Gifted and Talented competition encourages learning

Prince Figueroa receives an award for his team, Fast Kid Racers, coming in third place at the Mental Marathon.
Jade Wong of Rahway receives an award for her team, Full With Abilities, coming in first place at the Mental Marathon.

UNION COUNTY, NJ — On Wednesday, Dec. 7, fourth grade gifted and talented students from Berkeley Heights, Elizabeth, Kenilworth, Rahway, Roselle and Roselle Park school districts participated in the annual Mental Marathon convocation at the Rahway Recreation Center. The event is sponsored by the Union County Gifted and Talented Association and is meant to enhance problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.

“Students foster cooperative learning skills by learning to work with students from other school districts, Rahway Gifted and Talented teacher and event coordinator Susan Farrar told LocalSource. “As a first-time facilitator, I kept the event traditional to ensure I had a secure grasp on what I needed to do. I was impressed that students were able to work as a team within minutes of creating a team name and logo.”

There were a total of 134 students and 18 teams that competed against each other in areas of logic, analogies and tangrams. They were awarded points for each correct answer and the totals were calculated for each team.
“The logic problems were pretty easy because we’ve done them a lot in class,” Justin Myles of Rahway told LocalSource. “The tangrams were hard to match, but they were a lot of fun.”

The students seemed to agree that the tangrams were the most challenging problems for them to solve. They also agreed that the convocation offered them the opportunity to form friendships with students from other school districts.

“I think my team is doing well but the tangrams are somewhat challenging,” Jade Wong of Rahway told LocalSource. “I met people on my team from other schools, so this is a good way to make new friends.”
The students shared a competitive spirit as they engaged in the activities with their teams. They also had a sense of team pride as they wore a visor they created with their team name and logo on it.

“My team name is ‘Number One Group’ because we want to win,” Victoria Komperda told LocalSource. “My teammates are from Roselle Park and Elizabeth.”

The activities were meant to be challenging but also enjoyable. The coordinators planned the event with this goal in mind.

“This a way for gifted students in Union County to come together for a great learning experience,” Rahway Gifted and Talented teacher and event coordinator Nikki Thompson told LocalSource.

One student’s parents even attended the event to show their support. They also liked watching the students engage in the activities.
“I think today’s event is wonderful,” Rahway Parent Adrienna Figueroa told LocalSource. “The activities are stimulating and fun for the kids, and also for the parents to watch. It’s great to see a group of like-minded students interact. They really mesh well together.”

After the scores for all three activities were recorded, the winning teams were announced. In first place, Full With Abilities achieved a total of 101 points. Second place went to Wonderful Kids with 89 and 1/4 points, and third place went to Fast Kid Racers with 87 and 1/2 points.

“I appreciate the teachers for putting this event together,” Supervisor of Special Subject Areas John Perillo told LocalSource. “With five school districts and over 130 students, there was a lot of time, energy and commitment required for this event. Aside from the challenging activities, the convocation also allows students to reach out and learn from others in different towns. Cooperative learning is the goal, and this is an important life skill for all students to learn.”