Gifted Students Show Off Projects

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Frontier Elementary School students Anna Schouten (left) and Madeline Goldman stand in front of their project that examined endangered species worldwide at a gifted and talented showcase at Rim Country Middle School Tuesday night.

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Dorothy McKim (left) and Shannon Bielke, who co-ordinate the gifted program at Payson Elementary School, discuss the biographical pamphlets their students created.

Whether or not the Mohawk Indians actually ate men during battle is a mystery, said Frontier Elementary School student Luke Descheemaker.

He discussed his Mohawk diorama after presenting karate moves before an audience gathered at the gifted and talented showcase at Rim Country Middle School Tuesday night.

The night allowed students to display their projects from this year. However, Payson schools is working to expand its gifted program next year.

Tuesday night also featured a fashion show where two girls displayed the clothing they made and a riveting performance of Pachelbel’s Canon by Anna Schouten, among other things.

Descheemaker spent a week folding display board, gluing soil and creating a cave out of wire, paper and bark for his project. “Mohawk means man eater,” he said, although nobody knows if the feared fighters actually ate their opponents.

Descheemaker doesn’t think they did. “They weren’t that fierce,” he said.

Frontier Elementary School fifth-grader Madeline Goldman said she and partner Anna Schouten examined endangered species worldwide because they both love animals.

They found a list of 968 endangered animals globally. “I didn’t realize there are so many endangered species in Australia,” Goldman said.

Their project consisted of a world map they created using color to distinguish between various ecosystems. For instance, the green Play-doh-like material represented rain forest, pink stood for desert, and orange signified mountains.

Frontier Elementary School student Bethany Blanchard marveled at the long list of declining species.

“You mean you typed all those up?” she asked. Goldman assured her they found the list online. Blanchard made the brown V-neck dress with turquoise dots she wore. The dress had a belt of the same fabric but with inverse colors.

“It fits my personality,” Blanchard said of her dress. “I always wear polka dots and stuff.”

At Payson Elementary School, gifted students created passports and studied countries. After learning about a particular country’s customs and language, a student would receive a stamp in his passport book.

“We’re hoping they’ll get their passports filled up and learn about our world,” said gifted coordinator Dorothy McKim.

The goal with the gifted projects is to exercise the creative, right side of the brain because students receive extensive left brain, logical thinking in regular classes through reading textbooks, McKim and gifted coordinator Shannon Bielke said.

Students also made “lap books” which included color-coded maps, with colors standing for places students have visited, would like to visit and their places of birth.

The state helps fund the Payson Unified School District’s gifted programs, said Director of Special Services Barbara Fitzgerald. This year, the district received a $7,500 state grant.

Certain percentages of that money must be allocated to teachers’ professional development, direct student services and some of it to parent involvement.

“Parents are key to this,” Fitzgerald said.

The district began reinvigorating its gifted program last year. Developments this year included a pilot clustering program at Frontier Elementary School, which allows groupings of gifted, average and challenged students in the same class to receive open-ended instruction based on a student’s particular abilities.

Julia Randall Elementary School has a reading program for gifted students run by the school librarian, although the students did not attend Tuesday’s event.

At Rim Country Middle School next year, some students could take a combined science and math class, or English and social studies class, which would allow teachers to develop lessons in the related, yet traditionally separated subjects.

Gifted programs at the high school are in the future, Fitzgerald said. “For gifted students, it’s not just about AP,” she said, referring to advanced placement classes.

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