Gifted &  Talented Program

 Under Construction

Greetings and welcome to Darien's gifted and talented program, Idea. This site is designed to help parents, teachers and students navigate resources to gain a better understanding of gifted education.The name, Idea, was created by a group of students and means Interesting Dimensions that Extend Abilities.

The Darien Public Schools recognizes the diverse needs of all students through the differentiation of a robust and rigorous curriculum that is engaging, meaningful, creative and cognitively complex. Differentiation and choice exist within the general education program to serve all students within the social, emotional and learning spectrums. The Darien Public Schools also recognizes that there are gifted learners who require specialized instruction which takes place in grades one through nine for a total of ninety minutes per week.

Thank you for your interest in the Idea Program. Have a wonderful school year!


Linda Johnson, Program Director for Gifted Education
Cara Martin, Hindley, Royle and Tokeneke Elementary Schools
Andrea Aaron, Holmes and Ox Ridge Elementary Schools
Susan Morrison, Middlesex Middle School
Michele Mattera, Middlesex Middle School

Identification Process

Identification Process for Gifted & Talented (Idea) Program

Open Referral Period for Darien's Gifted Program

Under Construction

In the Darien Public Schools, the gifted program has stimulated the abilities of gifted students for 45 years.  The name, Idea, was created by a group of students and means Interesting Dimensions that Extend Abilities.

Gifted students, in the Darien public schools, are those students in grades one through nine that demonstrate or show potential for exceptional intellectual or academic capability.  They comprise 5 to 8% of the general student population and their needs cannot be met fully in the mainstream education environment.

The Gifted Program Referral Periods

  1. Grade 1: students in first grade may be referred for gifted identification in January (for entrance the following September).  

  2. Grades 1-8: students in grades 1-8 may be referred in January (for entrance the following September).

  3. Students new to the district in grades 2-8: may be referred in October (for entrance in January) or in January (for entrance the following September).

What happens during the referral and identification process?

  1. Referral: Students are referred for gifted program evaluation by school personnel or parents. In grades 1-8, the parent, teacher, or other school staff member should send an e-mail request to the school assistant principal.  

  2. Student Evaluation:  A profile is developed for each referred student that includes scores on the following criteria: one creative writing prompts, Developmental Reading , Degrees  of Reading Powers (DRP) test, F&P, the Otis-Lennon-School-Ability Test (OLSAT)Renzulli Scales. Parents may submit additional assessments and student work but they will be ancillary.

  3. Review by Pupil Placement Team (PPT):  A district PPT reviews each student profile individually to determine whether each student qualifies for gifted program services.  The PPT may be attended by the gifted program coordinator, school psychologist, classroom teacher, school administrator, and gifted program teacher.

 What scores must a student obtain in order to qualify?

In order to qualify, students will generally show at least three of the following:

  1. The F&P or DRP- These assessments measure accuracy, retelling, fluency, and inference using the guidelines for reading levels developed by Fountas and Pinnell.

  2. At least 5/10 on one creative writing prompts.

  3. Scores of 90% or above on any two subtests of the Renzulli Scales for Rating the Behavioral Characteristics of Superior Students (The Scales).  This is a standardized measure.  Classroom teachers will complete Scales in the areas of learning, creativity, motivation, and leadership characteristics for each recommended student.

  4. OLSAT (Otis-Lennon School Ability Test) Verbal Subtest:

  5. OLSAT Non-Verbal Subtest:

  6. OLSAT Total:

Forms & FAQs


Gifted & Talented (Idea) Program Curriculum

At all levels of the Idea Program, units of study are guided by overarching conceptual themes. Throughout the course of the year, the chosen content, in conjunction with the conceptual themes, are designed specifically to move the students from initial understanding, to development of an interpretation, to making connections, and taking a critical stance. Content knowledge is incorporated at each of these stages, however, the overall purpose of the framework for the Idea classes is to create an environment whereby the students are continuously being intellectually challenged and supported to openly share ideas. Because the selected content is fluid and based on current information and research, content guides the discussions and problem solving activities. The curriculum for the Idea Program serves as the vehicle for supporting and attaining the goals of the program, while being flexible enough to meet the emergent needs of the students within the program.  At every grade level, there is a focus on essential questions and enduring understandings.

Idea First & Second Grade

Development of Language:  Students in the first and second grade are often grouped together so there are two year-long units of study that alternate by year.  Development of Written Language is a yearlong interdisciplinary unit that traces the evolution of recorded communication. 

From a very young age, gifted children tend to quickly grasp abstract concepts. Building on that strength, Development of Language is a year-long unit of study that affords students the opportunity to participate in simulations, open-ended discussions and hands-on activities. Students come to recognize that the alphabet is a set of symbols used today to create words and communicate meaning.  Understanding the need for recorded information within a society is a recurring theme throughout the year.  As they trace the progression of writing from cave drawings to present day text messaging, they learn a great deal about various cultures and consider the advantages and disadvantages of each written system of communication.

The exploration of recorded information begins with an analysis of two early forms of recorded information: cave drawings and lunar calendars carved on bone. The caves of Lascaux and Altamira, for example, are visited virtually. As children learn about early humans’ attempts to communicate information they will create messages on rocks and draw their own “cave paintings”. Through group and individual activities children recognize the inherent ambiguity in early writing.

Early attempts to convey abstractions are introduced as children move forward in time to the ancient Sumerians and cuneiform writing. They examine the different purposes of communication and compare those with modern times. Students participate in a simulation in which they are members of a Sumerian family and must attend the edubba (school or tablet house). At the edubba, each student is provided with a clay tablet and stylus. With the wedge-shaped stylus in hand, students create and interpret messages written in cuneiform. As they learn in the edubba, children trace the change from pictogram to the more abstract representations of ideograms.

Next, the development of written language is traced to Egypt, where hieroglyphics are introduced.  Ancient rituals and various roles in Egyptian society are examined as a way of understanding what was communicated at that time. As they learn of the discovery and deciphering of the Rosetta Stone, students are introduced to the role archaeologists play in helping to unlock the secrets of the past. Students will work together to “Write Like an Egyptian” and decode a “Rosetta Stone-like” hieroglyphic message. 

Continuing a historical progression, the Phoenicians, the developers of the first true alphabet, are presented. The influence of these seafaring people was profound and long lasting. Interactive archaeological dig sites are visited online. Children then learn to write as the Phoenicians did, in order to bring this unit to life.

The final unit of the year focuses on the Maya, an advanced ancient civilization whose written language was developed using hieroglyphs, art and architecture, as well as mathematical and astronomical systems.

Essential Questions

Why did man invent language?

Is it possible to think without language?

What power does language provide to help us communicate? Does language have power?

Idea Third Grade: Innovations & Inventions

The skills required for successful deductive reasoning include the ability to compare and contrast, interpret, consider relevance, analyze implications, and predict outcomes.  Through their active involvement in this year-long unit, Idea third graders gain first hand experience in deductive reasoning, problem solving, and the research process.  Among the activities presented are The Great Chocolate Caper, Inventions and Innovations, Spontaneous Problem Solving, and WordMasters.

The Great Chocolate Caper is a mystery unit that requires children to solve a mystery by making valid assumptions, determining dangerous generalizations, and recognizing false pretenses in order to eliminate suspects until left with the real culprit.  Logical thinking is utilized in many forms, including Logic Matrixes.  Children learn to use information tables to help them recognize relationships between elements.  They learn to logically organize information (either stated or implied) to determine what is possible or impossible.

In Innovations and Inventions, change and the role of the inventor are considered.  Using problem based activities and discussions, students explore the role of the inventor, as a creative problem solver. Each child researches a selected inventor and prepares a book that chronicles the invention process and inventor’s accomplishments. They gain insight into the creative process of inventing as they research inventors and see how their inventions have changed our lives.  Children also learn the process of development and implementation of an invention.  

Throughout the year Spontaneous Problem Solving activities, adapted from the international Odyssey of the Mind program, are presented.  Successful completion of spontaneous problems requires divergent thinking – the ability to generate a great number and wide variety of solutions - in a limited amount of time.

Underlying all the activities presented throughout the year is an emphasis on metacognition; thinking about one’s thinking. Metacognition includes knowledge about one’s skills and abilities as a learner, as well as developing goal-setting strategies.  

Idea Third Grade Essential Questions

What role does the inventor play in society?

How do inventions and innovations change society?

How can the ability to organize information help you make good decisions?

What value do we gain from creative thinking?

Idea Fourth Grade: Forum/All Things Greek

Public speaking and critical listening are two of the skills developed in Forum, an interactive, historical simulation. Working in teams students are introduced to components of successful public speaking. Within this simulation youngsters are required to prepare and give speeches that inform and speeches to persuade.  Seven criteria are considered when evaluating speeches including introduction, thesis statement, and development of supporting facts, conclusion, posture, gestures and voice.  The culmination of this simulation is the presentation of an original speech for parents and classmates on Forum day.

Greek Mythology:  Since the beginning of civilization, people have always asked questions about the natural world and the human condition.  The Ancient Greeks explained their world through a large collection of stories about their gods and heroes. Greek mythology has been widely studied as literature.  We will read and analyze some of these myths in order to understand their symbolism and messages, many of which still resonate in our modern culture.

Architecture:  Ancient Greek civilization also brought classical architecture to mankind. With consideration for both form and function, these people created structures whose designs have stood the test of time.  Idea students will have an opportunity to apply some basic mathematical principles used in classical architecture. They will also learn about and be able to identify some of the greatest cultural monuments ever built.

Creative Problem Solving CPS challenges are continued this year. Introduced in third grade as Spontaneous Problems, challenges this year involve more in-depth analysis. As they work to develop creative solutions to unique problems, students have the opportunity to formulate theories, predict outcomes and analyze results.

Idea Fourth Grade Essential Questions

How does an understanding of different public speaking techniques enable you to be a better communicator?

How does persuasive speaking and writing techniques help us to understand and support differing points of view?

What communication skills are most important when working in a group?

How can you evaluate the validity of information?

Idea Fifth Grade: Western Civilization

The fifth grade year-long unit of study, engages Idea students in an exploration of world history, geography, political science, origins of language, scientific discovery, and the arts.

Spanning the centuries between the founding of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the European Renaissance, students learn about political and social leaders, cultural groups, explorers, scientific thinkers, writers, and artists and their respective impact on Western society.  Students identify and explore the similarities and patterns of these cultures and civilizations. Through analysis of primary and secondary sources, reading historically significant literature and viewing important works of art, students gain an understanding of historical events and developments from multiple perspectives. Learning takes place through open-ended, analytical discussions, use of blended technology, participation in a variety of multi-sensory group activities and independent study projects.

Units of study include: The Roman Empire; The Fall of Rome; The Byzantine Empire; Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire; The Vikings; The Later Middle Ages: Knights, Castles, and Feudalism; and The Early Renaissance.

Idea Fifth Grade Essential Questions

How did art/science/politics/economics shape as well as reflect the culture of Medieval and Renaissance society?

In what ways has modern society been influenced by the Roman civilization and the Middle Ages?

Why is geography important to understanding civilizations?

What does it mean to be civilized?

What tools do we use today to study the past?

Idea Sixth Grade: Civilization and the Future

Using a futuristic scenario, Civilization, the sixth grade year-long unit of study, combines creative and critical thinking as well as problem solving and communication skills.  Aspects of the International Problem Solvers Program are adapted as students work in class-based teams.  Teams must work cooperatively, communicate effectively, organize and productively utilize their time, as they apply creative brainstorming in the development of viable solutions to presented problems.

Idea Sixth Grade Essential Questions

How can an understanding of the past help us to prepare for the future?

What skills do we need to adapt to a changing world?

How do we use feedback and develop problem solving skills?

How do we adapt and grow as a species when faced with environmental and societal challenges?

How do we best use limited information to prioritize and guide decision making?

Idea Seventh Grade: Relativity: Perspectives on Time

Idea’s seventh grade unit of study, Relativity: Perspectives on Time, examines the concept of time from a cultural, scientific and literary perspective.  Throughout the year students consider open-ended, participate in problem solving activities, engage in discussions based on scientific text reading, and compare time-related themes in literature.

The year begins with students’ personal examination of the objective and subjective nature of time, and moves steadily toward more abstract concepts.  Time’s role in culture is examined, as are the ideas of past, present and future. Later in the year, students are introduced to the concept of space-time and Einstein’s theory of relativity.  As more abstract concepts are presented, students must suspend judgment and remain open to considering ideas that seem to contradict everyday logic.

Idea Seventh Grade Essential Questions

Does time exist?  How do we know?  Why does man measure time?

How does the passing of time affect one’s perception of self?

How does the study of relativity challenge our thinking and understanding of space-time?

Why and how do scientific theories change?

Is there a distinction between past, present and future?

Idea Eighth Grade: Philosophy

The eighth grade Idea program philosophy curriculum is designed to provide students with an awareness of and appreciation for the role that philosophy has played in shaping our culture and the continuing role of philosophy in our day-to-day experiences. Through structured discussions, debates, readings, small group activities and response writing, students consider the writings of philosophers including Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Hume and Machiavelli.  Throughout the year, the continued relevance of philosophy is explored as philosophical reflections are related to modern day events and scientific breakthroughs.  

For eighth grade, Socratic dialogue provides the structural framework for group discussions and investigations. Philosophy, language related to thinking, along with supportive current science theory and research are explored within this structural framework.

Idea Eighth Grade Essential Questions

What relevance does philosophy have in everyday living?

How does philosophy influence decision making in modern day life?

To what extent do belief systems shape and/or reflect culture and society?

How does language influence the way we think, act, and perceive the world?

Idea Ninth Grade: Achiever's Project

Ninth grade Idea students participate in a year-long, independent study project in which they must solve a problem or create a product.  Achievers projects link students with mentors and require a commitment of at least 50 hours work. Projects must be original work, include a research component, and result in a product that is presented on Achievers’ Night. Through these projects, students develop and extend communication skills, continue to develop an awareness of individual potential and responsibility, and apply their years of Future/Creative Problem Solving skills to the real-world. 

Idea Ninth Grade Essential Questions

What is creativity?  What value is there in nurturing creativity in the individual and society?

Why is it important to develop problem-solving strategies and time management skills when developing a long-term task like the Achievers Project?

How do scientific and technological advances help us to examine information and draw conclusions?



The D.A.E.G. (Darien Advocates for Education of the Gifted) is a parent-run group that organizes events such as fundraisers, parent coffees, book clubs and discussions, and advocates on behalf of gifted education in Darien.  They also sponsor the Barbara Harrington fund, which supports teachers in their professional development. Please consider becoming a member!

Darien Advocates for Education of the Gifted website

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