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Gifted program a hit with K-5 crowd

There are many ways to test student achievements and challenge them academically.

But "gifted" students aren't just those who excel in the classroom.

The new program, Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), now offered at Detroit Lakes schools, gives students hands-on opportunities to learn about various topics and enhance their existing skills.

Hundreds of Roosevelt and Rossman students in grades K-5 are now part of the program that includes a variety of clubs: science, math, technology, poetry and reading.

"We're trying to just offer programs that let kids shine where their gifts are," program coordinator Jennifer Smith said.

Some students are selected for the program based on academic performance and others by referrals.

GATE volunteer and parent of participating student, Mike Stearns, said the program recognizes front runners.

"With budget cuts, gifted and talented kids may not get enough attention with the schools trying to meet the No Child Left Behind," he said. "I think they're very excited to know that they're getting some additional challenges and attention because of their skills."

For those who may not show potential in the classroom, the results can be surprising.

"There are some kids that I would've thought maybe would've struggled with the poetry, and yet, they were some of the most creative kids," Smith said. "A short and sweet little 20-minute lesson got them excited."

Another club that has gotten students excited about learning is "Battle of the Books."

The battle begins Wednesday, Feb. 24. Students will be tested in a quiz show format on the books they've been reading.

Each group of students participating in that club was given a list of 12 to 15 books to finish by the battle date. The top team from each of the elementary schools will get to compete for the grand prize, which means Rossman will battle Roosevelt.

"I wanted to stretch them in other ways by picking books that they would normally not pick," Smith said.

The school district receives an annual allocation of $36,000 for the program, but before it began, the district saved up three years worth to launch it.

"So at a point in time when we were ready and felt like the program could support itself, then we would implement it," superintendent Doug Froke said.

The district will continue to receive the allocations unless state officials decide to slash those funds.

"The funding stream could dry up, especially in these economic times," Froke said. "So we built a model that hopefully would support (GATE) even if the law would be repealed."

Because not enough funds are available for a paid staff to run the program, it's mostly volunteer based.

And the more students continue to show interest in GATE, the more volunteers will be needed, Smith said.

Since the beginning of the program in September, more than 450 students have been filling up the clubs that are held after school as well as during the lunch hour. Many of the students are signed up for more than one club.

"I think that was the biggest surprise for us, to really see that on paper, that we've actually reached that many kids so far."

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