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The GT Whiz Kids

The GT Whiz Kids
Posted on 06/11/2018
A student makes a point during a project discussion among gifted and talented students at Prospect Valley Elementary School.It was a Wednesday morning at Prospect Valley Elementary, and the kids in Debbie Simpson’s group were rushing to Conference Room 105 before the bell rang. The quarters were a little tight, but nobody seemed to mind.

These gifted and talented students, who are all on advanced learning plans, were taking a break from their regular classrooms to do some intense brainstorming under Simpson’s gentle guidance. She’s a GT tutor who, as much as possible, likes to put the kids in charge of projects that make them think.

“Help them learn to use creative and critical thinking and problem-solving skills, so we don’t give them all the answers. Really make it, so they have to ask questions to solve a problem,” explained Simpson.

Simpson’s students enjoy the challenges she puts in front of them and the guidance she provides.

“I think she’s really good for us because she’s nice, but she can also get to our minds and make sure that we know what we are doing,” said fifth-grader Allie Neal.

“She’s very like kind, and if we need help with something she can, she’s willing to help, and she can suggest like ideas for us if we’re stuck,” added fifth-grader Ashton Depoy.

During this session, the students swapped thoughts about their “save the species” project, an awareness effort with a superhero theme to get kids throughout Jeffco to be kinder to critters of all types.

“We care about our environment and our school, and we’ve also seen lots of kids being mean to the animals or just chasing them away,” said Neal.

“So, they wanted to create an educational campaign to help kids realize that they shouldn’t be tormenting the animals and why. So, they are doing a video and making posters,” added Simpson.

This wasn’t just about awareness; the work included designing wildlife habitat spaces around the school, with one area set aside as a pollinator garden.

“You know these kids at this school have always impressed me because they have big hearts and I’m not surprised that they would come up with a project like this. They’re very nice, respectful kids,” said Principal Mike Collins.

Simpson, a former petroleum engineer, turned high school science teacher turned elementary GT tutor, loves seeing what her GT whiz kids come up with, including a tiny house design challenge. Simpson says it’s just one more example of giving the students an opportunity to stretch.

“Normally we’d think that maybe they wouldn’t be able to solve it but you just give them enough time, and they come up with an amazing solution,” she said.

Mistakes and setbacks are always okay because it gives the students a chance to work through problems as a team.

“If we don’t agree on something we can always come to a conclusion of something that’s fair, and we’re usually not mean to each other because we know each other well,” said Depoy.

Solving problems and overcoming differences are part of the learning process.

“There might be some struggles along the way and things that they have to learn, but once they overcome those they have a product that they can share and be proud of, and they’ve done something maybe they didn’t realize that they could do,” explained Simpson.

“For this, we push our limits,” said Neal.

“It’s inspiring. It just makes me hopeful for our future,” added Simpson.

See the JPS-TV version of this story here.

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