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MindPlus Programme: Empowering Gifted Students in Rotorua’s Kahui Ako

    An extension initiative designed to assist with gifted education for unlocking kids full potential is having a positive impact in Rotorua’s Kahui Ako – Te Maru o Ngongotahā Kahui Ako.

    The Te Maru o Ngongotahā Kahui Ako, established in 2013, comprises of 12 schools from the Western Rotorua region, reaching 3,900 students from years 0-13. Kahui Ako works to improve collaboration between schools to meet the needs of diverse learners, including gifted kids.

    With a grant from Rotorua Trust, the Kahui Ako has undertaken the MindPlus programme, an extension programme designed to assist neurodiverse kids in unlocking their full potential. The programme is tailored to address the gap in educational support for gifted education, providing kids with access to specialised resources and skills that will help them succeed in their academic, social, and emotional development.

    Denise Coker, the specialist teacher running the MindPlus programme, said, “Gifted children are not made from cookie cutters; they are all very different in terms of their talents, social, emotional, and intellectual abilities. Gifted ākonga often feel that they have not been able to express their exceptional abilities, particularly if they have been shaped by gifts such as ASD, ADHD, Dyslexia; or if they are working hard to fit into an educational environment that doesn’t support their cultural, socio-economic or other differences. If the needs of gifted learners are not met then they will not proceed to reach their full academic, social and emotional potential.”

    To address this, the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education developed MindPlus, a programme tailored to gifted students’ learning styles, gifts and abilities. The programme explores a gifted curriculum that includes three main strands of learning: big thinking (conceptual development), talent development, and personal development. MindPlus has partnered with the Kahui Ako to run a school-hosted version of the programme called ‘MindPlus Your School’, hosted at Kaharoa School.

    The programme involves approximately 15 gifted students across the Kahui Ako, ranging from Years 5 to 8. The programme’s specialist teacher receives mentorship and coaching from the NZCGE expert staff and professional development through their MindPlus Teacher professional learning platform.

    So far, the programme has kids from Ngongotaha Primary, Western Heights Primary School, Kaharoa School, and Aorangi Primary. Denise Coker, who teaches the programme, shares that kids enjoy playing challenging games that involve critical, creative, and reflective thinking. They are exploring the concept of ‘Discovery’ and beginning to understand how it applies to society, learning, history, and themselves as learners.

    They have also been digging deep into their gifts and talents and have begun to explore and develop passion projects to extend themselves as gifted learners. Denise shares that the kids have made new friendships that span across year levels and schools. “Best of all, we have lots of fun in making new connections and learning together,” says Denise.

    The future aspirations of Kahui Ako are to include more schools in the programme in the future and secure further funding to continue making MindPlus a staple of the Te Maru o Ngongotahā Kahui Ako suite of opportunities to support their students and community.