South Kitsap School District on a Quest to provide for its gifted students

Children are known for their vivid imaginations.

But in the Quest Program at Hidden Creek Elementary School, those visions become realities.

With the assistance of his father, one student decided to build a hovercraft. The wood object, 36 inches in diameter, was able to lift his teacher, Maureen Dawson, on a chair as the class observed. As part of the project, the student kept a detailed log of trials and errors.

It is just one example of presentations ranging from electricity to skateboarding in the South Kitsap School District's Highly Capable Program.

Enrollment in the program is open through recommendations to Dawson and program assistant Michelle Pierson through March 5. Students can be nominated by parents, teachers or themselves.

Dawson said the program, which has about 25 students in each level from third through sixth grades and is open to any student within the district’s boundaries, runs the nominated students through a battery of tests to determine whether they belong in the program. She said the first involves verbal, nonverbal and spatial skills. Dawson said students must excel in at least one of those categories to move on to a creativity exam. The final test is conducted by a school psychologist to determine cognitive ability.

Those accepted into the program that do not attend Hidden Creek are transported from their school or home one day a week.

“We have to grab those kids who maybe aren’t having their needs met in the regular classroom,” Dawson said. “They come here to experience something at a little higher level.”

She said the program, which is state funded, is targeted toward providing enrichment rather than basic education.

“It’s a little bit different and faster-paced,” Dawson said. “They don’t have to wait 20 minutes for a student to solve a math problem when they knew it in their heads 10 minutes ago.”

It also provides a setting where that pace is accepted.

“It gives them one day per week to work with their intellectual peers,” Dawson said. “That’s so important for those kids not to feel weird or different.”

Dawson tries to give students in the program, who also can continue Quest in junior high with language arts and social studies, preparation for life beyond academia. She said that occurs through students using PowerPoint-style presentations and speaking in front of their peers.

“We do a lot of presenting in front of the class so students can become comfortable in front of groups,” Dawson said. “Hopefully these are children that later in life will be those people who need to present things in front of important groups.”

Quest delves heavily into science and technology. Dawson said creativity is an emphasis, but students also are expected to use logic and reasoning in all projects.

“Our big focus is the power of critical thinking and using that in everything we do,” Dawson said.

Because the program is only once a week, Dawson does not believe it intrudes on traditional classroom work.

“These are students that typically can miss a day’s work and not alter their educational experience,” she said.

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