“I loved it!” said 10-year-old Giana Tougas of “It’s Not Magic, It’s Chemistry,” one of 21 classes at Saturday’s ALAP University.
“I liked when they mixed [chemicals] together to get red, white and blue,” said Tougas.
Tougas was one of more than 150 Warwick elementary students who had the chance to participate in the program sponsored by the Gifted And Talented Education PTA (GATE PTA) for students in Warwick’s Accelerated Learning Activities Program (ALAP). ALAP is a program that allows high-performing students from third to sixth grade access to learning opportunities they may not otherwise have.
The all-day event at Pilgrim High had students participating in two to three classes that allowed hands-on experiences in areas that interested them. Classes were taught by organizations such as Roger Williams Park Zoo and Old Sturbridge Village, or by professionals from the fields of art, theater or science.
Presentations covered a range of topics, including animals, robotics, the arts and history.
Ted Larson, ALAP University coordinator, and the rest of GATE PTA had spent hours creating class schedules, but due to a last minute cancellation, Larson and his wife needed to reshuffle 74 schedules the night before to make sure students still had a positive experience.
“Seeing all the blue shirts and smiling faces make it worth it for us parents,” said Larson in his opening remarks to the group.
As students left the Pilgrim cafeteria for their first class, Larson and the other parents breathed a sigh of relief.
“Now the machine works,” said Larson. “I just have to wait for Papa Gino’s and then I’m done.”
Seeing the program in action for the first time, Eugene Nadeau of the School Committee was impressed with not only the machine, but the students themselves.
“It is amazing to hear from third graders. I see the reaction, the politeness and the respect they have,” said Nadeau. “The schools are going to be well-served by these students.”
Nadeau was equally impressed with parents at the event.
“In my estimation, the parents, the grandparents, etc. are their greatest teachers,” he said.
Amy Buchanan served as a parent volunteer, escorting her daughter Emily and classmates from class to class.
“This is her first year,” said Buchanan. “We are excited about this.”
Emily, a fourth grader at Sherman Elementary, was especially excited to partake in an intro to chess class.
“I’ve played on the computer,” said Buchanan, “but never for real.”
Maggie Defreitas was happy to be watching her son, Steven, take part in “LEGO Robotics,” a popular program for fifth and sixth graders only.
“This has been great,” said Defreitas. “[The instructor] had his wife step outside and call, pretending to be someone very important and gave the students these tasks to solve.”
Working with Eaglesnest Robotics, students were able to learn basic robotics and participate in a competition format.
Following her first class, Tougas only had high hopes for her second class, “Into to Improv.” Her mother, Lauren, was also happy to see her daughter have this opportunity during her first year in ALAP.
“I am excited to watch and take pictures like the paparazzi mom I am,” joked Lauren.