In 2018 we have initiated the Salamanca Program for gifted and talented students across Years 7, 8, 9 and 10.
The Salamanca Program gives the opportunity for students who have achieved consistently at high levels across a range of subject areas to participate in creative, cognitively demanding pursuits outside of their standard program of study.
We have a group of twelve Year 8 students participating in the Opti-Minds Challenge (in late August) whereby they must creatively solve problems in the areas of Language-Literature and Engineering-Science. For example, the LL Team has been asked to create a version of Roald Dahl's novel Matilda in which the original story is 'not quite accurately represented'. Challenging and lots of fun!
We also have a group of six Year 7 and 8 students participating in the NCSS digital technologies challenge, a national programming, or coding, competition with 'problems that range from relatively simple to mind-bendingly hard.' It will be exciting to see how our students develop their skills in this cutting-edge format.
In Year 9 we have a class undertaking an alternate humanities curriculum, the Big History Project. BHP was developed in the US by the Bill Gates Foundation and is self-described as a 'supercharged social studies curriculum that arose from a desire to go beyond specialized and self-contained fields of study to grasp history as a whole.' It requires significant cognition; rather than immersing themselves in a specific topic, students are asked to make links across the breadth of human history.
Our Year 10 gifted group has begun working on MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses. These are tertiary-level courses developed and authenticated by universities from across the world. Our students are able to tailor a study program to meet their own interests and needs, and prepare meaningfully for higher-level study. For example, we now have students enrolled in MOOCs as diverse as 'The humanitarian response to conflict and disaster' (Harvard University), 'An introduction to animal ethics' (Kyoto University) and 'Human anatomy' (Hong Kong Polytechnic). That our students can do this is clearly indicative of the shrinking, digital world in which we live, work and study – as well as being a wonderful opportunity for them!
Schools have a responsibility to cater for students with diverse needs. That diversity includes students who exhibit higher-than-usual standards of cognition combined with the ongoing mastery of competencies, knowledge and skills. Typically, strategies for such students include accelerated curriculum, enrichment activities and open-ended learning. It is our belief that the Salamanca Program, as outlined above, offers all three of these strategies.