The search for hidden talent has become one of the most important educational objectives in the last decade. The limited number of children from economically disadvantaged and culturally diverse families found in programs for gifted students across the nation is proof that there is something seriously amiss in the identification and nurturance of exceptional talent.
This project utilized a science-based model for recognizing and nurturing K-2 students with "hidden potential" in three rural counties in North Carolina: Edgecombe (an enterprise zone), Nash and Northampton (both economically disadvantaged). Science is an ideal lens through which the recognition and cultivation of potential can be seen, partly because children can demonstrate their thinking and problem-solving abilities through hands-on activities that are themselves susceptible to scientific evaluation. It also provides a high-interest base upon which reading, math, writing, and the arts can be integrated. Lastly, science is well suited to the observation of potential in young children from economically disadvantaged and culturally diverse families because it is not heavily dependent on early language experiences.
Methods and procedures for this project were developed in an extensive pilot study with two school districts funded by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation from 1995-1997. Key aspects of its implementation included the creation of engaging and challenging science curricula, support for change through intense and ongoing personnel preparation, strategies to involve parents and families, a comprehensive evaluation (including a comparison analysis of students), and products to support the replication and dissemination of information.