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Curry Student’s Innovative Project Earns National Award

Dec. 8, 1999 -- When University of Virginia graduate student Kay Brimijoin began working on an assignment for her "Introduction to Curriculum for the Gifted" class, she had no idea of its lasting impact. Now, only a year after its creation, the assignment has become a new curriculum for accelerated high schoolers and the winner of a national award.

As coordinator of enrichment programs and co-coordinator of staff development for Amherst County Public Schools, Brimijoin wanted to create a unit that could be used by Amherst students as well as satisfy her coursework for a Ph.D. in educational psychology at U.Va.

Together with Cynthia Kelley, the chair of the English department at Amherst County High School, Brimijoin created a semester-long unit called "Visions and Voices: Humanism and the Renaissance" for 12th graders enrolled in college-level English.

"It is an interactive, multi-disciplinary unit focused on lots of writers, primarily Dante, Petrarch, Shakespeare and the English sonneteers," Brimijoin said. In addition, the program "embraces the music and visual arts of the time," she said. Students study writers and artists as they explore the concept of humanism.

Brimijoin and Kelley also had another aim: to create a program so enticing and engaging that high school seniors would stay interested and work hard, despite the allure of "senioritis" — a term used to describe lack of interest in classes as graduation nears.

The program’s trial run in the spring of 1999 was so successful that Brimijoin and Kelley submitted the unit to a competition sponsored by the National Association for Gifted Children. The judges chose the program as one of the 10 best in the country. Brimijoin received a red marble apple and plaque Nov. 5 in Albuquerque, NM, at the association’s annual conference.

"As a result of this, we’re currently in dialogue with a publisher about the possibility of publishing the unit," Brimijoin said.

The literature program includes innovative projects designed to captivate students. For example, after reading Shakespeare’s "Othello," students were told to imagine that the play’s villain, Iago, was tried and convicted for his crimes. The seniors wrote legal briefs stating if they thought the verdict should be overturned or upheld.

In order to complete the project, they had to learn the logistics of writing legal briefs while using the text to support their positions.

Brimijoin said several students began considering the possibility of law school after finishing the project.

For more information, contact Kay Brimijoin at (804) 946-9386 ext. 1-651 or kab3s@virginia.edu.

Contact: Jill Johnson, (804) 924-6855

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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