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Catapult to success

Miranda Scotland
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 6, 2012

He readies the catapult as onlookers chant five, four, three, two, one. Suddenly he lets go of the machine's arm and a watermelon flies out of the bucket, hitting the sandy ground with a thunk as it splits into red chucks.

NNSL photo/graphic

Melissa Clark, a Grade 6 student at Range Lake North School, launches a bunch of balls into the air as students Ervin Mercado and Aaron Robertson look on. The experiment was part of a program designed for gifted kids in Yk Education District No. 1. - Miranda Scotland/NNSL photo

The small crowd of elementary school kids run to survey the damage.

"It was awesome," said Iain MacKay, a Grade 7 student at Range Lake North School, after the launch, adding he enjoyed the day.

"We got to build a pretty good size catapult and skipped school."

On Monday a group of gifted students from Yk Education District No. 1 spent the day launching projectiles from a homemade catapult at the Folk on Rocks festival site.

The task was part of a new pilot project from the district, which allows identified gifted students a chance to explore subjects they're interested in beyond what they would learn in the classroom.

"In education we have set it up so that students will swim the length of the pool ... everything happens in the first few metres of water but some students can dive down deeper so we give them that opportunity," said Scott Lough, who coaches math teachers and also works with other teachers to help them identify gifted students in Yk1. "Today these kids had a chance to dive down."

Throughout the day the group of five students, who are in Grade 6 or 7, launched various objects and adjusted the variables, such as the launch angle and the shape of the projectiles, to figure out how to get the best result. They also engaged with medieval enthusiast Brian Wainwright, who taught them the history behind catapults.

Lough said the task gave the kids the chance to learn some math, science, geography and other subjects in a way that interested them, which he said is important since sometimes children who are gifted get bored by what's going on in the classroom because the pace is too slow for them or the subject matter doesn't go deep enough.

"We recognize they have unique learning needs," Lough said, adding this is one of the ways they plan to address them.

In Yk1 gifted students are identified through cognitive tests and by recommendations from parents and teachers. They also look for other types of "giftednesses," such as verbal proficiency, sophisticated humour and creativity.

Over the course of the year Lough has ran seven workshops for gifted kids as part of this pilot project. Thirty-five kids were invited to select one of the workshops and they could choose from various subjects, including robotics, slam poetry and math.

Lough said the pilot project has been a success.

"We will do it again."

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