Learning opportunities for gifted students in the Westerville City School District just got a boost, thanks to a $3,000 grant from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation. One hundred and sixty sets of classic paperback books will be purchased for gifted third and fourth grade students at all 14 elementary schools. In depth discussions about this literature will take place on line in the newly created Virtual Gifted Reading Classroom. Elementary Gifted Reading Facilitator Marti Corna submitted the proposal to expose youngsters who have been identified as gifted to curriculum specifically designed to cultivate critical thinking and deeper learning.
The objective of the Virtual Reading Classroom is to engage all students who have been identified as gifted in the area of reading so their unique learning abilities can be met and developed at the appropriate level that will provide challenge. Limited resources and funding for this type of programming has been problematic. Asking families to purchase these books to accompany literature units would be a hardship for many. This grant comes at a wonderful time because, Corna says, “I do not want to establish barriers to learning based on financial abilities.”
Virtual classrooms are new to gifted learning this year and district officials are excited about the potential. Different reading activities are posted every day and the goal is to make them so appealing and intellectually stimulating that students are clamoring to participate. So far the venture seems to be catching on, with more than 5,700 hits occurring since its inception a few short weeks ago. Parents and classroom teachers are also warming up to this enrichment opportunity. Stephanie Donofe, the district’s Coordinator of Curriculum Services, is providing technological support through a program called Schoology.
Corna credits Suzanne Palmer, Coordinator of Gifted Education, for her encouragement and commitment in finding new ways to serve the needs of gifted students. Palmer said, “By supporting these students with rich literature and resources developed specifically for the gifted learner, we will be providing curriculum to encourage academic growth.” She added that this project will be able to be sustained as the resources are non-consumable. After successful implementation at grades 3 and 4, the program will be implemented in grade 5.
Dr. Dan Good, Superintendent of Westerville City Schools, expressed gratitude to the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation for their gift. “This innovative program supports our learners in a virtual environment while developing higher order thinking skills,” he said. “It supports the District’s number one goal, that Every Student Achieves Educational Success.”