Advanced learning

Advanced Learning at Thurgood Marshall

Summary: Discover, train and investigate; that’s what Thurgood Marshall Elementary students experience weekly in enrichment groups.



Enrichment clusters provide advanced learning opportunities for every student

Discover, train and investigate; that’s what students at Thurgood Marshall Elementary experience each week in their enrichment clusters. For an hour on Wednesdays, most students in grades three through five meet in groups to extend their learning beyond typical classroom assignments.

Enrichment Clusters are just one of the ways Seattle Public Schools are changing the way we provide advanced learning services. The new model supports the genius of each student – ​​especially Black, Brown and Indigenous students who have traditionally been furthest removed from educational justice – and considers the needs of the whole child at different levels of academic learning .

“Enrichment clusters are all about getting out and exploring,” said fifth-grade teacher Sam Egelhoff. “Students do things they might not have time for elsewhere. It is their turn to follow their example.

Enrichment Clusters – which were introduced at Thurgood Marshall by the SPS Advanced Learning Department in 2021 – are designed to help students develop and apply higher-order thinking skills, including creative resolution problems, negotiation and communication. The intention is to support the development of each child according to their talents, strengths and needs.

In Egelhoff’s classroom, students in cluster groups learn Photoshop, write and produce music, research wildlife, practice their coding skills, or learn about nature through science.

Groups are made up of students who share an interest, topic, or topic. Students can choose to explore any topic that interests them. Each cluster group works together for six to eight weeks in their classroom or across grades, and is organized by teachers, staff and families.

“The goal is to help kids know what interests and excites them,” Egelhoff said.

Enrichment clusters were implemented, in part, to provide equitable learning opportunities for every student. They help eliminate racial disproportionality in advanced learning by giving every student access to learning services that help them thrive.

“As a school, everyone has access to the same things,” Egelhoff said. “The [Thurgood Marshall] the staff is truly passionate about social justice. It’s a way to make it happen – it benefits everyone.

Clusters also reveal student potential and remove barriers to accessing advanced learning offerings, one of the main goals of our new service delivery model. . Over time, students will receive advanced learning services at their neighborhood school. The new model is designed to serve the whole child, and new types of instruction, such as enrichment groups, will be flexible enough to provide advanced lessons when needed and grade-level help in d other areas, if necessary.

“There’s so much the kids have in common, it’s great that they can learn together,” Egelhoff said.

During the pandemic, clusters have remained mostly in their assigned classrooms, but Egelhoff hopes students will soon be able to collaborate with peers from other classes so they can explore shared areas of interest together.

For now, she is happy to see her students working with each other to develop their strengths and talents. She knows that the knowledge they gain in the clusters will eventually lead them to an exciting future.

“It would be great if one day these students had careers based on a subject they explored in elementary school enrichment clusters,” Egelhoff said. “Maybe they wouldn’t have had the chance to learn about this subject in another setting, but thanks to the enrichment clusters, it became their lifelong passion.”

The Advanced Learning Department is currently working to bring enrichment clusters to more schools. SPS is deeply committed to continuing our district-wide advanced learning program for K-8 students. By changing the way we provide these services, every student will have access to the learning experiences and support they need to excel.