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Wantagh Elementary Awarded for Unique Enrichment Program


Posted Date: 04/26/2024

Wantagh Elementary Awarded for Unique Enrichment Program

Wantagh Elementary School’s enrichment clusters, an initiative that promotes learning through personal interests, is now an award-winning program. It was recognized as a 2024 Promising Practice by Character.org.

Each year, the organization recognizes initiatives that positively impact a school or organization’s culture, and this year 199 Promising Practices were selected. Character.org is a worldwide network of educators, researchers, business and civic leaders who aim to empower people of all ages to practice and model core values that shape hearts, minds and choices.

Wantagh Elementary’s enrichment clusters consisted of a series of 40-minute sessions for students in grades 3-5 in the fall, followed by workshops for grades K-2 after in January and February. Classes were based on student interest surveys, and once each list of workshops were created, they were able to submit their top choices. 

Each session was led by two teachers, who were also matched to their classes based on interest and expertise. Assistant Principal Rachel Iannuzzi said that the enrichment clusters fostered connections between students and teachers based on common interests. 

Principal Dr. Randee Bonagura and Ms. Iannuzzi explained that the goal of the enrichment clusters was to tap into the gifts and talents of all students. They are strong proponents of offering enrichment opportunities to every child and Wantagh Elementary’s model fostered a love of learning by connecting personal passions to academic content.

“It really taps into all students’ interests and strengths,” Dr. Bonagura said. “They were genuinely enthusiastic to be a part of part of it.”

The workshops were wide-ranging, with sessions focused on art, community service, literacy, music, social and emotional learning, technology and more. In Mindfulness Movement, students learned relaxation techniques, and Sports Debate allowed participants to develop evidenced-based arguments on the teams and athletes they love. In other sessions, children made blankets for animals at local shelters, wrote poetry, played board games and created their own dance routines. 

To be considered for the Promising Practices recognition, a program must offer a unique and innovative approach that promotes a particular character strength; involves multiple stakeholders, such as students, staff, parents and community members; and aligns with a school or organization’s core values and at least one of Character.org’s 11 principles.

Ms. Iannuzzi added that the Promising Practice designation speaks to the unique and personalized way the school was able to provide enrichment opportunities for all students. The feedback from students and teachers was extremely positive, and the plan is to not only continue the program next year, but to expand it. 

“We’re so proud of our staff,” Dr. Bonagura said. “It was a big undertaking. They took risks and they really got to enjoy learning with their students.”

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