Education column: Students shine at gifted showcase

Just before school was out, Zia Elementary held a special event: the 2011-2012 "Gifted Showcase, Learning On Display — A Museum Experience," held in Zia's atrium and nearby classrooms. Facilitated by Rene Hedemann, special education gifted and talented teacher at Zia, the event showcased the work of Hedemann's third- through sixth-grade gifted students.

Just more that 40 students participated, either individually or in small groups, and the atmosphere was electric. Running from 1:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m., the showcase was enthusiastically attended by parents and other adults, as well as fellow students.

Third-grade topics included art history; ancient Egypt; researching; and game creation, with student projects ranging from irrigation and water systems, to mathematics and mummies. The fourth grade, covering mythology and science experiments, included projects involving architecture; the Greek-Spartan conflict; Alexander the Great; cultural comparisons; the Olympic Games; and others. Fifth-grade topics included robotics; forensics; the 20th century; the Holocaust; and others.

Sixth-grade students focused on digital storytelling, and teams produced two original productions, created by the kids through writing, scripting, shooting, and video editing using Apple's iMovie software. The finished products were presented in multiple "movie" showings in a darkened classroom that served as the theater. In fact, as movie-goers entered the "theatre" along the red carpet walk (laid with red "butcher" paper), they were offered popcorn in decorated bags and a choice of sodas to enhance their movie experience!

Two selections were playing: "The Centerville Mystery," produced by Cam Kuykendall, Lucas Shirley, Julia Honeycutt and James Harris; and "A Week in Dallas," produced by Jack Palla, Luke Robinson, Corde Mallman, Andrea Abril, Glen Southard and Ryan Marez. Both movies were shot on location, in and around Zia Elementary, definitely Oscar-worthy productions.

The gifted program at the Clovis elementary schools is a pullout program, which means that once a week students are seen in small groups for approximately 90 minutes. This pullout schedule allows the least amount of disruption of the daily classroom routine, while allowing adequate time for the expansion of skills shown by research to be characteristic of children identified for receiving gifted services.

The curriculum is based on the following areas — recognized through current research as important elements in all education — but key in gifted education: analysis, synthesis, evaluation, problem solving, creativity, research, independent study, and affective development.

When I asked Hedemann about the motivation required for the incredible amount of work that had gone into all of the projects, she laughingly described the level of students' engagement: "Although we don't begin work on our showcase projects until January of the school year, students rush in as soon as school starts in August, eager to share with me what they plan to do for gifted showcase in the spring! These kids need an audience, a reason to share, to authentically present what they learn."

I know after visiting the exhibits and having lengthy conversations with these students, who demonstrated amazingly in-depth knowledge of their topic, I certainly learned a lot.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at www.idodi.cindy.kleyn-kennedy@clovis-schools.org

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