GRANDVIEW - For the past 11 years, McClure Elementary School has offered select students the opportunity to challenge themselves in what is called the Gifted Cluster Program.
Grandview School District had previously offered a self-contained class for gifted students, but when Susan Bennett came on board 11 years ago the program underwent a vast overhaul.
The program is open to students in grades 3-5. Every spring, Bennett and her team scour the three Grandview elementary schools in search of the right six students who would benefit from an advance learning program.
They identify these students by administering a test called SAGES (Screening Assessment for Gifted Elementary Students). Approximately 25 second grade students are selected each spring to take the test, which is the preferred assessment because it proves to be a multi-culturally diverse examination.
But only six children who take the test will be admitted into the program. Students who attend another school must transfer to McClure Elementary for the remainder of their elementary career.
The students are cloistered in a regular classroom where teachers are trained in differentiating curriculum, where they challenge the gifted students without isolating them from the rest of the school.
But for an hour and half on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Bennett pulls the children from their classrooms and directs a more advanced course.
Over the last 11 years, Bennett has established a project based curriculum that challenges her students.
Each quarter students find themselves working on something new. They may be focusing on reading a novel, such as Tuck Everlasting or Riding Freedom, where Bennett will incorporate aspects of writing, history and art.
Or the students will be focused on learning sciences and math, as they are this quarter.
Bennett's third grade group is learning about the rain forest and conducting research on animals found in them. Meanwhile, Bennett's fourth and fifth grade classes are conducting individual science experiments.
Typically, these experiments and all the students' work would be on display for parents during an all day gifted fair held at McClure Elementary, but this year, Bennett has opted to try something a little different.
On Thursday, June 3, she will hold the gifted fair in the evening. Then, on Friday, June 4, her fourth and fifth grade students will include their experiments in the school-wide fifth grade science fair.
Bennett is proud to say that parents who have children involved in her program are very supportive and that they have witnessed the success her students have gone on to achieve.
She still keeps in touch with many of her students who have moved on to high school and beyond. They include previous members of the Grandview Junior Miss court and the recently crowned Miss Grandview, Ranelle Kalaw.
But the program is about to undergo a gradual change over the next few years. While the fourth and fifth grade students will continue as were, Bennett and the Grandview School District have decided that next year's third grade class, and each year after, will meet after school instead of during the school day.
This will allow the students to spend their entire school day with their class and receive extra instruction afterward.
Sadly, few state funds have been allotted to benefit gifted programs like the one found at McClure Elementary, but they are certainly worth maintaining.
"It's wonderful to watch them blossom and grow," Bennett says, admitting that she loves her job. "It's enjoyable to experience taking them to higher levels."