A Gifted Child’s Perspective: Summer Inspiration

M. René Islas, executive director of the National Association for Gifted Children, with Tyne Watts.

M. René Islas, executive director of the National Association for Gifted Children, with Tyne Watts.

I attended my first summer camp at 6-years old.  After that experience, I looked forward to attending every year.  At summer camp, I was exposed to new things with friendly staff in a positive environment. During one year of summer camp, the academic enrichment was so great that I was able to test out of the traditional 2nd grade math program when school started.  My school created a special math program for me and a few other students who attended the same summer camp with me. Two years later, I found myself being identified as a gifted student and math is one of my favorite subjects. Even though all camps don’t offer academic enrichment, they do expose kids to lots of new concepts and ideas that are valuable. I think all kids deserve stimulating opportunities like that during the summer.

Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland issued an executive order in 2016 mandating that all Maryland public schools start after Labor Day. The executive order cites the August heat and state economic deprivation as reasons for the mandate. Starting school later may help Maryland’s workforce and economy thrive, but it also creates an additional stress for working parents who can’t stay home with their children for an additional 1 or 2 weeks. Where I live in Prince George’s County, a very few camps have extended sessions to accommodate parents, but they may not have plans for additional activities that will engage campers.    

As a second year Girl Scout Cadette, as well as a gifted student, it is my duty to help my community flourish and grow. In attempting to help the gifted student population increase, I plan to help those extended camps by providing them with materials to expose students and parents to gifted education along with thought-provoking activities to try during those last camp sessions. I hope to help more children have an opportunity like the one that I had 7 years ago.

With the support of the National Association for Gifted Children, I will be visiting summer camp locations with extended sessions in Prince George’s County, and I will distribute packets of fun ideas for camps and information for parents on the importance of gifted education.

Even if you’re not at one of the camps I will be visiting, you can access the web-based resources here:

Enjoy the rest of summer!

Tyne Watts is a rising freshman in the LEAD engineering program at Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, MD; a top tier ranked MD state level 8 USAG gymnast; and a candidate for the Girl Scout Silver Award with Cadette Troop 4041 at Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, Fort Washington, MD. 

Did you like the Gifted Minds posters?

You can now download the Solutions Set and
share with friends and colleagues!

Help communicate policy solutions that will promote programs and services in which gifted and talented children will thrive. In the next few months, NAGC will release detailed policy advocacy briefs building from the Solutions Set. By sharing these resources, you will help us engage others to focus on changing policies.

DOWNLOAD SOLUTIONS SET

Advocates for gifted education distributed over 6,000 prints of the Gifted Minds posters, and electronic versions proliferated over social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. These resources help broaden the public's understanding of the unique nature and needs of gifted and talented children and help us with the goal of increasing the urgency to support their needs.

Thank you for being an advocate for all gifted children! 

Gifted: We Can All Do Something Right

M. René Islas, executive director of the National Association for Gifted Children, joined Marc Webb, director of the film Gifted, for a chat with Larry Jacobs on Education Talk Radio.

The film peers into the complicated process of educating gifted children and provides a hopeful reminder that we must not only see these children, but must understand, teach, and challenge young gifted minds for their sake and not ours.  

"It is our hope that Gifted will raise awareness about the need to support gifted and talented children to become what they are, not what we want them to be," said Webb and Islas in The High Flyer. "We see the challenges that Mary and her uncle face, and we learn that obstacles can be overcome. As Mary’s uncle said, 'I must be doing something right.' Let’s all do something right and ensure that everyone truly understands the challenges facing gifted children and their families, especially those in poverty and from minority groups."

 

Perceptions Mired in Mythology

This past February, M. René Islas, executive director of the National Association for Gifted Children joined more than 250 parents, teachers, and advocates for gifted children to walk the halls of the Washington State Legislature and testified before the Senate Education Committee (read remarks). We are all united by the common vision of a nation where giftedness and high potential are fully recognized, universally valued, and actively nurtured to support children from all backgrounds as they reach for their personal best and contribute to their communities.

Gifted and talented children often amaze us with their uncanny ability to learn new information rapidly, their extraordinary ability to memorize information, their large vocabularies, their unusually mature insights and their intense levels of concentration on things that interest them. When we encounter these children we are surprised, compelled to smile and intuitively know they are special.

Yet, the perceptions of these children have long been mired in mythology. These dangerous fallacies range from believing that gifted students will naturally rise to the top without explicit support to believing that such students don’t exist in schools in low-income and minority communities. After decades of these myths leading to a national neglect of this student population, it is clear that we must build the public’s understanding of the unique needs of gifted and talented children, needs that absolutely require different types of support.

Thankfully, legislators in Washington are making a renewed effort to increase understanding and support for gifted education.  While the state takes a bold step in establishing its highly capable program as basic education, my hope is that the legislature will make certain that the programs and services offered to gifted children have stable and reliable financial support to ensure excellence and equity. Absent such funding, the result is a very uneven system of access with a few haves and many more have-nots.

Across the nation, too many barriers have been erected to hinder equitable access to quality instruction, services and supports, a problem that is particularly acute for gifted learners.  These obstructions for gifted learners include prohibitions on students starting Kindergarten early or from being able to take college courses while enrolled in high school, state polices that do not explicitly require one district to recognize a gifted designation granted by another and reluctance to employ evidence-based gifted education strategies and tactics in the classroom. We need to ensure the implementation of identification policies that support all students, strong professional development, and the inclusion of gifted and talented students in state accountability systems.

Many well-intentioned leaders and educators are actively working to solve this ugly problem for students broadly. But most, however, are not fully aware that we also must address this issue for gifted children. Too often, there are those that believe poverty and other factors may be insurmountable barriers to high achievement. We know that this is not the case.

According to federally-funded research from the National Center for Research on Gifted Education, children who are living in poverty, are from racial and ethnic minority groups, and English learners are 2.5 times LESS likely to be identified for gifted programs, despite achieving at the same exact levels as their peers in gifted programs. This is unacceptable, and we must all work together to eliminate this unequal access to the services needed by these children. As a nation, we can and must do better!

To ensure that gifted children from all backgrounds thrive, we must first be willing to dispel the myths, and we must live up to our commitment to fair identification. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has a strong policy on identification for the highly capable program, but we must expand professional development for teachers and administrators  to ensure the promise of the policy and process. Without this awareness, too many children with amazing potential will go unidentified.

Finally, we must make sure all gifted children have access to the services and supports they need to thrive. While many are reluctant to participate or implement strategies like grade and subject acceleration, we need to implore them to rely on the evidence that shows that these supports are effective for gifted children.

President John F. Kennedy once said, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” His quote highlights why I am proud to stand in solidarity with the leaders in Washington.  We know that with increased understanding about the nature and needs of gifted children, we will be able to develop supportive environments for learning and implement research-based practices that help all gifted children flourish.

A version of this post appeared on The High Flyer blog.

Take on Talents Supports #GiftedMinds Campaign

Take on Talents is focused on gifted children and their parents/educators. They believe all gifted children should be able to make the most out of their talents. Claire Hughes says, “Every gifted child deserves the right learn something new,” and she shares her thoughts on the Giftedness Knows No Boundaries campaign.