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Gifted students lead projects

Gifted students at Buckingham County Public Schools (BCPS) were challenged to think outside the box this year and use the COVID-19 pandemic as inspiration to engage in some problem-based learning projects.

According to Linda Ruffner, Buckingham County Elementary School computer technology teacher and BCPS gifted specialist, the school has an enrichment program for gifted students in elementary, middle and high schools.

The pandemic made the timeline for reopening BCPS very uncertain throughout the fall and into the spring semesters, so the gifted program did not run its typical course this year. Instead, participants in grades 3-12 began in January to meet through the Google Meet video communication platform at 6 p.m.

Through their virtual meetings, the students decided to tackle some school and community issues in problem-based learning projects. Ruffner challenged the learners to look around and think of problems that could be solved. Once the students came back with ideas, they were divided into groups to tackle them.

To date, the group has completed three projects with several more in progress.

One project, an outdoor classroom designed to allow students to work in open air during the pandemic, was the product of fifth graders Harmani Holman, Grayson Dunn and Josh Somers.

The trio spent weeks researching and planning before meeting with school administrators about the idea. The students and school officials, who were also eyeing outdoor learning spaces at the time, joined forces to find a suitable location.

The group selected a clearing in the woods for the classroom, and the site was approved. Students met after school to clear the area of debris, administration provided gravel for a path to the site, and carpentry teacher Bill Powers helped the students construct benches.

For another project, Dillon Taylor, grade six, worked with school officials from the middle and elementary schools to get approval for an ongoing food drive. A food bank is now housed at the Carter G. Woodson Complex at the school, and flyers were distributed to advertise the food drive which is open to any families who need a little assistance. The site is always available and restocked regularly, and donations can be made at any time.

Gifted student Caroline Browning, grade 9, used her problem-based learning project to create a tutoring program for students. Browning researched and planned a program which uses Google Meets to allow high school tutors and younger students to work together virtually under the supervision of a teacher. With the permission of High School Principal Patti Branch, Browning recruited tutors and distributed forms for students who want or need a little extra help. The program will continue into the new school year.