New program for gifted students at Capitol Hill elementary

Burnaby school board chair Baljinder Narang -
Burnaby school board chair Baljinder Narang
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When it comes to teaching gifted kids, Burnaby school district is not going for the Doogie Howser model of advancing students.

Howser, of course, is TV's teenaged physician, who has to balance his medical work with regular teen angst and issues.

While gifted students, or "high ability learners" as the district prefers to call them, are still known to skip grades to prevent them from being bored with school, Burnaby is about to start an alternative model.

Starting in the fall, two "multi-age cluster classrooms" will be offered at North Burnaby's Capitol Hill elementary, one each for grades 4/5 and 6/7. The district anticipates eventually offering the program in a South Burnaby school as well.

As a district program, high-ability students from across Burnaby who meet certain criteria will be eligible to apply. There will be 20 to 22 spots in each class.

An information session about the program will be held Wednesday, Jan. 15, 7 p.m. at Burnaby Central secondary.

The program will teach the regular curriculum for those grades in a challenging way, and allow the students to learn amongst their peers.

"This is targeting kids who have demonstrated high ability in learning and are creative, and who are seeking to be intellectually challenged as well as be in a stimulating environment with like-minded peers or similar-ability peers," said Burnaby school board chair Baljinder Narang.

"It wouldn't necessarily be speeding [the curriculum] up, it would just be providing an opportunity for them to explore at a greater depth and have an appreciation of complexity of their learning."

The school board is not in favour of having students skip grades, Narang said.

"I personally, and I think as a board, we feel that speeding kids up by skipping grades doesn't serve them well in the long term because developmentally they haven't matured with their peers," she said. "To speed them up, then they become misfits in their higher peer groups, just developmentally, so that's never been an effective way of doing it."

The goal is to engage such students in the classroom, covering the same curriculum as others in their age group but "seeing it maybe with deeper lenses."

• Burnaby school district is also holding information sessions for three other specialty programs this month.

To learn more about French immersion, for students entering kindergarten, Grade 1 or Grade 6, the session is on Thursday, Jan. 16, 7 p.m. at Cariboo Hill secondary.

For students entering kindergarten to Grade 4, the Mandarin Language Arts program is at Forest Grove elementary, which hosts an info session Thursday, Jan. 23, 7 p.m.

To learn about job-training career programs for students heading into grades 10 and 11, the meeting will be held at Burnaby Central secondary, also Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.

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