The Elementary Challenge Program
Elizabeth Santucci (Worcester/Eagleville) Alonna H. Johnson (Arrowhead/Woodland)
The Challenge Program is a special part of the overall educational program for children identified by a Certified School Psychologist as mentally gifted. Identification is based on a multi-criteria evaluation that includes building-level evaluations of academic performance and teacher observations along with a norm-referenced achievement and reasoning quotients assessment administered by school personnel. If a child meets the minimum requirements at the building level gifted screening, individual achievement and intelligence testing is performed by a school psychologist. Students may be referred for screening by a teacher and/or this screening may be requested in written form by a parent. Once a student is identified, a team of parents and school personnel called a “G.I.E.P. Team” meets and agrees upon individual goals and specially-designed instruction for that student.
The main purpose of the pull-out Challenge Program is to motivate each student to achieve to his/her highest potential by working to meet the goals and outcomes agreed upon by the G.I.E.P. Team. Students will participate in high-interest independent and group activities which foster the development of problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, research/technological skills, divergent thinking, leadership skills, public speaking skills, organization/study skills, and goal setting. Younger Challenge students meet for approximately one hour per week, and students in grades 3-4 meet for a total of 2 ½ hours per week.
Grades K – 2: Younger Challenge students meet in multi-grade groups (determined by enrollment) and participate in a variety of interdisciplinary units based upon their interests. Sample topics of study include “The Scientific Method,” “Optical Illusions,” “The Human Body,”“Independent Study,” and “The Solar System.” Sample products developed include oral presentations, research projects, visual aides, and Power Point presentations.
Grade Three: Third graders participate in mathematics units called “Logic/Patterns" and “Manipulatives." The humanities units are entitled “All AboutMe,” “Junior Great Books,” “Mysteries,” and “Inventions.” Third graders can look forward to participating in a district-wide talent show, attending a field trip to the Mercer Museum, and participating in an invention party where they share original “Rube Goldberg” style inventions with parents and fellow classmates.
Grade Four: Fourth grade interdisciplinary units include “Geometric Constructions,” “Aerodynamics,” “Logic,” “Artifact Box,” “Architecture,”and “I-Search for Independent Study.” Highlights of fourth grade Challenge include making and flying tetrahedron kites, visiting the American Helicopter Museum, receiving and decoding an artifact box from a partner school, and participating in an independent study party where the students provide party favors and decorations that coincide with their topics of study.