Gifted Education » Gifted Best Practices

Gifted Best Practices

Advanced Curriculum & Extended Learning
Approach to teaching and learning:
Westgate provides an alternative to traditional teaching methods and allows for a more creative and innovative approach to teaching and learning. All students at Westgate are thoughtfully placed in academic classes so they have the opportunity to be in appropriate level Language Arts and Math classes with like-minded peers taking both social emotional and academic needs into consideration.
A school-wide integration of Depth and Complexity curriculum and Minds on Mathematics workshop, in addition to our focus on interest-based learning and project-based practices, real-world application of content and expert mentoring as well as providing one-to-one technology access, provides further opportunity for advanced curriculum and extension for all students within their classes.
Our Whole Child approach to teaching and learning gains student interest, fosters engagement and helps students to take ownership of their own education while being well supported and encouraged by the teachers and leaders in our school.
Differentiated Learning Pathways
Structures and strategies for differentiation:
Intentional grade level ability grouping placements for language arts and math provide a basic level of differentiation for our Westgate students while teachers provide more differentiated instruction within those environments through affect, environment, process, content and product.
Integration of Depth and Complexity curriculum, passion or interest-based learning, inquiry-based learning, flexible grouping and one-to-one technology also provide further opportunity for differentiation for all students within their needs-based classes.
The practice of comprehensive pre-assessment and curriculum compacting in all content areas is increasing student rigor at all levels. Students are grade accelerated in individual content areas if data supports doing so and learning extensions are not enough.
High school students are eligible to be part of concurrent-enrollment, taking classes at Front Range Community College and working towards earning their Associates Degree while attending Westgate for high school credit completion at the same time.
Individualized Opportunities & Enrichment
Extended learning and enrichment during the school day:
Westgate honors individuality and provides opportunities for all individual passions to be developed both in and outside of the classroom through strategic and intentional ALP goals, independent projects, student choice passion projects, student leadership opportunities, service learning, mentorships and internships, college and career coaching and guidance, as well as multiple specials class offerings including physical education, music, I-Lab, art, and Spanish classes. High school students have the opportunity to pursue their passions in concurrent enrollment classes at Front Range Community College and as teacher assistants within the building.
Our school has a strong environmental focus that is largely driven by students who find their passions there in conjunction with our Environmental Education Specialist. As part of this program, students help our adult leaders maintain a chicken coop, greenhouse and gardens, care for our goats and bee hives, and keep a strong recycling and composting program running within our building. Service learning is an innate part of our programming and each grade level participates in various service projects throughout the year during service learning classes, some initiated by student passions, including the maintenance of the Washington Street clean up throughout the year for the City of Thornton.
Enrichment (outside of school day):
Westgate provides opportunities for multiple passion-based after school enrichment clubs for students led by both Westgate staff and outside providers throughout the school year, including several teams that compete yearly in Odyssey of the Mind. The Whole Child Education approach taken by our school serves gifted students and the feeding of their passions to keep them engaged and taking ownership of their own education.
Social-Emotional Learning is a Priority
Westgate makes social-emotional learning a priority and believes that it is the heart of our whole-child gifted education programming. Our staff implements a comprehensive social-emotional learning curriculum with a school-wide monthly theme for all students during designated advocacy class times at all grade levels daily. Three full-time APs, a full-time school psychologist, two full-time school counselors, a full-time emotional support dog, a full-time Gifted Coordinator, a full-time Environmental Education Specialist and additional SE support staff are available to help with SE learning, social and emotional support, and the implementation of small, focused SE skill groups. One-on-one and small group opportunities for peer interaction and SE skill learning are provided regularly by our counselors and psychologist. “Walk and Talks” with our counselor are in high demand and have been very successful for individualized SE skill building.
Westgate staff is continually trained and supported in the implementation of SE skill teaching and strategies for use with students throughout the day. We also offer many opportunities for leadership development and the pursuit of passions through our service learning clubs that meet during the school day and many after-school passion driven clubs as well as our High School Service groups who meet weekly.
Additionally, Westgate also offers a very successful peer-mentoring program, which offers training for high school students who then mentor and offer SE support for younger students throughout the school year with the supervision of our counselors and High School Assistant Principal.
Our Environmental Programming offers students another way to develop their passions and further their social-emotional learning pathways and is still going strong in distance learning with all of our classes having a different environmental project focus that is supported by our Environmental Learning Specialist. Our Environmental Learning Specialist additionally provides mentoring and one on one “walk with the goats” opportunities as well as providing “Chicken Tender” training and mentoring.
Mindfulness is practiced throughout our building and additional coping strategies and social-emotional skills are individualized and taught as needed throughout the school and in small group settings while in the virtual environment.