. Unlocking Potential, or UP, is an enrichment class offered to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students, which focuses on critical thinking and creativity; developing communication skills, group cohesion and interaction; and advancing logical thinking and problem-solving skills.

“So often the higher level thinking programs and strategies are used with only gifted students, but students of all abilities can enrich and expand their learning and intellect when exposed to these strategies and programs,” gifted education teacher Patti Rabil said. “Students work the majority of the time in groups of three or four in order to develop teamwork skills. In today’s world, most businesses and organizations work in teams to encourage thinking and creative problem-solving skills.”

Students attend UP classes twice per week with Rabil, engaging in different types of logical thinking and deductive reason activities to challenge their cognitive development, insight, reflection and creativity.

“If [you and I] were a part of the team, other members might come to us and say, ‘Here’s the challenge for our team today: There is a diminished amount of water in here in Southampton County. Please solve this,’” Southampton Academy Headmaster W. Scott Wasdin said. “Sometimes it’ll be domestic, but it tends to be a global need, so it might be focused on a socioeconomic challenge in Africa or something crop or water related in Asia. Young people partner together with their peers and critically problem solve to find a solution.”

Southampton Academy is a part of Future Problem Solving Program International, the No.1 critical thinking program available to students in fourth through 12th grade, allowing it to compete scholastically with other schools across the country. Teams complete two practice problems and one qualifying problem throughout the school year, and trained evaluators score their work and return it with feedback. This year’s topics include the treatment of animals, disappearing languages, recovering from natural disaster and the global workplace.

“I’m learning how to look at different world issues from different perspectives,” eighth-grader Ashlynn Pearce said. “This class is definitely preparing us for the future in a positive way.”

The top scoring teams on the qualifying program are then invited to the state bowl at Powhatan High School in Chesterfield in April, and the winners will advance to the FPSPI Conference at Michigan State University in June.

“It is a great new opportunity for students to think outside the box and to use higher-level thinking skills,” eighth-grader Ryleigh Skeeters said. “This is information that we would not have an opportunity to discuss in our classes, and it challenges us to do in-depth research on the subject matter.”

Additionally, though not the main component, the UP program involves affective development, where students are given opportunities to learn about themselves and about others. Through stimulating activities and appropriate works of literature, students explore the hopes, fears, dreams and realities of their lives and the diverse society in which they live today, allowing them to be more equipped to understand and relate to others.

“We’ve learned that you have to have a lot of ideas if you want to come up with a really good idea,” sixth-grader Nate Owens said. “You can’t talk all the time. You have to really listen to what other kids say.”