By Amanda Anderson
INDIALANTIC -- Virginia Hamilton loves teaching her gifted students at Indialantic Elementary.
"I cannot imagine teaching anything else," said Mrs. Hamilton, who has taught for 21 years, 11 of those solely for gifted students.
For each class, Mrs. Hamilton seeks out a special project, doing her best to make sure the project that she selects has components that are geared toward the different learning styles and strengths of each student.
Mrs. Hamilton's 14 gifted fifth-grade students took part in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, helping Washington-based Talking Rain Beverage Company create a new flavor for its Sparkling Ice drink.
"I want my students to be exposed to different things, including community involvement and partnerships," Mrs. Hamilton said. "That way, they are able to look back on the experiences they had in elementary school with pride."
The idea for helping to create a new flavor of Sparkling Ice started when Mrs. Hamilton contacted Talking Rain about its product.
"I believe in giving praise where praise is due," Mrs. Hamilton said. "I am a fan of Ice and wrote [the company] an email. They responded, and this project began."
Seeing an exciting opportunity, Talking Rain wanted to be involved with her students, and the collaboration began.
"Parents became involved, too, by bringing in seltzer water and different fruits and flavors to mix and sample," Mrs. Hamilton said.
In order to combine the skills her students have learned in school with this neat experience, Mrs. Hamilton combined math and statistics to help the students determine what flavors worked together best.
"We created a graph, where students would chart what flavors and combinations they liked most," Mrs. Hamilton said.
The students also recorded the flavor creations and produced a skit, featuring the winning flavor, which can be viewed on YouTube.
Once the flavors were mixed, blended and served, and the votes were tallied, "strawberry lemonade" was named the victor, with "blueberry peach" coming in second place.
"We Skyped with Talking Rain's research and development team, so the students could see how the process goes," Mrs. Hamilton said. "One student of mine wants to be a pilot, but after talking with Rain employees, he may have changed his mind because of the science aspect of research and development."
Talking Rain was happy to learn that "strawberry lemonade" was a popular flavor amongst the fifth-grade students, as the flavor was in production at the time of the Skype conversation.
"The flavor is already in Walmart, and Rain distributes to the U.S., Canada and, soon, Mexico," Mrs. Hamilton added.
Although the students confirmed Talking Rain's hopes for the "strawberry lemonade" flavor, the company wishes to look further into the "blueberry peach" combination the students helped to create.
"This is the second year of this project," said Mrs. Hamilton. "They started when they were in fourth-grade. Now, they are moving on to sixth-grade, and will continue working with Rain, testing new flavors and coming up with flavor combinations."
Wanting to provide her students with experiences to tell their parents about at the dinner table, Mrs. Hamilton is excited to continue the project, which is exclusive to this class.
"By doing this project, it goes to show the students what flavors work together," Mrs. Hamilton said. "And it's a fun experience I get to share with the students I adore so much."
To view the experiment on YouTube, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zoro6dxtd1K.