Jeanna Velechko, Director, jvelechko @ rutherfordschools.org
Eileen Huelbig, Clerical Assistant, ehuelbig @ rutherfordschools.org
The Rutherford Public Schools Gifted and Talented Program strives to provide services to children with special educational needs. Gifted children require a myriad of educational opportunities which maximize their unique styles, interests and aptitudes. Curricula for these students must provide varied, challenging experiences that will foster positive attitudes toward continued learning. Enhancing the individual as an independent learner and producer is the paramount concern of the program.
The Gifted and Talented Program is designed to simulate aptitudes and talents as students are helped to discover the nature of their special gifts. Exposure to experiences beyond the scope of the regular grade level curriculum broaden students’ range of interests. Moreover, the Gifted and Talented Program provides for the interaction of identified students in small group settings under the special guidance of educators who are sensitive to the uniqueness of gifted children.
Throughout the gifted and talented curriculum, content and activities are selected which afford maximum skill development in the cognitive and affective domains. Higher level thinking skills are imperative to the realization of the gifted student’s potential; therefore, the development and refinement of critical thinking skills are at the core of each curriculum. In addition, the curriculum provides the opportunity to exercise creative talents as a complement to cognitive abilities. Creativity can be thought of as the cornerstone of progress. For this reason, the creative skills of fluency, flexibility, divergency, originality and elaboration are stressed.
Because a creative, original idea which is not communicated effectively has limited impact, the development of communication skills in the gifted student is essential. The communication networks addressed throughout the curriculum include verbal and non-verbal communication, interpretation, interpersonal skills, and listening skills.
The curriculum also provides for skill development in the affective domain. In order for the gifted to assume a positive role in society, they need an effective self-concept, a sense of critical acceptance, the ability to cope with failure, and the capacity to formulate logical, rational discussion. Further development of skills within the networks of curiosity, imagination, risk-taking and complexity is designed to provide gifted students with an impetus to explore new pathways and to evaluate old ones in a new light.
Because of the varied and unique needs of gifted students, new and innovative educational opportunities are essential to an effective, stimulating and comprehensive program. Consequently, program evaluation and revision is ongoing.