SPARK Institute Summer 2019

Join fellow teachers from Project SPARK schools in professional learning around recognizing and responding to advanced potential in the early grades!

As a teacher in a SPARK school, you are invited to attend our SPARK Summer Institute, which will include multiple choices for professional development sessions. These sessions will present useful tools and strategies that you can use to address the needs of not only your high-potential students, but all students. You may register to attend as many of the sessions as you wish – further details provided below!

Dates/Times: June 25-27, 8:30 am-3:30 pm
Note that some workshops are full-day sessions (8:30 - 3:30) while others are half-day sessions (8:30-11:30 or 12:30 -3:30).

Location: All sessions will take place on the 6th floor of Technology Hall at Naugatuck Community College (Waterbury Campus)

Payment information: All workshops are free to you. You will be compensated at your district’s current rate for professional development for the workshop hours. You must sign in and out of each session to verify attendance. You will also be asked to complete some paperwork with UConn that will allow us to pay you. You will not be reimbursed for mileage.

Lunch: Lunch will not be provided. You are welcome to bring lunch, and we will also provide information about nearby lunch options.

Parking: Park in Parking Lot E (Free parking). Please use the East Entrance for easy access to the campus.


From Route 8: Take the Danbury exit onto I-84, then first exit off I-84 (exit 18). Bear left at the fork and take a left at the light. Go to the second light for East Entrance.

From I-84 West: Take exit 18, bear left at the fork and take a left at the light. Go to the second light for East Entrance.

From I-84 East:  Take exit 18. Take a right at the light and again at the next right. Go over the bridge and at light take a left onto Chase Parkway. Go to the first light for the East Entrance.

Once you have parked, enter Technology Hall and go up one flight of stairs.

Full Day Sessions

Project M2 Measurement Units: [Facilitator: Stacy Hayden]

Designed for K-2 teachers, the Project M² units focus on in-depth mathematics using research-based practices and standards in mathematics education and early childhood education. Students are encouraged to think like practicing mathematicians and are immersed in math discourse so they can learn concepts in depth and understand what it means to communicate mathematically. Each unit is also differentiated to meet the needs of all learners. Teachers will receive a copy of one grade level unit as a part of this session. Visit for more information on the units.

Grade K unit: Sizing up the Lilypad Space Station: Measuring with the Frogonauts

Grade 1 unit: Creating the School Measurement Fair: Measuring with Imi and Zani

Grade 2 Unit (Using Everyday Measures: Measuring with the Meerkats)

Full-day session covers all three units.

June 25, 8:30 am - 3:30 pm

Half-Day Sessions

(listed alphabetically by title - see chart above for scheduled times)

Best Practices: High-Quality NGSS Resources for Your Classroom: [Facilitator: Jacqueline Ose]
In this session, we will discuss marrying Cross Cutting Concepts, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Performance Expectations to high-quality GT curriculum. We will use vetted NGSS resources from NSTA, the TERC project, STEM Teaching Tools, and others to practice creating science units, storylines, or lessons. All teachers will have access to “An Educator’s Guide to NGSS” and GT elementary curriculum books.
Tuesday, June 25 8:30 am - 11:30 am
Tuesday, June 25 12:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Beyond Words: [Facilitator: Dr. Catherine Little]
Beyond Words  is a language arts unit that focuses on figurative language and how words and images work together to help us develop understanding of ideas. This workshop provides an overview of the unit and the teaching strategies employed, with particular focus on challenging high potential learners. Each attendee will receive a copy of the teacher guide and student guide.
June 27, 8:30 - 11:30
Discourse in Mathematics: [Facilitator: Dr. Janine Firmender]
Facilitating a mathematical discussion sounds great, but, in reality, there are so many directions students can take you! Come learn about talk moves that can help you guide rich discussions. On the surface, the talk moves appear simple, yet they have the potential to get students to delve deeply into the mathematics. Also come get insights about the talk frame that can be used in tandem with the talk moves. The talk frame captures student ideas, makes them more permanent, and can help students make connections between oral and written discourse. We will watch videos, model use of these two powerful strategies, and engage in these approaches throughout our time together.
June 26, 8:30-11:30
Encouraging Higher Level Critical and Creative Thinking: [Facilitators: Dr. Kelly Kearney, Sarah Charbonneau, and Molly Holinger]
In this session, we will model examples of K-3 lessons designed to encourage higher-level thinking behaviors in all students. We will also share the kinds of student responses that we have found in implementing these lessons in classrooms, particularly with diverse populations of learners, and how to further encourage their potential. We will provide teachers with access to these response lessons and share guidelines and resources for implementing and incorporating critical and creative thinking strategies.
June 26, 8:30-11:30
Jacob’s Ladder: [Facilitator: Dr. Catherine Little]
Jacob’s Ladder is a teacher resource for supporting students’ reading comprehension and movement from lower levels to higher levels of thinking in reading. This workshop will be an introduction to the Jacob’s Ladder resources and how they might be used as a resource for reading instruction, particularly for students showing advanced potential in reading. Each attendee will receive a copy of a Jacob’s Ladder teacher text.
June 27, 12:30-3:30

Partnering with Parents: Help for Supporting High-Potential Learners Outside of School: [Facilitator: Pam Peters ]

Families of children with high potential have unique questions and experiences. In this session we will talk about how to discuss advanced academic potential with parents. The presenter will also introduce teachers to local and national resources that can help parents work with their high-potential children at home and in the community.

June 25, 12:30-3:30


    Project M2 Geometry Units: [Facilitator: Dr. Janine Firmender]

    Designed for K-2 teachers, the Project M² Geometry units focus on developing students’ depth of knowledge for geometry concepts. By using research-based practice standards in mathematics education and early childhood education, teachers can engage their “student mathematicians” by establishing a classroom community of learners characterized by math discourse to communicate mathematically throughout these units. Each unit also provides opportunities for differentiation to meet the needs of all learners. Participants will receive a copy of the unit for participating in the session. Visit for more information on the units.

    Grade K unit: Geometry with the Frogonauts

    June 27, 8:30-11:30

    Grade 1 unit: Exploring Shape Games: Geometry with Imi and Zani

    June 26, 12:30-3:30

      • Grade 2 unit: Designing a Shape Gallery: Geometry with the Meerkats

    June 27, 12:30-3:30

    STEM Instant Challenges: [Facilitator: Anne Roberts]
    The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Instant Challenges session will consist of a series of creative quick challenges to use in any K-2 classroom. All student learners can benefit from these activities, but high potential learners will also be challenged. Three types of instant challenges will be demonstrated, which are all based on the Destination Imagination STEM curriculum: performance-based, task-based, or a combination of the two (performance- and task-based). Tips for how to successfully implement these instant challenges into any classroom will be discussed.
    June 25, 8:30-11:30
    Supporting the Social Emotional Needs of Twice-Exceptional Students in the Classroom: [Facilitators: Sarah Charbonneau and Alexis Melendez]
    Social Emotional Learning is a framework that provides students with the abilities to manage their emotions and relationships, ultimately allowing them to succeed in the classroom. This session will address the unique social emotional needs of high potential students with a disability (i.e. students considered Twice-Exceptional). All students, however, may benefit from presented social emotional support and behavior management strategies.
    June 25, 12:30-3:30
    June 26, 12:30-3:30
    Technology Roulette: [Facilitator: Stacy Hayden]
    Designed for 3-5 teachers this session will expose teachers to 30 different technology tools they can use in their classroom. This fast paced session will provide a brief overview of each tool and ideas for using each in a variety of ways. Each teacher will walk away with at least a few tools that are new to them!
    June 27, 12:30-3:30

    Presenter Bios

    Sarah Charbonneau, M.A., is a doctoral student in Educational Psychology with a concentration in School Psychology at the University of Connecticut and a Graduate Assistant for Project SPARK. She has worked with elementary school students with disabilities in one urban and one suburban district in Connecticut as a School Psychology Practicum Student.

    Stacy Hayden, M.A., is a doctoral student in the Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent Development program. Stacy received her B.S. in Elementary Education (2012) from Radford University. She is a graduate of the UConn Three Summers Program where she received her M.A. in Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent Development (2016). Prior to coming to UConn, Stacy taught gifted students and coordinated the Young Scholars Program in Alexandria City Public Schools, Virginia. Stacy was recognized as a Javits-Fraiser Scholar in 2014 by the National Association of Gifted Children and was named Outstanding Teacher of the Gifted for Region IV-E by the Virginia Association of the Gifted in 2017.  Stacy serves as a Graduate Research Assistant for Thinking Like Mathematicians: Challenging All Grade 3 Students, a research study funded by the funded by the Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act. Her research interests include equity, pre-identification programs, and college honors programs. In her former life as a teacher, Stacy enjoyed using new technology tools in her classroom.

    Molly Holinger is a Ph.D. student in Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut under the advisement of Dr. James C. Kaufman and a graduate research assistant for Project SPARK (Supporting and Promoting Advanced Readiness in Kids), a research study funded by the Javits grant program. She received her M.S. in Creative Studies from the International Center for Studies in Creativity, SUNY Buffalo State. Her current research focuses on the positive outcomes of creativity such as positive emotions, engagement, and meaning.

    Kelly Kearney, Ph.D., serves as Project SPARK's Research Associate. She completed her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Gifted and Talented Education in December 2014. She has worked extensively with out-of-school time programming for advanced learners, and she previously worked as a first grade teacher. Her dissertation research focused on resilience in advanced learners from underrepresented groups. For Project SPARK, she works in schools with teachers and administrators to implement Response Lessons and identify gifted behaviors

    Alexis Melendez holds a Master's in Educational Psychology with a concentration in School Psychology at the University of Connecticut. Currently, she serves as a research assistant on the Thinking Like Mathematicians: Challenging All Grade 3 Students project, which focuses on teachers' beliefs about twice-exceptional students and strategies teachers can use within the classroom to challenge all students' academic abilities while also promoting talent development. Alexis has also worked with students primarily in grades K-8 who have social, emotional, behavioral, or learning difficulties.

    Jackie Ose holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Connecticut with a focus in Secondary Science Education. She has worked primarily with 10th grade biology students in two, large, urban school districts in CT. Jackie recently launched a free, open-source professional development website that consolidates high-quality Next Generation Science Standards resources into a tiered learning progression.

    Pam Peters is a doctoral student at the University of Connecticut.  Her research interests include equity in gifted education and parent/school partnerships. Pam is also the parent of two gifted student (grades 10 and 4) and has worked with parents and districts in five states.

    Anne Roberts, M.Ed., previously served as Project SPARK's Graduate Research Assistant. She is a full-time doctoral student in Educational Psychology with an emphasis on Giftedness, Creativity and Talent Development. She has worked as a gifted education specialist, Destination Imagination STEM Coordinator, and MakerSpace creator in the Virginia public school system. For Project SPARK, she worked in schools with teachers and administrators to implement Response Lessons and identify gifted behaviors.