By the end of the year, 75 students will have been a part of Creekside Elementary School’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program.
Sponsored by the Spearfish Foundation for Public Education, this new program offers accelerated academic opportunities for students in the third, fourth and fifth grades. This is an afterschool program for selected high achieving students who meet certain criteria. Two teachers from the school provide an “enriched” experience of their choice.
At this time, 25 students are in the midst of completing the curriculum for a session that began on Oct. 15. The students meet after school every Monday and Thursday for an hour. During that time, several activities are planned in order to expand the students’ minds. For this particular group, they were interested in learning more about engineering — so GATE instructors Jill Tiffany and Barb Schuler crafted several opportunities for them to achieve their goal.
The gifted director, Lindsay Sparks, a third-grade teacher, is also involved with the project.
The students chosen to participate in GATE tested well on the D-STEP, and were recommended by their teachers.
“Our goal is to find creative thinkers that would benefit from a program like this,” Tiffany said. “It’s unique in that it’s driven by the students because they come up with the ideas, and I just ask questions to guide them into finding out what’s possible for them.”
Tiffany said in the end, the students are able to work together to solve problems.
This particular session focuses on engineering, and on this particular day, students in Tiffany’s class studied Rube Goldberg and the creations he was famous for. The kids designed a contraption to perform a simple task, such as throwing something away in the garbage, popping a balloon or ringing a bell. To complete the assignment, the students spent the next session perfecting their contraption, and they will eventually have an opportunity to test them out.
Across the hall in Schuler’s class, several more students are studying the same concept — but with a different twist.
“They focus their time on what is known as ‘instant challenges,’ which are essentially timed assignments,” Schuler said. For example, during this session, students were provided with marshmallows, string, several straws, toothpicks and rubber bands in order to see how many marshmallows could be suspended in the air. The students have two minutes of planning time, and eight minutes to build them.
“My hope is that they work together, communicate and share ideas at the same time,” Schuler said.
Each session, the students complete up to four instant challenges.
The program will continue throughout the school year. This particular session ends before holiday break, and another 25 students will be chosen to participate, and their focus will be on writing and performing a play.
When it comes to education — gifted programs such as this one are essential to promote creative thinking, but budget cuts have resulted the elimination of some of them.
“The foundation is excited to be able to bring this program to the district,” said Mary Pochop, a member of the foundation’s board of directors.
She added that in January, the foundation will again sponsor the After School Assistance Program at Creekside Elementary School, where students will be divided into small groups and meet twice a week.
“This afterschool program offers tutoring to students who need extra help with academics, specifically math and reading,” Pochop said.
Reprinted with permission from the Black Hills Pioneer © 2012.