GATE Symposium – Creative Olympics
Altimira GATE students demonstrating their hand-made wind instruments are, left to right, Megan Brown, sixth grade; Eliza Neely, sixth grade; Sam Little, seventh grade; Gabe VanZant, eighth grade and Erin Atkinson, seventh grade.
The music coming out of the Altimira Multi-Purpose Center was loud, but the instruments were strangely unidentifiable. More than 30 GATE middle school students, competing in small groups, were demonstrating the new wind instruments they had just invented and the groups were about to perform for a judging panel.
Gifted and Talented programs in Sonoma have seen many iterations over the years based on funding and staffing, but each of the middle schools now runs their own program. Altimira’s recent GATE Symposium was called “The Creative Olympics,” and over the course of the morning, the students’ imaginations, creativity and resourcefulness were challenged in six different competitions.
The program at Altimira is headed up by GATE Coordinator Janine Tommasi, with the help of parent volunteers and former GATE instructor Gary Green. Tommasi has created a program that the kids seemed to truly enjoy, despite little funding, none of which is now provided by the state. “The district here sees the value in it and, thanks to them, we have been able to keep at least a bare bones gifted program alive in Sonoma,” said Tommasi.
This is the third year of this symposium, designed for students who have been identified as GATE. Students are invited to participate in the program based on recommendations (from parents or teachers) and their results on the nationally recognized SOI (Structure of Intellect Learning Abilities) test.
The second Altimira GATE event this school year will be a full-day, off-campus learning experience. As for GATE activities in the classrooms, according to Tommasi, teachers are aware of their gifted students and attempt to provide activities and assignments geared to them. At Altimira, there are some accelerated classes for eighth graders, such as language arts, science and geometry. Every year the district also sends a handful of teachers to the California Association for the Gifted Conference for further professional development.
Parents may recommend their students be tested for the GATE program at each area school. Families looking for additional resources, beyond what is provided in the schools, are encouraged to look into the EXCEL Program at Sonoma State, which offers students entering grades four through nine academic enrichment through accelerated summer classes www.sonoma.edu/exed/excel or into participation in the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth www.cty.org.