Eleven Schools Adopt Renzulli

by Anthony Biscione

On any given day during the school year, students at St. Robert Bellarmine School, Bayside,  are creating mummies, cheering inside the Roman Coliseum, or reading the journals of soldiers fighting in the trenches of World War I — all without leaving their classroom.
Students in kindergarten through grade eight at St. Robert Bellarmine are using the Renzulli Learning Program, a web-based system that the school’s technology coordinator, Steven Bruno, describes as “Google times a million.”
Adopted last year by St. Robert Bellarmine School, the Renzulli Learning Program will be launched in 11 more Catholic schools/academies this fall. Joining St. Robert Bellarmine School on this exciting journey are six schools/academies in Brooklyn: Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Kensington; Our Lady of Trust School, Canarsie; St. Saviour School, Park Slope; St. Ephrem School, Dyker Heights; St. Anselm School, Bay Ridge; and St. Catherine of Genoa + St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Academy, East Flatbush; and five schools/academies in Queens: Incarnation School, Queens Village; St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy, S. Ozone Park; St. Joseph School, Long Island City; St. Kevin School, Flushing; and St. Michael School, Flushing.
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, and Associate Superintendent, Anthony Biscione, spearheaded the program expansion, which was possible through the McEntegart Grants offered to Catholic schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn through the Futures in Education Foundation.
The Renzulli Learning Program is the result of more than three decades of research conducted by Dr. Joseph Renzulli and Dr. Sally Reis at the University of Connecticut.
Dr. Renzulli and Dr. Reis believed that the goal of education is to help each student develop his or her unique and innate gifts and talents. In essence, they asserted that all children are gifted and talented and that all teachers are charged with the responsibility of helping each student discover and enhance their talents and abilities.
This belief is consistent with the basic tenets of Catholic education that remind us that each person is created in the image and likeness of God and, as we are reminded in the parable of the talents (Mt 25: 14-30), responsible to make our gifts and talents bear fruit.
The Renzulli Learning Program brings together best practices in gifted education, project-based learning, learning styles theory and differentiated instruction.
Many Paths to Learning
“There are many paths to learning,” said Angela M. Fazio, principal of St. Robert Bellarmine School. “We look at each individual child and if a particular strategy or lesson is not working, we have an obligation to find another path. Renzulli allows us to do this.”
The website, www.renzullilearning.com, features exciting virtual field trips, 40,000 project-based learning activities, challenging critical thinking projects, hundreds of interest-based materials to engage students, and opportunities to conduct research and independent study.
Because each student has a unique profile, teachers can tailor assignments to keep everyone in the class motivated. One child, for example, might want to approach a project about a Civil War battle using math and statistics, while another might prefer a writing assignment.
Students’ instructional styles are joined with students’ interests and preferred mode of expression or product styles.  While some students might enjoy expressing what they’ve learned through drawing, painting or sculpting, other students might enjoy expressing what they’ve learned through an oral presentation, an audio-visual display or a multi-media presentation.
“To me everything is based on enthusiasm,” Fazio said. “If you have it, you will succeed. Parents, students, and teachers are off the charts with enthusiasm about this program. Every day the children come in and say ‘look what I did, look what I did,’ and it’s a Renzulli project.”
The program individualizes instruction based upon each student’s ability, learning style and interests. Students will have the ability to create a web-based portfolio that will track their activities and assessments. Teachers and parents are then able to monitor student progress.