Ricks Center's nationally recognized curriculum model for the education of gifted children has been published and is used in a range of settings across the country and throughout the world. The curriculum was created uniquely for gifted children and is used by many experts in the field of gifted education.
An integrated curriculum model is especially appropriate for gifted students because of their ability to see and understand conceptual relationships and their ability to discover, identify, solve, and act on problems more readily. Immersing students in a thematic unit provides a backdrop for experiences to occur across the disciplines. Specifically designed activities pique students' interest while tapping into their own background knowledge about a subject.
An overarching theme for the year is chosen for the classroom of learners. Examples of overarching themes are cycles, cause and effect, and systems. Ricks Center fosters an integrated curriculum that focuses on one of these specific themes and examines that theme within multiple units integrating content from math, science, language arts, social studies, history, culture, literature, critical thinking, technology, and visual and performing arts collectively. For example cause and effect may be examined through integrated unites on natural disasters, chemistry and mythology.
Additional examples of these thematic units include teaching cycles through biology and ancient civilizations; explorations taught through Mayan/Aztec, Flight, and Lewis and Clark units; and power can be studied through units on governments, physics, and renowned individual achievements.
A class studying systems might participate in an in-depth study of natural disasters and understand how natural phenomena such as wild fires, floods, and hurricanes affect natural ecosystems and human communities. Science lessons would focus on weather patterns and conditions; math lessons would determine a wild fire's theoretical burn rate using an advance computer simulation. A language arts lesson might engage learners in creating a simulated journal recording their experiences as a child in a historical disaster or writing a poem focusing on the mood before and after a tornado. As students participate in the wildfire simulation, they discuss the roles of the individuals involved in putting out the fire and the effects of the fire on the humans and animals in the area. A different example of thematic studies is a class studying sustainability. Students may read and analyze utopian literature, assess current sustainable communities, and evaluate elements of dystopia and utopia. As a part of this study, students may look at national parks and the role the environment plays in creating a sustainable community. In order to develop a better understanding of an individual's impact on society, the students could participate in a mock senate committee hearing in which each student has to defend the use or preservation of public lands. As a final project, the class might create its own utopian society.
Shaping coursework around overarching themes and integrated units is especially appropriate for gifted students because of their ability to see and understand conceptual relationships and their ability to discover, identify, solve, and act on problems more readily. The processes of critical thinking, problem finding, problem solving, and evaluating are integral parts of the curriculum. These higher-level thinking skills are practiced and honed by the students in their experience of each topic. Students generate observations, inquiries, investigations, and postulations, paralleling how these processes are performed by specialists in a given field. The inclusion of creative activities into each theme gives students the opportunity to be actively engaged in the creative process.