Gifted and talented program at Zia is amazing

Not long before school was out, I had occasion to visit Zia Elementary to attend the "Gifted and Talented" showcase at Zia Elementary. Entitled, "The Many Faces of Gifted," this amazing event indeed showcased the remarkable GT students of teacher Rene Hedemann.

The afternoon-long program contained presentations of surprising variety. For example, the third-graders did a study on "Nigeria: A Case Study of an African Nation" with associated presentations. The fourth-graders' topic was "Unsolved Mysteries," featuring research into the Bermuda Triangle, the Lost City of Atlantis, Crop Circles, Stonehenge, UFOs, Amelia Earhart and the Curse of King Tut.

Hedemann described the process: "A large part of gifted is inquiry; to teach inquiry research, students must learn to effectively evaluate source materials."

Their presentations entailed displays and a variety of projects that comprehensively represented the topic, such as artifacts, games, or other products to demonstrate learning.

The fifth-graders focused on Robotics design, and students built robots that they designed and programmed. Robots had to maneuver courses and perform tasks through students' engineering skills, including sensor-technologies and others.

Hedemann shared the process: "Students covered sequential lessons that provided background. They maintained a lab notebook; used lots of measurement, math and writing skills." The kids became very involved, and, in fact, as I observed the students disassembling their robots at the close, one girl remarked, sighing, "Well, that was sad … our robots died."

The sixth graders' focus was "Digital Storytelling," for which they set up a movie theater, complete with red carpet walkway and offered complimentary popcorn and sodas, courtesy of Allen Theaters. Three movies — "Paradise Island," "Shipwrecked" and "Danger in the Deep" — were entirely produced by students.

Students went through the entire process of writing original stories, scripts, storyboarding, and acting. Then was the digital production stage with available technology. They even used green screens and sound effects. Amazing!

This showcase event was the culmination of year-long activities. Earlier in the year, students had participated, as in previous years, in "The Stock Market Game," conceived and sponsored by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association ( to promote financial literacy.

In this "game" Hedemann's students are thrown into a real world scenario, investing a hypothetical $100,000 in an online portfolio. Students learn all about the economy, covering all subject content areas in the process. During the process of building the knowledge base, students cover business and industry and how things affect the market, such as severe weather, political events, and so forth.

Not only was this project a great success, the Western Region Director of SIFMA, sent a letter to Zia Elementary, commending Hedemann on the exceptional performance of her students. Their words: "… Rene Hedemann is to be commended for teaching academic skills and incorporating financial literacy in such an innovative and creative way." At the close of the project, one student, Chandler Culberth won first place in the state of New Mexico.

Congratulations to great students and great educators!

— Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at

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