The theatrical performance STOMP debuted in New York City in 1994. On January 21, 2023 the show came to Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa. Students from the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy and the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality were among attendees who enjoyed an invigorating performance featuring matchboxes, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters, and more. As I watched the show, I couldn’t help but think of the parallels to gifted and talented education.
STOMP celebrates an uncommon approach to creating a stage show. In the same way that STOMP uses a variety of objects to create a continuum of sounds, schools and other educational organizations must establish a continuum of services to meet the needs of students in their talent areas. One size does not fit all, so a program that offers multiple options (e.g., acceleration, independent projects, extracurricular activities) is more likely to match its students’ needs.
STOMP is well choreographed, with the components of the show creating a meaningful experience. The performers know what they are doing and why they are doing it. Programs and services for gifted and talented students must contain the same level of organization. We must be driven by a clear mission and vision, well-defined program goals, and research-based best practice. These key foundational pieces guide day-to-day decision-making.
STOMP is interactive, with performers not only interacting constantly with one another on stage, but also reaching out to the audience. On multiple occasions, they extend an invitation to clap along to become more immersed in the performance. Similarly, gifted education shouldn’t be siloed from the rest of the field of education. Through engaging with a variety of stakeholders, we not only gain support for what we do, but we also develop pathways to better serve students. School boards, special education teams, classroom teachers, parents/guardians, and administrators can be excellent sources of new ideas.
STOMP incorporates a varied collection of objects into the performance as well as fielding a diverse cast. They all work together seamlessly for a common goal. Gifted education and schools have come a long way in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion, but there is still work to be done. We need to continue to make advances in providing opportunities to learn, assessing student strengths and areas for growth, discovering talent, and broadening curriculum. All students should have access to an engaging, appropriately challenging classroom experience that meets their academic needs.
STOMP is loud, and the performers are proud of what they have to offer. As a field, we need to be loud and proud of what we do to meet the needs of gifted and/or talented students. The National Association for Gifted Children, its state affiliates, and gifted education centers are staunch advocates for the field. The same commitment and level of effort needs to be apparent within every local context, and it’s important to show the impact that gifted programs and other talent development have. In places where gifted programs don’t exist, a grassroots movement needs to be initiated because bright students exist in all populations, and they need to be challenged in school.
STOMP has had an incredible run on Broadway and across the country. Gifted education and talent development offer incredible opportunities for students, and a vibrant gifted program should be an important aspect of all school systems. In both cases, a diverse, well-choreographed, interactive approach is the most successful one.