Wake magnet schools define students' smarts

Posted February 11, 2010 8:39 a.m. EST
Updated February 11, 2010 9:59 a.m. EST

— How do you define "smart”? There's no single right answer, but some Wake County magnet schools have come up with various definitions of the word to help students learn.

At Douglas Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh, it's not a question of whether a student is smart – it’s how they are smart.

“I’m more like a math learner. I really like math,” said student Delfi Ortega-Mackenzie.

Math smart is just one of the definitions. Psychologist Howard Gardner has identified eight kinds of smarts, or "multiple intelligences":

  • Linguistic intelligence or "word smart"
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence or "math smart"
  • Spatial intelligence or "picture smart"
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence or "body smart"
  • Musical intelligence or "music smart"
  • Interpersonal intelligence or "people smart"
  • Intrapersonal intelligence or "self smart"
  • Naturalist intelligence or "nature smart"

Since students' brains process information in different ways, teachers say they typically have multiple activities going on at once in their classrooms, and each activity plays to a certain strength. Some students might draw a story on paper while others act it out or put the story to music.

School leaders say the goal is to offer kids different ways to take in the curriculum and encourage them to be all-around learners.

“You want to both give them some comfort by working in those strengths, but you also want to build up their weaker areas. So that’s why kids participate in those eight ways of being smart,” said Michelle Burrows, a creative arts and science magnet school coordinator.

All teachers at Douglas Elementary go through special training in the theory of multiple intelligences so they can incorporate the concept in the classroom.

“It’s fun, and every child gets to succeed and excel,” said teacher Carolyn Florence.

Teachers say the various approaches build up kids' confidence and their enthusiasm for learning. Bugg Elementary, Wendell Elementary and East Millbrook Middle also use multiple intelligences as the core philosophy. All are magnet schools.