Classrooms in the Blue Valley School District are getting a boost from a parents’ group formed to make the most of their gifted children’s education.
By BETH LIPOFF
Special to The Star
Blue Valley Parent Advocates for Gifted Education gave a $10,000 grant this year to fund a few extras for each gifted classroom in the Blue Valley School District.
The group raised the money through attendance fees from summer robotics camps. The weeklong half-day summer camps, held on school grounds, helped kids get hands-on robotics experience. This is the third year for the fundraiser.
“It’s no small undertaking to organize summer camps for kids,” said Kristin Asquith, Blue Valley’s gifted education coordinator. “They manage it well. It’s always smoothly run. I think that they are a great organization that does a nice job of collaborating with the district to bring great things for Blue Valley’s gifted children.”
Of the district’s 22,000 students, about 1,500 are designated as gifted students, Asquith said.
The idea for the camps came up four years ago, when former group president Patty Logan wanted to find a way to raise money for the gifted classrooms.
“(The classrooms) were not terribly consistent in what was available to the kids. One parent would say, ‘Oh, my kid loves doing robotics,’ and another parent would say, ‘Our school doesn’t even have robotics,’” Logan said.
She was talking with a friend about how she couldn’t find a robotics camp for her kids that was close enough to her home to be practical. Her friend suggested they start one.
Logan found two teachers from Lee’s Summit who had received specialized training from Lego Education to run the camp.
“We were literally making it up as we go long,” said Logan, who asked the Blue Valley schools to help with facilities. “We were able to literally have so much more proceeds to spend” on the classrooms.
Many of the lessons the kids learn in the camps apply to the robotics activities they can do in class too.
“They learn the programming language the system uses, time management and organizational skills,” Logan said.
And they learn what to do when something doesn’t work the first time, she said.
“Instead of becoming frustrated, they try something different,” Logan said. “It’s a lot more like the real world than a lot of structured school activities.”
The first year they raised money, their goal was to have every gifted elementary school classroom on equal footing with robotics equipment. Last year, the middle schools got robotics kits.
This year, it’s a little different. The group put together a catalog of items so elementary and middle school teachers could choose something each particular classroom needed. The catalog included choices such as computer software, construction kits, books and other educational products. High school classrooms each received a grant of $200.
“Every single item (in the catalog) was selected by at least one school,” said Lisa Nickel, the organization’s current president.
Nickel said the group plans to survey teachers to see how useful each item was in the classroom.
“They could not have been more grateful and more thrilled,” Nickel said.
Timber Creek Elementary gifted teacher Susan Schuckman chose a new Lego robotics kit for her students. The money allotted to her classroom didn’t cover the whole thing, so the school PTA pitched it to cover the remainder.
“Any time you have robotics in your classroom, it heightens the level of interest. It’s an opportunity for discovery,” she said. “I think BVPAGE is really is a wonderful organization that enhances and gives opportunities for our gifted students to challenge them. If we go to them and tell them about our needs, they are really good at providing things gifted teachers need in the classroom.”