Archived InformationTools for Schools - April 1998
Everything that students do in the cluster is directed toward completing a product or delivering a service for a real-world audience. For example, a cluster might exist based on flight, as in the following cluster title and description:
Enrichment clusters revolve around major disciplines, interdisciplinary themes, or cross-disciplinary topics. A theatrical/television production group, for example, might include actors, writers, technical specialists, and costume designers. Student work is directed toward producing a product or service and the clusters deal with how-to knowledge, thinking skills, and interpersonal relations that apply in the real world. Instead of lesson plans or unit plans, three key questions guide learning:
|What do people with an interest in this area do?
|What knowledge, materials, and other resources are needed for authentic
activities in this area?
|In what ways can the product or service be used to affect the intended audience?|
Costs are dictated by requisite materials of each cluster. Personnel costs are minimal, but after- school scheduling of clusters may affect this cost. Program costs have ranged from 50 cents to $5.00 per child per cluster session.
Six steps should be considered when implementing enrichment clusters.
|Assess the Interests of Students and Staff
Interests can be assessed formally or informally.
| Create a Schedule
It is crucial that a specific time within the school day be identified for cluster activities. To be
successful and valued, clusters should have a "place" within the school week, and not compete for
time with pullout programs, specials, or teacher planning time
|Locate People and Staff to Facilitate Clusters
Cluster facilitators come from a wide variety of sources. Teachers and staff are the most obvious
choices, and they should be asked to think of any friends or family members whom they could
recommend. Parents and community people like business owners, retirees, service club members,
and faculty and staff at colleges and universities also are excellent resources.
|Provide an Orientation for Cluster Facilitators
Orienting the facilitators is crucial so that the clusters do not become mini-courses or traditional
teacher-directed experiences. A meeting of cluster facilitators should be arranged to discuss the
goals, philosophy, and focus of the program.
|Prepare Cluster Descriptions and Register Students
Provide each student with a description of all the clusters so that he/she may make a choice based on
interest areas. Be sure that the facilitators have clearly marked the age range and maximum number
|Celebrate Your Success
Recognizing student and facilitator efforts provides strong public relations for the school and brings attention to student products and services developed in the clusters. Products can be exhibited in display cases at the school and/or at a fair for school, family, and community members. Inviting the press in on cluster days will help generate community excitement and involvement.
Research on Enrichment Clusters conducted in ethnically diverse, low-socioeconomic, urban schools indicate that gifted education pedagogy could be successfully used to challenge all students in these schools. Parents were extremely supportive about clusters, as were teachers and students. Attendance in school was better on days in which clusters were held, and enrichment cluster facilitators had more positive views of students' abilities than did classroom teachers. Students developed stronger interests as a result of participation in clusters, and no differences were found in the quality of products completed by students of different levels of achievement. Teachers who used advanced content and advanced methods in their clusters often began to use these strategies in their own classrooms.