SPARK

Educators throughout Georgia will spend the month celebrating the importance of gifted education programs.

"Our children are one of our state's greatest resources. Georgia is blessed with tens of thousands of gifted and talented children whose full potential can be tapped only through the farsighted cooperation of educators, community members, and government leaders," stated Gov. Nathan Deal in an official proclamation, declaring the month of January as Gifted Education Month for the state.

Gifted Education Month will give education professionals an opportunity to highlight the importance of developing the potential of Georgia's children in the areas of academics, creativity, leadership, and fine arts.

"Gifted programs are extremely important to children because they encourage them to be creative and help stretch their thinking and imagination," said Carol Goings, gifted coordinator for the Baldwin County school district.

School officials in Baldwin's school system work year round--not just in January, Goings added, to make sure area gifted students are skilled in applying what they learn to the real world.

"It's also about application," she said. "Gifted education programs encourage students to make connections between theories and the real world--helping them think of ways to make things better and solve problems."

The Baldwin County school district's Gifted Program consists of three program levels: Operation Explore (OE) for elementary students, Advanced Content and Enrichment (ACE) for the middle school, and Advanced Placement (AP) for high school students.

Any student may be nominated for the gifted program by a teacher, counselor, administrator, parent or guardian, peer, or any other individual with knowledge of the student's abilities.

During this academic year, ACE students at Oak Hill Middle School were introduced to a new gifted program titled SAGE.

SAGE operates as a school-within-a school at Oak Hill, say officials, emphasizing a rigorous, project-based education with thematic instruction that integrates science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, also known as STEAM, into all areas of curriculum.

All student work in SAGE focuses on creative and community problem-solving tasks.

OHMS Principal Dr. Linda Ramsey said thus far, the students and teachers are enjoying the program and that it is a huge success at the school.

As part of SAGE curriculum, gifted students also participate in enrichment activities once a week, called SPARK exploratory programs.

"We call it SPARK because we're hoping the activities we choose will help the students spark an interest in something new that may become a life long passion or a job," said Beth Joiner, language arts teacher at Oak Hill.

Parents of area gifted students in the Baldwin school district also have the opportunity to support their child's experience in gifted programs by joining a local gifted support organization.

Baldwin County Association for Gifted Children (BCAGC) was created to help support and advance Baldwin County's gifted programs in the schools through additional fundraising efforts.

"This parent group helps raise funds for our gifted children through different fundraisers. Each year, students get a chance to go to the state gifted conference because of the money raised by BCAGC," Goings said.

In conjunction with Gifted Education Month, Baldwin's gifted educators are participating in professional learning workshops to help them better serve area youth.

"Our SAGE and OE teachers will be in a 4-hour workshop learning about Renzulli's enrichment cluster which takes a project and connects with a community interest. It will help our teachers as well as our gifted students take on a project that would be relative to what's going on in Milledgeville and Baldwin County," Goings said.

The enrichment cluster theory is part of Joseph Renzulli's book "The Schoolwide Enrichment Model."

Renzulli, an educational psychologists, discusses research based models in his book that are specifically designed for gifted students.

For more information on Gifted Education Month visit gov.georgia.gov.

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