Illing Middle School presents Winter Enrichment Showcases

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Jan. 30, 2014
Ben Greenfield, an eighth-grader at Illing Middle School, did his winter enrichment project on natural poisons. Photos by Corey AmEnde.
Ben Greenfield, an eighth-grader at Illing Middle School, did his winter enrichment project on natural poisons. Photos by Corey AmEnde.

The library at Illing Middle School was abuzz with the talk of murder mysteries, poisonous plants and serial killers, among other topics, as students in the enrichment program presented their projects during the Winter Enrichment Showcase, which was held Jan. 29 for eighth-graders and Jan. 30 for seventh-graders. The projects were inspired by Michaela MacColl’s novel, “Nobody’s Secret,” which is a fictional murder mystery featuring a teenaged Emily Dickinson. The students had to use an element of the story such as poetry, science or history and the murder mystery as the basis for their projects.

“I gave them a menu and they had three different options,” said David Lee, an enrichment teacher at Illing Middle School. “We read the novel in class, and the author came and did a school visit here, and then I just gave them three really broad options: one about Emily Dickinson, one about murder mysteries and one about plants.”

Eighth-grader Ben Greenfield centered his project on natural poisons. “I like the science stuff, so I thought poison was a really cool topic,” said Greenfield, who created a poster board with poisonous plants and developed a computer game based on his presentation.
“The whole point of the game is to read the poster board, because then you can learn all the information for the game from the poster board, so then you can learn all the answers,” said Greenfield.

Fellow classmates Andy Basso and Mubasshir Hossain chose serial killers as a topic for their project. Basso said they researched a number of different serial killers, but chose to focus their poster board presentation on Jeffrey Dahmer and Dennis Rader, a.k.a. the BTK Killer.  

“We made a report about serial killers because the project we made was about a murder mystery,” said Basso. 

Hossain said they spent a lot of time brainstorming ideas for their project. “We started thinking about serial killers who have been caught and serial killers who haven’t been caught and what they did differently and their techniques,” said Hossain. “From there we decided to brainstorm characteristics that they had in common, and what we found is that most of them had some sort of psychological disorder or something that made them act different from other people.”

Lee said there are four enrichment teachers in the school district that service students who he said are, “identified as gifted and talented as well as other students who aren’t officially identified but who teachers recommend to the program as students who go above and beyond what they’re supposed to do in their regular class or show an extreme talent for some particular area.” Students enrolled in the enrichment program at Illing meet twice a week.

“I like to focus on real independent work and independent projects, guided independent projects where I gave the students a framework,” said Lee. “We work on developing creativity skills and research skills, but within that I just give them a framework and let them kind of chose what direction they want to go.”

Basso said he enjoys the experience offered by the enrichment program. “I like it because a lot of times regular language arts classes will be really easy, and it gives me a challenge that I can do besides that,” said Basso. 

Hossain said he enjoys the enrichment program because it affords him experiences that he wouldn’t usually have if he wasn’t in the program. “I feel like we appreciate more about literature because usually in our free time we wouldn’t read poetry, but because of the enrichment program we read the book, 'Nobody’s Secret,'” said Hossain.

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