Dr. Suzanne Menges and Ty Stewart, faculty in charge of Thatcher Unified School District's Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program, have received approval from the School Board to take students from their after-school enrichment program on an educational tour of historically-significant locales, beginning with the site of the Civil War's most notorious battle: Gettys-burg in Pennsylvania.

Just in time for the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, students participating in the GATE program will have the opportunity to see firsthand where the battles took place, after spending the entire year discussing how and why the war began and ended.  The trip is scheduled for April 30 through May 4 and will include four full days of hands-on learning opportunities, such as visiting plantation homes and learning to make hardtack and observing battle re-enactments.

"We (the parents of GATE students) are so excited for our kids to have this opportunity," said Aubrey Pena, a parent of one of the students.  "We have received a lot of support from local businesses in helping the kids raise funds by selling candy bars, and we've got a few more fund-raisers planned before April."

Menges and Stewart began holding meetings in 2010 for children scoring in the 97th percentile or higher in one or more areas of the Cognitive Abilities Test, including verbal, non-verbal and quantitative abilities.  Any child in the Thatcher Unified School District is eligible to take the test, and once students are qualified for the program, they maintain the ability to participate throughout their academic career.  

The program's curriculum uses both online tools and traditional textbooks, allowing students to learn about the chosen topic from all possible perspectives and relate the material to current events.  Besides delving into the Civil War's historical significance, the teachers use the war to help students practice math, logic, geography and psychology skills.

GATE students have taken educational field trips to sites including the Glenbar Cotton Gin and a fish hatchery in Glenwood, N.M., but the journey to Gettysburg is a momentous first for the program.  Students' parents are in charge of fund-raising efforts, and so far, they have been very successful.  Their first money-making endeavor was the sale of "World's Best" chocolate bars.  Many local businesses allowed GATE parents to set up displays within their stores so patrons could purchase the candy bars inside, with the proceeds going back to GATE.  The chocolate bar sales put a healthy dent in the group's budget goals, raising $7,500 for the trip.  More fund-raisers are in the works after the holiday season, Pena said.  Donations are welcome and counted as school tax credits on state taxes for up to $200 for an individual and up to $400 for a couple or family.  

To make a donation contact Dr. Menges at (928) 348-7200, ext. 7206.

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