20 Under 20 Thiel Fellows—An Opportunity for Highly Gifted
This past May, Peter Thiel announced the appointment of twenty-four Thiel Fellows. These are young people—all under the age of 20—who are interested in solving difficult problems and in increasing the quality of life for people everywhere. Thiel wants to help these young people become the next generation of tech visionaries. You can read about each of the Fellows here.
While the intent of the Thiel Foundation was to choose 20 fellows, there were so many excellent applicants that it was impossible to stop at the appointed number; instead, they decided to choose 24. These are individuals who are challenging the authority of the present and the familiar. More than 400 people applied to be Fellows. Applications arrived from nearly two dozen countries and from nearly two hundred high schools, junior colleges, community colleges, four-year colleges, and graduate schools. Many applicants never went to college, had stopped going to school, were already working, or had already launched their own companies. Many had long personal histories of entrepreneurship.
The Fellows are pursuing innovative scientific and technical projects, learning entrepreneurship, and beginning to build the technology companies of tomorrow. During their two-year tenures, each Fellow will receive $100,000 from the Thiel Foundation as well as mentorship from the Foundation’s network of tech entrepreneurs and innovators. The project areas for this class of fellows include biotech, career development, economics and finance, education, energy, information technology, mobility, robotics, and space.
The next application period for 20 Under 20 will be available after October 1, 2011. Criteria for application will not be released until then. If you would like to be on the mailing list for the application when it comes out, sign up under the “Contact Us”
at the Thiel Foundation website.
The Fascination of Storm Chasers for Gifted Kids
Gifted young people frequently get very excited about bizarre occurrences and occupations. The job of storm chaser fits into that category and may act as an impetus for the study of meteorology.
Please be sensitive to the emotions of your individual children. While this information will fascinate some children, it may terrify others. Use your judgment about making this available to your kids.
—Who are storm chasers? Can one make a living at the job? What does a typical chase look like? What is the best way to become a storm chaser?
Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel
—This site is presented in Hollywood fashion, sensationalizing the storms. Here you will find impressive videos, a real-time weather tracker, and information about the vehicles and equipment used by storm chasers. The production crew of StormChasers also answers questions about their jobs.
Storm Chasers from PBS
—University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Howard Bluestein turned a boyhood fascination with severe weather into a career chasing tornadoes, working to shed scientific light on one of nature's most violent and unpredictable phenomenons. He and his graduate student “chasers” are featured in an IMAX film. An interview with the director of the film can also be found at this website. Learn about the development of Bluestein’s career. Included at this site are facts about severe weather and information about obtaining an activity guide for teachers (or parents).
Careers in Science and Engineering for the Gifted
Students who want to learn about careers in science and engineering can do so through a series of interviews (many written, some video) at Cogito
. Interviews are both with professionals and with advanced students in high school and college. When you watch and read these interviews, it becomes obvious that these individuals took their interests seriously, and found appropriate ways to pursue them, from very early ages. Their work is often notable before they even graduate from high school.
NOVA also has a great series of videos and written materials titled The Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers
. By watching and reading the various segments, students learn about the many different roads available to scientists and engineers (some quite obscure) and also see unexpected aspects of the personal lives of these professionals. This series brings a human element to the professions. For instance, Rachel Collins is both a microbiologist and a professional wrestler. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist and a figure skater. Emily Whiting is an architectural engineer and a rock climber. Alan Sage is both a vegetarian scientist and a rapper. The NOVA website also has a teachers guide
for introducing young people to careers in science and engineering.
Both the Cogito and the NOVA websites can be used to encourage gifted kids to pursue careers in math and engineering.
Teaching Gifted Students to Write Well
The ability to write well is one of the major gateways to a successful education and to career advancement later in life. It is also a tool that helps one sort through and analyze personal thoughts, express oneself effectively, and act as a stress reducer when one is faced with difficult physical and psychological issues in life.
Writing is most effectively developed when it is taught across all subjects—not just those in the field of language arts. Unfortunately, not enough teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach writing.
The National Writing Project (NWP) is one resource filled with ideas and opportunities to remedy this situation. There are currently more than 200 university-based writing project sites that provide high quality professional development and leadership opportunities to more than 100,000 K-16 educators every year. Many NWP sites offer special writing programs for children. For tips on helping children learn to write and how to support good writing instruction in schools, click on the Resources tab at the top of the NWP website. Parents, remember that you can also play an important part in teaching your children to write. You will also find many suggestions in the resources listed at the NWP website.
Mark Overmeyer is one person in the NWP network who I know and greatly respect. I have attended some of his writing workshops, which have been excellent. On Mark Overmeyer’s Blog you will see that he is an excellent writer himself. He has published two books about teaching writing and his blog entries are filled with helpful resources.
Theme Park and Ride Design for Gifted Learners
What child doesn’t enjoy an amusement park? How many people have fantasized about creating rides and theme parks? There are many gifted characteristics and abilities that go into the actual jobs required for this field, including physics, creativity, project management, art, architecture, and film. Here are some ideas for developing these interests.
has developed an interactive resource titled Amusement Park Physics
. This website helps students learn the forces behind the fun. Young people find out what principals of physics make the following rides work, how the dynamics of physics control the safety of the rides, and considerations that need to be factored in by ride designers.
Free Fall Rides
Walt Disney Imagineering
is the master planning, creative development, design, engineering, production, project management, and research and development arm of The Walt Disney Company and its affiliates. Representing more than 150 disciplines, its corps of Imagineers is responsible for the creation of Disney resorts, theme parks and attractions, hotels, water parks, real estate developments, regional entertainment venues, cruise ships, and new media technology projects. Be sure and check out the Student and College Programs
on the left side of the page.
Looking Ahead to Summer Programs for Gifted Kids
It’s that time of year again to begin planning for summer experiences for your gifted students. For some, that may mean lots of free time at home to play, read, relax, and let minds wander. Others may benefit from a specialized experience at a day camp or an experience far from home. Here are some suggestions for places to begin your search if you’re looking for something outside the home. (Note: These are not program endorsements. You will want to do your own investigations of programs to make certain they fit your needs.)
Some summer programs are general and some are specialized. Examples of focused programs include the study of space, inventions, technology, government, music, film, oceanography, math, archaeology, debate, art, foreign languages, and Shakespeare. Search hard enough and you’re likely to find a specialty to meet every need.
Here are some searchable databases where you can begin to look.
Interactive Science Web Sites for Gifted Kids
The interactive science websites listed here can be used both in the classroom and at home to teach students.
provides many virtual teaching activities and supplemental resources. Topics covered at the website include the following:
Create a Line of Stem Cells—Learn what a stem cell is and help our scientists create a stem cell line!
Design a Cell Phone—Help engineering director Elena design and manufacture a cell phone to help senior citizens get the most out of new technology!
Deep Brain Stimulation—Help Dr. Vanessa Mei cut, probe, and drill her way to helping her patient cope with a movement disorder through brain surgery!
Crash Scene—Help the highway patrol recreate a deadly crash by examining the evidence and calculating the forces.
Virtual Hip Resurfacing—Take on the role of the surgeon throughout a hip resurfacing surgery.
Virtual Hip Replacement—Take on the role of the surgeon throughout a hip replacement surgery.
The Odd Machine—Learn how forces and simple machines can work together to create The Compound Machine.
Virtual Knee Surgery—Take on the role of the surgeon throughout a total knee replacement surgery.
Weather—Learn how to report and predict the weather at the underground W.H.E.D. weather caves.
Simple Machines—Learn about simple and compound machines while you explore the House and Tool Shed.
Virtual Dissections—A variety of websites offer the opportunity to either watch dissections or to do virtual dissections. Here are two.
is a virtual world and requires the viewer to sign up for a free account. There are many aspects of Second Life and not all are being recommended here. This is a site that parents and teachers may first want to explore themselves. The technology is being used by NOAA (the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration). NOAA’s Virtual World
offers educational opportunities in science. Other “destinations” available on Second Life can be found here
More Online Resources for Gifted Education
In the past, I have listed many excellent websites that contain compilations of resources for gifted education. Recently, several more have come to my attention.
is created and maintained by Stacia Nicole Garland, a national award-winning teacher who worked with gifted children for 16 years. She includes practical, user-friendly information for both parents and educators as well as a long list of links of "Brainy Games."
While 96 Essential Sites & Blogs for Gifted Homeschoolers
is designed for homeschoolers, it also contains some great websites for children who are more traditionally educated. If you are looking for ideas that support or supplement your student’s interests and abilities, you will find many ideas here. Topics include
Related Gifted Education Web Sites
, from the American Psychological Association has an extensive alphabetical listing of gifted associations, programs, university connections, schools, research organizations, and publications.
Top 10 Gifted Education Blogs
, from OnlineDegrees.org, lists links to the best blogs in gifted education. I’m pleased to say that Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog
is included in the list.
Fun, Enriching, Science Activities for Gifted Kids
, from PBS Kids
, has some great science experiments to do in classrooms, in enrichment groups, or at home. Numerous experiments for kids are available in the following areas:
The five senses
Forces and energy
Many of these experiments are accompanied by excellent videos showing actual kids performing the activities. I started watching these videos and had a hard time stopping because they were so engaging and fun. The website also encourages viewers to send in their findings from the experiments.
Interactive Body, from The BBC, is designed for the older set. It provides engaging activities that help students learn about body parts, including
The first three activities (organs, muscles, skeleton) have the viewer rotate and place the various body parts in a virtual human being. The website also explains the various functions of the body parts.
There is also a detailed section on puberty. Some of the information in this section may even surprise some adults.
Gifted Kids Blogging about Academics
Recently I came across two blogs written by students who are "into" academics. These blogs are fun for others to read and may inspire young people to launch blogs to share their own passions.
Daphne’s Word Blog
is written by a logophile
, a person who loves words. Each entry discusses a word or words that the author finds fascinating.
Ivan’s Number Blog
includes interesting information about number patterns and problems that require time and thought to solve.
Each of these bloggers encourages readers to submit their own words, problems, and solutions.
You may want to use these two blogs with students who have an interest in vocabulary and in math, and/or you may want to use the blogs as examples of what your own young people might create. Students could construct blogs in any area of interest (e.g. The Civil War, butterflies, favorite books, creative writing, fire engines, dinosaurs, kites, careers, famous composers, etc.). Entries may be added as time permits or a routine schedule for posts can be established to encourage self-discipline.
Mentors for Gifted Students
On several other occasions I have written blogs about the virtues of finding mentors for gifted students. See
The importance of mentoring is worth revisiting over and over again. Some students have such esoteric interests that it is only through one-on-one coaching and support that they can get the intellectual nourishment that they need. So I want to bring this academic option to your attention once more with some other links available on the Internet.
Oceans of Learning for Gifted Kids
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth's surface and contains 97 percent of the planet's water, yet more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored. Just think of what there is to discover and how exciting it will be. One of every six jobs in the United States is marine-related, so it is definitely an area to think about for a future career.
Providing an avenue for gifted kids to study the ocean may ignite their interest in exploration. Who knows where it might eventually lead.
The excellent websites listed below contain not only written information, but lesson plans, images, video, audio, and other resources.
is sponsored by The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Some of the areas covered on this website include the latest news on ocean-related topics; numerous stories, resources, and lesson plans related to ocean life and ecosystems; and information about the latest research.
National Geographic has an extensive section on the ocean. There are special sections for both kids and for educators.
has ocean material for teachers and kids of all ages.
Once your student’s interest in the study of the ocean has been invigorated, you may want to consider giving him a hands-on experience through a study program. To explore the possibilities, go to Cogito
, which is an excellent website sponsored by Johns Hopkins University. Do a search on “study at sea.” You will be amazed at the opportunities that are available, including camps and living and working on research vessels.
Space Exploration for Gifted Kids
Do you have a student who is interested in space—and who isn’t? There are some great websites available for young people to explore. Use these websites as extensions of studies at school, enrichment, or resources for independent studies.
Mars Exploration Program
—Sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, this site offers youth-friendly information, photos, and video about Mars.
—This is basically an online news reporting site, focusing on space. The news is presented in both articles and in videos.
—Tells about and lists calendars for space events such as sunspots, solar flares, aurora australis and aurora borealis, meteor showers, and near-Earth asteroids. It also includes some excellent links to other space weather related websites.
—A collection of articles and images from news sources on topics such as using radio signals to weigh planets, creating a map of magnetic field lines of the sun, and helping NASA choose wakeup music for the final shuttle missions.
Space for Europe
—The European Space Agency provides a global approach to the study of space, with a special section for kids. There are also many articles and all kinds of videos on topics such as survival training for astronauts, the Hubble telescope capturing images of bubbles and baby stars, and venture capital funds backing business opportunities from space.
—This Web site offers an incredible amount of written information, as well as images, video, audio, and interactive activities. There are special sections for educators and for students. There is an area describing careers at NASA, including internship opportunities.
The Planetary Society
—This is the world's largest space-interest group. It is dedicated to inspiring the public with the adventure and mystery of space exploration through projects and publications. There are quite a few activities for kids.
—One particularly interesting section of this website is "Entertainment" (click on tab near the top of the page). Here you will find articles such as How ‘Star Wars’ Changed the World
and space video game reviews.
Inquiry-based Learning for Gifted Kids
There is an old saying: Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand. Inquiry-based learning enables students to become involved in their learning for better understanding. When using inquiry-based learning, the teacher acts as a facilitator rather that a purveyor of information. This type of learning is more engaging and exciting for students than traditional methods. Gifted kids really enjoy it because they are asked to question, to investigate, and to experiment, all while using critical thinking skills.
There are quite a few websites that explain how inquiry-based learning works and offer sample lesson plans for students K-12.
Intro to Inquiry Learning
has two particularly helpful sections: Advantages of Inquiry-Based Learning and The Art of the Question. This second section explains how to ask good questions, which may be more complicated and sophisticated than many parents and teachers realize.
Workshop: Inquiry-Based Learning
offers all the basics of inquiry-based learning, provides classroom demonstrations through video clips, explains how to get started, and shows how to create a facilitation plan.
lets you looks at actual units using inquiry-based learning.
Center for Inquiry-Based Learning
was created by Duke University to help North Carolina K-8 teachers learn inquiry-based teaching practices. Here you can explore the list of science kits that they recommend. You can then find these kits on the Internet by searching on both the title of the kit and the publisher’s name, which is in parentheses. Also, be sure to check out Teacher Resources, where you will find many Inquiry Exercises.
Consider using inquiry-based learning both at school and at home. Students will be actively engaged while improving their critical and creative thinking skills.
Summer Activities to Do at Home
Are you looking for some fun summer activities to do with your kids? Here are some ideas.
—Professor Copper Giloth at the University of Massachusetts Amherst teaches Introduction to Computing in the Fine Arts. She assigns her students the task of illustrating the traditional Aesop's fables alongside their own retellings of the fables in a modern setting. This website showcases their work and can be used in several ways. You and your child can read the fables, you can compare the fables with versions found elsewhere, or you can use the student work as incentive for your children to illustrate stories or poems.
Neuroscience for Kids
—Learn about all aspects of neuroscience in a format that uses helpful graphics. Try the many experiments that make use of games and activities. View questions that have been submitted and then answered by basic and clinical neuroscientists from around the world. Search the numerous links provided, sign up for the free newsletter, and much more.
—Brought to you by the Amateur Entomologists' Society, this website helps the visitor identify bugs, learn about bugs, find out how to care for bugs as pets, and many other interesting things about insects and invertebrates. There is also information on how to become an entomologist.
U.S. Department of the Treasury for Kids
—Here there are links to government websites especially for kids. Links lead to the White House, the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Official Kids' Portal for the U.S. Government, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Brain Teasers, Optical Illusions, and Logic Links
—Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page provides a very long list of links that will engage students in mental gymnastics. There are also links for rebuses, wacky wordies, frame games, and visual puns. Enjoy working some of these puzzles as a family.
Bugs, Bugs, Bugs—For Gifted Kids
The year I was born, my parents built a cabin in a remote area of northeastern Minnesota. Every August, we vacationed there. As long as I can remember, I was told to beware of the lumberman beetle. It was called a lumberman because it came out in droves when people were cutting down trees. The large insect was so light and so quiet; it could land on one’s clothes or skin without the person being aware of its presence. The beetle had a reputation for inflicting a painful pinch. When my children were young, they had many questions about the insect. We were not able to find the answers to their questions in any of our books (this was in the era before the Internet), so we placed a specimen in a bottle and took it home with us to Denver. Once home, I contacted an entomologist at the University of Colorado. The scientist was more than happy to meet with us. (As a parent or teacher, you should never be afraid to contact a specialist in any area. Specialists are usually very happy to find someone else interested in their field.) This was our own little field trip and was very interesting. The entomologist had never seen this particular beetle and was pleased to have it for his collection. He pulled out drawers and drawers of similar long-horned beetles that were carefully mounted and labeled. He provided us with a fascinating education on similar beetles. He also admonished me to never instill fear in my kids about insects; instead, he said that insects should be considered a wonder to be observed and respected.
Most young people have a natural curiosity about bugs of all sorts, and they should be encouraged to learn about them. You can start by providing children with a magnifying glass and going out in the yard to observe these creatures up close. Visit displays of bugs at museums. Go to the library and take out books on the subject. There also are many resources on the Internet that can help your child learn about bugs. Here are just a few.
Amateur Entomologists' Society
—This site from the U.K. tells how to collect and care for bugs, provides activities to learn about insects along with lots of interesting information, and talks about how to become an entomologist.
—Sponsored by the Department of Entomology at Iowa State University, this site helps you identify and classify all types of bugs. It has an incredible number of wonderful photographs.
The Lost Ladybug Project
—This site provides all kinds of activities and lesson plans about ladybugs. Scientists also ask students to help find various types of ladybugs in different areas of the country and share that information. Instructions for collecting and sharing this information are listed.
—YouTube continues to be an excellent resource for parents, teachers, and students. (Adults should always first screen content at this site for young children.) In the search box, type in words such as entomology
, and insects
, or type in specific names of bugs. You will find videos from many reputable sources.
—Search using general or specific words having to do with bugs, and you will find a variety of educational videos, pictures, and articles.
—Search using general or specific words having to do with bugs, and you will find colorful slide shows, thoughtful articles, videos, and more.
—Find photos of bugs that you are interested in by doing a search using relevant words.
Some offshoot topics to consider when studying entomology include insects as a food source, forensic entomology, and medical entomology.
Explore Firefighting with Gifted Kids
Firefighting has always fascinated young children. Firefighters dress in special clothes, ride in special vehicles, and perform unusual tasks. They save people and structures. They are our heroes at a time when there is an absence of heroes. If your child is interested in this subject, there are many ways you can help him or her learn more.
There are firefighter museums all over the country. Do an Internet search for “firefighter museum” in your hometown or any place where you plan to travel. Visit these sites and see if they have any special programs for kids.
Local fire stations often allow visitors to tour the facility, talk with firefighters, and find out what their days look like. Schedule a visit with your young people.
Find out about firefighting worldwide
. How is firefighting managed differently and how do the jobs of firefighters vary in different countries?
has many videos
that you can watch about firefighting. You can search on firefighter training, firefighting tools, forest fire, fire fighting airplanes, and fire boats to name a few. (Notice that firefighting can be spelled as either one or two words, so try both with your searches.) If you have young children, screen the videos to make certain that they are appropriate.
Branch out and think of subjects related to firefighting—clothing, vehicles, tools, types of fires, types of firefighting, famous fires, fire departments, layouts of fire stations, life at a fire station, special training for firefighters, ways to keep your home safe, what to do in case of a fire, ways to put out different types of fires, and how firefighters protect themselves. Brainstorm as many ideas as possible.
Encourage kids to make their own creations focusing on firefighters. Perhaps they could make a book or develop a game to teach others about firefighting. Or, they might draw pictures and write stories.
More Online Learning for Gifted Students
Teachers and parents alike often turn to online learning options in order to supplement and/or accelerate gifted students' learning. Does your young person have a strong interest and ability in mathematics, physics, computer programming, literature, writing, history, or foreign language? Does she want to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes that are not offered at her local high school? Or, does your student need a flexible schedule because of family circumstances, work responsibilities, or health issues?
Are you in a school district where your young person’s needs and abilities surpass the available curriculum? Do you homeschool your child, either full-time or part-time, and, as a result, need solid educational resources? Or, do you have a student who doesn't necessarily want to earn credit for extracurricular classes, but instead just wants to expose himself to different topics in order to see if any really interest him? If so, then you may want to introduce your student to the wide range of opportunities available through online learning.
For years, I have been writing about the virtues of distance learning for gifted kids. Over the past few years, the distance learning field has continued to expand. As the technology becomes more sophisticated, many distance learning programs are beginning to use not only computers for their programs, but also everyday technologies, such as cell phones.
Kids are often more comfortable with these technologies than adults. This may be one reason why traditional schools are often unable to adjust to and incorporate these new technologies into the traditional classroom. Adults (both parents and teachers) sometimes lack the expertise that young people have already learned at an early age and use every day. Perhaps it is time for adults to stop fighting these new developments and, instead, embrace them and incorporate them into student learning. Online learning is one good way to start.
If you are interested in learning more about the opportunities available to gifted kids, there is a great deal of information available at the Davidson Institute for Talent Development website and at the Distance Learning Programs page of Hoagies’ Gifted Education website.
Maritime History for Gifted Kids
The study of maritime history is a great vehicle for weaving together an understanding of the history of ships, as well as an understanding of how inventions and discoveries enabled explorers to travel farther and farther from home. It also helps students understand the motivations for explorers to travel to different parts of the world, whether it was for political, economic, or personal reasons. There is excellent information on the Internet that will enable students and teachers to study this subject. Below is just a sampling:
The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia has created an Age of Exploration On-Line Curriculum Guide
. The curriculum guide, which is designed for grades 3-12, addresses maritime discovery from ancient times to Captain Cook's 1768 voyage to the South Pacific. The website includes visual images, text, and materials that can be downloaded or printed for transparencies, presentations, or reports. It also includes lesson plans, vocabulary, links to related websites, and guides to other reference materials.
The National Maritime Historical Society has created a site titled Sea History for Kids
. At this site, you will find a variety of informational pages and activities, including vessel types, the commerce of historical shipping, famous mariners, underwater archaeology, professions and occupations of the sea, the historical stories of kids who went to sea, games, and puzzles.
The BBC presents A History of Navigation
, charting the course of maritime navigation "from the days of rough reckoning to the ground-breaking technological advances of the late 1700s." An animated slide show is used to present the information.
A "Mysterious" Way to Teach Scientific Inquiry
When I was a kid, I loved mysteries and ghost stories and games. When I was about six, my parents gave me a board game called “Green Ghost.” For the life of me, I don’t remember the details of how the game was played, but I remember that the entire board game glowed in the dark. The point of the game was to make your way around a haunted house with trap doors and attacking ghouls. One fun gimmick of the game was that you had to wait until after dark to play it if you wanted to experience the glow in the dark effect.
As a teacher, I never lost my love for the good mystery. I tried to bring elements of the mysterious into the classroom. My high school students and I played with writing descriptive passages from the home of Jack the Ripper, collected local ghost stories, and discussed the ways in which mystery writers construct their tales.
When I first saw the prospectus for Science Sleuths: Solving Mysteries Using Scientific Inquiry, I was thrilled. The authors, two science teachers, wanted to develop a tool for teaching scientific literacy and inquiry using detective mysteries as their framework.
As the project developed, I became more and more excited. The authors began constructing a book with full-color “evidence” posters, crime logs, crime scene evidence, and a cast of questionable suspects. The crimes they created were intriguing—an art gallery heist, a mysterious death at a bed and breakfast (yes—they called it “Dead and Breakfast”), and a mysterious death at a software company.
Each of the activities in the book requires students to use inquiry, research, and the tools of scientific exploration to solve mysteries. Students must think and act like forensic detectives to succeed. Working in groups, students race to beat the clock as they attempt to determine which suspect should be charged with the crime.
I’m incredibly proud of this book. The authors have a knack for making science fun. The kid in me is pretty envious of the students who will get to experience Science Sleuths in their science classrooms.
Free Tutorial Videos on Math and Science
Salman Khan and the Khan Academy are back in the news, having recently being featured on NPR and PBS. At the Khan Academy website, there are more than 1,100 free instructional videos, each 10-20 minutes long, that range from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, chemistry, biology, and finance. The videos cover concepts that, as a student, Sal felt were poorly taught through lectures and textbooks. Each video explains the concepts covered in the lesson in a comfortable, relaxed manner that reflects Sal's own easy understanding of math and doesn't compromise rigor or comprehensiveness. Sal also has included several hundred videos devoted to the SAT, GMAT, and other standardized test problems.
Since I first wrote about the Khan Academy back in December 2008, Sal decided to quit his day job and devote himself full-time to expanding his library of instructional videos. Eventually, he plans to add even more academic subjects to the website.
The videos at the Khan Academy website can be used by a wide variety of students, including:
students who need a bit more instruction to understand a concept,
those who want to learn beyond what is being taught in the classroom, and
students who are preparing for certain standardized tests such as AP, SAT, and GMAT.
The videos can also be used in a variety of venues, such as the classroom, home, and around the world. Those who live in areas where an advanced class is not available, or those who are homeschooled, would particularly benefit from viewing Sal's videos.
I highly recommend that you take a good look at the website. View some of the instructional videos yourself and take a look at some of the videos explaining more about Sal Khan and his plans for the Khan Academy. The website is a wonderful resource and it is free.
Sharpening Gifted Brains
The SharpBrains blog
is run by a market research firm that tracks new research into brain fitness and cognitive health. The website includes a number of articles and sections that may be of interest to parents and teachers of gifted kids.
Interesting articles from the website include:
Activities highlighted on the website include:
Brain Teasers. More than 50 brain teasers are divided into categories such as “attention,” “pattern recognition and planning,” and “visual illusions.” Many of the brain teasers are interactive and are accompanied by articles explaining the brain research that supports the activities.
The Art, Math, and Science of Snowflakes
With recent winter storms plaguing the country, now is the perfect time to introduce students to the study of snowflakes and crystals. Perhaps you thought that gazing at and trying to understand these beautiful creations was just a fun way to spend a few moments outside. However, some people dedicate their entire lives to studying these gifts from nature.
was created by Kenneth G. Libbrecht, professor of physics and chairman of the Physics Department at Caltec
. At this website, which is very well laid out and easy to follow, you will find:
incredible galleries of snowflake photos,
the classification of different types of snowflakes,
books about snowflakes,
information about the physics of snowflakes,
snowflake activities, and
tips on where to go to view the best snow crystals.
The Electron Microscopy Unit Snow Page
, created by the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) offers a series of annotated photos of snowflakes taken with a Low Temperature Scanning Electron Microscope (LT-SEM). This website describes:
the special microscope that is used,
the procedure for collecting the specimens, and
an elaborate system for classifying snow crystals.
It is so easy to get caught up in the required curriculum and ignore the everyday wonders that surround us. But by introducing students to a wide variety of subjects and interests that may be outside of the regular curriculum, we may just spark an interest in kids that will carry them forward to additional paths of inquiry.
The Science Behind Olympic Competition
NBC Learn has teamed up with NBC Olympics and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to produce a 16-part online video series
that highlights the science behind winter sports, demonstrating how athletes preparing for the Vancouver Winter Games ski, skate, jump, and curl their way to Olympic gold. Each video illustrates how scientific principles apply to competitive sports. This is a great opportunity for educators to incorporate the Olympics into the classroom. It will engage both athletes and non-athletes alike with video titles such as:
In each video, an NSF-supported scientist explains how a specific scientific principle applies to the sport. The athlete’s movements are captured on high-speed camera and then slowed down to illustrate scientific principles such as Newton’s Three Laws of Motion, the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum, friction drag, speed, and velocity.
Athletes who are featured in the videos include:
(hockey)—two-time Olympic medalist and Harvard graduate
(short track speed skating)—2010 Olympic hopeful
Bring Speakers (Based on Student Interest) Into Gifted Classrooms
Bringing weekly speakers into the classroom broadens the interests of gifted students and encourages individual passions. It also makes it possible for some students to find an exciting new area of passion. By inviting speakers to your classroom, you will:
expose your students to a wide range of subjects and people,
show them that their interests and ideas are valued, and
help them to begin their career education at an early age.
The classroom is also a much more intimate and valuable setting than a school assembly.
Here are a few examples of speakers that I used at the elementary school level in the Denver, CO, area:
Student interest: Astronomy
Speaker: A female scientist from The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) brought a wonderful slide show on solar flares and explained their many effects to students.
Student interest: Animation
Speaker: The owner of a local animation company brought in a short video about his company, presented some animation production cels, showed the kids how to make flip books using their own animations, talked about jobs in animation, and explained the education that one should have in order to follow a career in animation.
Student interest: Snakes
Speaker: A member of the local herpetological society brought in some live snakes and talked about his own personal interest in the animals, their life habits, and what we should all know and understand about snakes.
Because it can be very time consuming for teachers to find speakers, parents can play a vital role with the teacher's guidance. Here are some suggestions for setting up a similar program:
Survey students to find out areas of interest that they would like to learn more about. Do not give them a list of possibilities to check off. Instead, just have each child write on a piece of paper at least three things that he or she would like to explore. These ideas do not have to be academic.
Have a small group of volunteer parents sort through the students' ideas and try to group them. Are there some recurring themes?
Have the same group of parents brainstorm about places where they might find speakers that would address student interests.
After discussing their ideas with you first, parents can begin making contacts.
Once schedules are set up for speakers, ask parents to contact the speaker again a week or two in advance to confirm the date and time and find out if there is anything special that the speaker will need.
Make sure that parents keep you informed of any communication that occurs between them and the speakers.
Locating Potential Speakers
Start close to home. Are there people you know personally that would match a student's interest?
Are there parents at the school that have a strong personal interest or profession that would match another student's chosen topic?
What are some of the companies in your community that might have individuals that could present? Many larger companies actually have speaker bureaus.
What about people who work at museums, theaters, orchestras, or universities? Or, what about individuals who work as mathematicians, authors, or cartographers? No matter what the interests of the students may be, you can probably find a speaker nearby if you live in a large metropolitan area.
Don't be afraid to approach people. They can always say no, but I think you will be surprised by the people who say yes.
Setting Up Guidelines for Speakers
Decide what day and time you would like to have the speaker. (I always chose Friday afternoons, because it was a nice end-of-the-week activity.) We tried to have a speaker every week that it was possible.
Be clear about exactly what time you need the speaker to start, the physical condition of the classroom, the types of students that they will be working with, and whether or not you want the talk to be interactive. Sometimes those outside the school system don't understand the difficulties that are presented when an expected person doesn't show up right on time, and so be careful to explain all of that.
Making the Speaker Feel Welcomed
Make certain that the class has reviewed appropriate behavior for honoring a guest in the classroom. Remind them that this is a special occasion and a privilege.
Have someone meet the speaker at the front door of the school building. This could be a parent and/or student (depending on the grade level). Let the speaker know how much the class is looking forward to the presentation.
Have the student or students who chose the area of interest briefly explain to the class why they selected that particular topic.
Decide on a way to thank the speaker for taking time to come to the classroom. Students may write letters, draw pictures, create something to send to the speaker, or anything else that you feel suits the situation.
It takes quite a bit of time and organization to set up a program like this in a classroom, but I know that you will find it well worth the effort.
Increasing Depth and Complexity in Curriculum for the Gifted
I have always been a big fan of Sandra Kaplan at the University of Southern California. She has created wonderful techniques for increasing depth and complexity of curriculum—attributes that are at the core of gifted education.
Kaplan’s chart, Facilitating the Understanding of DEPTH and COMPLEXITY
, presents teachers with easy-to-follow prompts, key questions, thinking skills, and resources that provide ideas for differentiating curriculum. These ideas can be applied to many subjects including language arts, science, social studies, and math. The prompts and key questions are very helpful when developing universal themes. A few examples include:
What are the reoccurring events?
What elements, events, ideas, are repeated over time?
What was the order of events?
How can we predict what will come next?
·Determine relevant vs. irrelevant
·Discriminate between same and different
Other chronological lists
What dilemmas or controversies are involved in this area/topic/study/discipline?
What elements can be identified that reflect bias, prejudice, and discrimination?
·Judge with criteria
How are the ideas related between the past, present, and future?
How are these ideas related within or during a particular time period?
How has time affected the information?
How and why do things change or remain the same?
View the entire chart at the link above and use it as a guide when developing curriculum for the gifted or when differentiating lessons in the regular classroom.
If you have used Kaplan's material in developing units or lessons, please share them through comments at this post.
News Sites for Gifted Kids
Kristin Hokanson (elementary teacher turned high school tech coach) maintains The Connected Classroom Web site. Hokanson understands the growing importance of technology in our lives and urges teachers and parents to incorporate technology into their children’s learning experiences. Connected Classroom contains many interesting sections. Today, I’d like to tell you about News Sites for Kids.
News Sites for Kids offers a comprehensive list of links to news that kids can understand. Many of these links also offer lesson plans or teaching ideas such as the following listed on The New York Times Learning Connection:
In the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," Atticus Finch tells Scout, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." And the Buddha is supposed to have said, "You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger." Choose one of these quotations or find another expression about human nature by searching an archive of quotations, such as About.com's Quotations page or Bartleby.com. Then read The New York Times for a week, looking for articles that support (or refute) the expression you chose. Good starting places are the Opinion, N.Y./Region and U.S./National sections. Then write an essay that explains the degree to which the expression seems to be true, backed by the examples you found.
As always, teachers should check sites out first to make certain they are appropriate for the learning levels of their students.
Links for the younger set include:
For upper elementary and older:
Hokanson has including additional links to visual sites using world maps to organize the day's headlines, world newspapers, commercial newsites, and sites that help teachers develop lesson plans about current events and the nature of journalism.
Science Friday for Gifted Kids
Every Friday I look forward to listening to Ira Flatow’s program, Science Friday, on NPR. Each week, the program focuses on interesting science topics in the news and provides an educated, balanced discussion of the issues at hand. Panels of expert guests join Flatow, himself a veteran science journalist, to discuss these topics and to answer listener questions during the call-in portion of the program.
Science Friday Kids’ Connection is an educational resource based on Flatow’s Program. A database created in partnership with McREL (the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning in Denver, Colorado), Kids’ Connection incorporates a variety of programs, available via podcast or streaming, that satisfy benchmarks selected from national science standards for grades 6-8. The database utilizes these standards along with Science Friday program content to optimize search results, enabling students, parents, and teachers to locate programs that best address specific subjects. For example, if you choose the topic “Characteristics of the Earth System,” three benchmarks pop up. The resource page for Benchmark 1—Knows that the Earth is comprised of layers including a core, mantle, lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere—links to Science Friday’s program on “Preparing for Natural Disaster.” In addition, these benchmarks are supplemented by numerous (notice that I underlined “numerous”) linked curriculum activities.
Kids’ Connection is an excellent resource for teachers, parents who want to learn with their children, homeschoolers, and other kids who wish to explore topics in-depth. Teachers can use this resource to extend or differentiate their curriculum, providing an engaging alternative for students who have already mastered the fundamentals. These students, along with children exploring the site from home, will be able to participate in the further study of a subject of interest while being introduced to new topics.
Parents—if you have a child who loves science and is not challenged in school science classes, I encourage you to spend some time with your son or daughter and this resource during the summer. If it works for you, suggest it as an alternative for independent study in the fall. This is a Web site well worth exploring.
Summer Apprenticeship Program for Gifted Students
The Institute for Educational Advancement (IEA) offers three- and four-week summer apprenticeship programs for gifted high school students. Each year, the program places high school freshmen, sophmores and juniors in challenging, hands-on learning experiences provided by an esteemed group of participating mentors in various professions. This year's participants are located at several sites in Southern California and include the Los Angeles Superior Court, Art Center College of Design, and the Japanese American National Museum.
The programs run from July 12 through August 8. During this time, apprentices spend weekdays working with their mentors on pre-arranged projects. At the end of the program, they will present their work to fellow participants and other interested parties. Apprentices live on the Occidental College campus and IEA staff transport the students to and from apprentice locations. In addition, IEA will provide enriching evening and weekend activities, as well as other general opportunites for apprentices to socialize with their intellectual peers. Past program participants rave about their experiences and many have gone on to attend prestigious universities.
The original application deadline for this program has past, but there are still some spaces available. Call 626-403-8900 if you are interested in applying. IEA will continue to accept applications until all spots are full.
Specific information on the program, including apprenticeship sites and participating mentors can be found here. Financial aid is available.
This truly sounds like a wonderful opportunity. I urge you to explore this program.
School Options for Gifted Kids—Where to Begin
I experienced another interesting conversation yesterday while traveling to the airport in a shared van. The woman sitting next to me was flying to Tennessee to watch two of her children compete in the Global Finals for Destination ImagiNation
(DI). DI is an exciting, creative enrichment program that engages kids in critical thinking, teamwork, time management, and problem solving. She told me about the wonderful enrichment teacher who works at their neighborhood school. Each year, the teacher is able to recruit parents who are willing to make the necessary time commitment to work with teams of youngsters who compete in Destination ImagiNation. What a wonderful experience for the students at this neighborhood school.
We then went on to have a general conversation about education, gifted education, parenting, etc. She told me that next year two of her children will attend a magnet/charter school that focuses on international studies. There, they will have a choice of languages on which to focus. Her children have decided to concentrate on Chinese. This woman had really done her research and was a very positive advocate for her kids, finding educational options that fit their needs.
My question to this fellow traveler was, “How do parents find out about the various choices in their school district?” It was then I realized that the shuttle driver had been listening intently to our conversation. When I asked my question, he laughed. He indicated that he had several children at home, was not pleased with their school situation, and did not realize that he had choices. He, too, had wondered how one finds out about opportunities.
So often, parents feel that their children are trapped in whatever educational program is closest to their home. They often cannot afford to move to a “better” neighborhood and don’t realize that there are alternatives.
So, I want to present you with some information. I also hope that others will comment on this blog entry, sharing possibilities that I have not listed. Right now, I will just talk about actual physical (as opposed to virtual) schools that might be available to you in your area. In my book, Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook
I discuss many more educational options.
Situations vary from state to state and from district to district. You often won’t know if these possibilities exist unless you ask.
The Education Commission of the States (ECS)
provides an online database for open enrollment. To one degree or another, open-enrollment policies allow a student to transfer to the public school of his or her choice. There are two basic types of open-enrollment policies: intradistrict and interdistrict. The Web site cited here is an excellent resource. In many cases, students are not locked in to attending their neighborhood or even their district schools.
The U.S. Department of Education
provides information on charter and magnet schools across the country. Charter schools
are public schools that operate with freedom from many of the local and state regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Some of them have very innovative philosophies. Magnet schools
are designed to attract students from diverse social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. They focus on a specific subject, such as science or the arts; follow specific themes, such as business/technology or communications/humanities/law; or operate according to certain models, such as career academies or a school-within-a-school. Once you understand the general concepts of charter and magnet schools, you can search the Web sites of your local school district and surrounding districts to see what is available.
It is important to know how the students in your school and in schools you are considering perform on state tests. Look at sites such as SchoolMatters
where you can search for information by school or state. This Web site is also able to list schools within a state from highest scoring to lowest scoring in reading and in math. It will be much easier for your child to perform at a high level if he attends a school where the norm is to perform well.
Please feel free to share additional information by hitting the “Comment” button at the top of this blog entry.
Gifted Students and the Role of Exceptional Teachers
Recently there was an article in the National Post
(a Canadian newspaper) that discussed the research of Larisa Shavinina, a gifted education expert from the Université du Québec en Outanouais. Shavinina examined the backgrounds of more than 50 science Nobel laureates between 1981-2005 through personal interviews, autobiographies, and public documents. She found that they all had at least one teacher who was very important to them and acted as a role model. These formative teachers were enthusiastic, inspiring, and used “a playful spirit” that sparked a passion for science.
Many of the Nobel Prize winners were not considered gifted when they were young. They were often normal or sometimes underachievers. Some were twice exceptional (gifted with learning disabilities).
Professor Shavinina eventually hopes to include in her study science laureates from 1901-2006. She plans to discover when each winner’s first exceptional scientific talent was identified, the advantages and disadvantages of different educational approaches, and the factors that influenced their successes.
As parents, we need to figure out how to find inspiring teachers. In addition to classroom teachers, mentors can also play a significant role in inspiring students. You will find blog entries on mentors by using the search function in the right column on this page.
Meteorology for Gifted Students
Do you have a student who is interested in the weather? Weather affects our lives every day, yet it is a subject that few of us understand in-depth.
Meteorology and climatology are sciences that deal with the atmosphere and its phenomena. In addition to predicting the weather, scientists attempt to identify and interpret climate trends, understand past weather, and analyze today’s weather.
Meteorological research is applied in air-pollution control, agriculture, forestry, air and sea transportation, and defense. Meteorologists might analyze or develop numerical models, monitor rainfall and issue river stage warnings, or fly in aircraft investigating hurricanes.
Atmospheric Research Centers
Local, State, and National Weather Services
Manufacturers of Meteorological Instruments
Private Consulting Firms
Radio and TV stations
Satellite Research Centers
If you want to teach about various aspects of weather, or if you have a student who is interested in the subject, there are some great resources available on the Internet.
This is an excellent science/math Web site for academically talented youth. Search on “Weather” to find articles, Internet links, contests, book reviews, reports, interviews, and information about educational expeditions.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
In the upper right quadrant of this Web site, you will see a couple of rows of rectangular boxes, including Weather, Satellites, Oceans, Climate, Coasts, and Research.
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
Check out the section “Students and Educators,” which contains many good informational resources; classes and quizzes (many of them free); career information; a data base of colleges and universities; digital libraries; teaching/learning modules; webcasts; podcasts; and animations.
Free Curriculum on Investigating Systems
In past blog entries, I have talked about the importance of teaching universal themes and using essential questions. (Use Search Entries button on the right to find and read these previous entries.) I continue that discussion here.
Marion Brady who, over the span of his career, has been a teacher, administrator, and author, is a person with strong ideas about what our educational system should look like. He feels that traditional curriculum is fragmented, emphasizing the need to "cover the material," without providing an umbrella under which students can understand and apply their learning. Brady offers this umbrella through his curriculum titled, Investigating Systems
In the spirit of the current movement to offer open sourceware (free classroom materials online), the author provides IS for download. (You do have to register, listing personal identification information, to be able to download the curriculum.)
To give you an idea of the content of the curriculum, I am including its Table of Contents.
Organizing Information (Investigating Patterns, Investigating Relationships, Analytical Categories)
Analyzing Systems (Systems with Human Components)
Major Human Systems: Societies
Investigations of Structure
Investigations of Environment
Investigations of Patterns of Action
Investigations of Shared Ideas
The Dynamics of Change
Change and Stress
Constructing New Knowledge
In addition to the free curriculum, there is also a place for online comments and discussions. Rather than viewing this curriculum as fully finished, Brady sees it as a work in progress; therefore, input from those who use the material is valued.
Whether you are a teacher or a parent, whether or not you choose to use the curriculum in its entirety, you will find that this curriculum will help you better understand the concepts of universal themes and essential questions and how to use these in the education of students at home and at school.
Integrated Curriculum for Gifted Students
Curriculum is meaningful when students can relate it to other aspects of their lives. This is more likely when material is taught using themes that integrate many subjects.
organizes education so that it links together the humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, social studies, music, and art. It views learning and teaching in a holistic way, reflecting the real world and prepares children for lifelong learning. Integrated curriculum includes
A combination of subjects
An emphasis on projects
Sources that go beyond textbooks
Relationships among concepts
Thematic units as organizing principles
Flexible student groupings
Teachers often learn the theory behind good curriculum development, but they are too often expected to create their own materials. It is difficult to find enough time to keep “reinventing the wheel.” There are a couple of very good resources for integrated curriculum that contain already-developed teaching units that target gifted students.
In my blog, I have frequently mentioned the units developed by the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary. These units contain in-depth activities that develop high-level thinking skills and encourage students to relate the material to their own lives. I have personally used several of these units and know teachers who have used others. The material is excellent! Units are available for elementary through high school. Titles include The Weather Reporter, Spatial Reasoning, Patterns of Change, and Defining Nations: Cultural Identity and Political Tensions.
The units developed by the Ricks Center for Gifted Children at University of Denver use critical thinking, problem finding, problem solving, and evaluating as an overlay for the content areas included in each topic. Multiple teaching strategies are used to address specific learning styles, individual needs, and intellectual abilities. Units are available for pre-kindergarten through grade 8. Titles include Arctic/Antarctic, Architecture, Natural Disasters, and United Nations.
Questioning Techniques for the Gifted
As parents and teachers, we want to stimulate the thinking of gifted kids by posing open questions and teaching students how to create their own open questions. A closed question is one that can be answered with either a single word or a short phrase (i.e., "How old are you?" or "Where do you live?" or any question that can be answered with either "yes" or "no"). An open question, however, requires a longer, more involved response and does not have one correct answer; instead, it causes the respondent to think and reflect.
There are several resources available for teachers to create open questions in the classroom. Parents can use these same resources to guide interesting conversations with their children and promote good problem-solving skills.
Open questioning techniques include essential questions and critical thinking questions.
This Web site lists seven key components that essential questions have in common.
Examples of essential questions include:
- What are the ramifications of cloning?
- What is intelligence?
- Are we really free?
- Where does perception end and reality begin?
- Does history really repeat itself?
- Are there any absolutes?
- Are there other more pressing issues that deserve consideration before space exploration?
- What was the greatest invention of the 20th Century?
Although the information provided at this site is designed for college students, most gifted students are fully capable of using the techniques. I especially like the generic questioning stems, such as:
- What are the implications of …?
- How does … tie in with what we have learned before?
- Do you agree or disagree with this statement? What evidence is there to support your answer?
There are also very good suggestions for using critical thinking in student writing. The act of writing requires students to focus and clarify their thoughts before putting them down on paper.
Questioning in the Classroom
Although this Web site was developed specifically to identify questions to be asked in science or math, the concepts can easily be transferred to many other subjects. Questions are divided into four groups: direct information, relational, divergent, and evaluation. Questions are also posed to reflect critical thinking.
What can you change to try to make ____ work/happen?
Where have you seen something like this before?
How can you use what you’ve learned?
The form at this Web site can be used to generate essential questions to be used in class.
Archaeology for Gifted Kids
Archaeology is the scientific study of the history of human cultures. It can be a compelling topic of interest for gifted kids and is often not included in school curriculum. Below are Internet links for students of all ages.
Archaeology is the publication of the Archaeological Institute of America. This site includes articles, reviews, information on local shows, interviews, breaking news, a blog, interactive digs, and videos.
Search for “Archaeology” and you will find a few good links on becoming an archaeologist as well as an interview with Tristan Barako, the senior researcher for the NOVA/PBS documentary, The Bible's Buried Secrets. A link is provided to watch all 13 episodes of this program on your computer.
Located in southwestern Colorado, this center has a wonderful reputation for education. Click on Archaeology Adventures and you will find information on middle school and high school summer camps.
Created by Cobblestone Publishing Company, this site offers information on this magazine, which is designed for the younger set. There is also information—state-by-state—of archaeological activities and a section titled Ask Dr. Dig where readers can ask questions of a real archaeologist.
Written by a museum teacher at the Royal Ontario Museum, the author tells how to pursue the field of archaeology as a profession, beginning in elementary school.
Another site designed for younger kids, students are guided through games, puzzles, and a virtual archaeological tour to understand how people at a farmstead survived 150 years ago.
A newsfeed on the ancient world, including articles, photos, and videos.
Search for “Archaeology” for all kinds of information related to the high- quality programs that appear on the PBS program, NOVA.
Search for “Archaeology” and you will find all kinds of free lesson plans.
Summer Archaeology Camp
I've always enjoyed the subject of archaeology. In fact, one of the first science books Prufrock Press published was Hands-On Archaeology: Real-Life Activities for Kids (now in its second edition). Written by renowned archaeologist John White, Ph.D., this book shows any teacher or parent how to help kids become young archaeologists. Imagine the thrill students will experience as they discover artifacts from the past. There isn't a single student who won't love the activities in this book!
Today, I received a brochure from the Center for American Archeology advertising their 1-week to 3-week archaeology summer programs for kids. The CAA's High School Field School offers teenagers the opportunity to participate in authentic archaeological research designed to learn more about the prehistoric peoples of the Lower Illinois River Valley, one of the richest archeological regions in the Midwestern United States. Working with the CAA staff and interns, teens will have the chance to learn the basics of field excavation, laboratory processing, and how archeologists develop their interpretations of sites based upon the information they collect. It’s a great way to explore the field of archaeology in a hands-on manner.
The program sounds both fun and educational, and I wanted to bring it to your attention.
Limited scholarship support is available for girls, and students 16+ can earn college credit. For more information, visit the CAA's High School Field School information page.
Amazing Accomplishments of Gifted Science Students
If you want to be wowed by the capabilities of highly gifted, highly motivated middle school, high school, and college students, take a look at News & Views—Young Scientists
on the Cogito Web site. These young people are incredible!
Cogito has gathered information on winners of science awards from all over the world, including Davidson Fellows, Global Challenge Awards, Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, Fields Medal, Siemens Westinghouse Competition, USA Computing Olympiad, and more. In addition to competition winners, many more students are presented who are working on very advanced science projects. These are projects that one would expect from only established research scientists. As of this writing, there are 155 articles on the Web site about these young science students. Some examples are
- Daniel Burd, who found a way to reduce the time it takes a plastic bag to decompose from 20 or more years to just three months.
- Tara Adiseshan, who is investigating a cure for endangered amphibians.
- Ahana Datta, who devised a plan to apply nanotechnology to making catalytic converters.
- Anshul Samar, who created a chemistry game and a company to produce and market the game.
- Tiffany Dinkins, who spent a summer working to uncover the mysteries of how genes affect brain function.
- Kayson Conlin, who is working on an electromagnetic invisibility cloak for buildings and vehicles that can be turned off and on at will.
Whales—A Fascinating Topic for Young Gifted Kids
Just as many children love learning about dinosaurs, they also love to learn about whales. Although there are many different types of whales, the information here focuses on the North Atlantic Right Whale.
Right whales were so named because early whalers considered them the "right" whale to hunt. In the early centuries of shore-based whaling, right whales were virtually the only large whales the whalers were able to catch for three reasons:
- The right whales often were found very close to shore where they could be spotted by lookouts on the beach.
- They were relatively slow swimmers so the whalers could catch up to them in their whaleboats.
- Compared to other species of whale, right whales killed by harpoons were more likely float, and thus could be retrieved by the whalers and towed back to shore.
Tale of a Whale
, from Smithsonian Education, has great information for teaching and learning about the North Atlantic Right Whale. Using the lessons provided, students experience work that is similar to that of real whale researchers by identifying an individual whale according to patterns of callosities and also identifying migration patterns. There also is a link to the New England Aquarium Web site where students can learn more about whale research and play an interactive whale identification game.
For background information and more photos, check out
Chemistry Resources for Gifted Kids
National Chemistry Week is October 19–25. There are some great resources available for students during this week of celebration or anytime during the year. The mission of National Chemistry Week is to reach the public, particularly elementary school children, with positive messages about chemistry. The theme of this year’s National Chemistry Week is Having a Ball with Chemistry. The focus is to show how chemistry plays a big part in all kinds of sports and games.
The education section of the American Chemical Society Web site
has numerous resources for students in kindergarten through graduate school. There also are programs available for educators and scientists. If you look at the bottom of the page, you will see that the site is available in numerous languages. Poke around on the Web site and you will find
activities, puzzles, and games;
interviews with chemists from a kid’s point of view (great for learning about potential careers);
information on Project SEED, which is a summer research program for economically disadvantaged students to experience what it’s like to be a chemist.
Rohm and Haas (a company that develops innovative technologies and solutions for the specialty materials industry) and The Franklin Institute (a leader in the field of science and technology learning) have teamed to produce a set of seven online videos
that address the theme of this year’s National Chemistry Week. The videos explain how science has impacted a variety of kids’ favorite sports, like bicycling, snowboarding, hockey, and basketball. The videos show how a combination of physics, chemistry, and materials enable participants’ abilities to improve and also increase safety. This is a great way to see how science is applied to the sports industry. The videos will be available online beginning October 19.
Terrific Science: Empowering Teachers Through Innovation
provides a large selection of fun activities to support this year’s National Chemistry Week’s theme of Having a Ball with Chemistry. These include activities about topics such as the Speedo LZR Racer® swimsuit that was the hit of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, impact and puncture testing of sports helmets, the importance of iron in our bodies, the chemistry of heat packs applied to sports injuries, and the effectiveness of sunscreen products.
Anatomy for Gifted Kids
There are a couple of great anatomy Web sites available for kids. The first two listed here are interactive and suitable for bright, middle to late elementary school kids. The sites can be used either at home or at school and are both entertaining and educational.
At this Website from the BBC, you will find interactive computer activities that teach about the organs, muscles, skeleton, senses, nervous system, and puberty. Students use drag-and-drop to place various parts of the body and learn about the function of each.
At this site, students can participate in virtual hip replacements and virtual knee replacements. Viewers also have the opportunity to diagnose different patients who might need knee or hip replacements. There are also videos of real people who have had the replacements, explaining what it was like before and after the surgeries. In addition, students can learn about “interesting people” who have jobs that are related to hip and knee replacements. This feature of the Web site introduces students to possible career paths.
At this site, there are numerous links to biology resources, several that relate directly to anatomy.
Simulation Curricula for Gifted Kids
Interact is a publisher that offers curricula that is unique and creative. The units often are used as supplements in the regular classroom but can be used in a separate enrichment class. Many of the units involve interaction between students through simulations. I have seen Interact curricula used successfully in classrooms that consist of many different abilities. I knew one teacher who always had an Interact simulation going in his classroom. His students (including the gifted students) were so excited to go to school each day to work on the activities.
Each Interact unit includes a teacher's guide, purpose and overview, daily lesson plans, student materials, time management guidelines, and support materials.
If you do a search on “gifted” at the Interact Web site, results will show curricula particularly suited to high-ability students; however, many of the regular units also work well for students who are academically strong.
Unit subjects include language arts, social studies, math, science, and character building.
A few examples are
Up to 20 hours for preparation, planning, and performance
Description: Welcome to a monthly meeting of the Fairy Tale Advice Council. Led by Rapunzel, a handsome prince, and a recovering wicked witch, the council offers help in character building to folk and fairy tale creatures. In this fun and humorous musical, the Big Bad Wolf learns the Golden Rule, Cinderella gets help in managing her anger at her bullying stepsisters, and Jack and the Giant discover that their differences are cool. Will Humpty Dumpty take responsibility for his fall? Can Baby Bear forgive Goldilocks? And will the magic mirrors tell the evil queen the truth about who is "the fairest of them all?"
A flexible structure allows for lengthening or shortening the time required
Description: Cheatum Swindle is running the Goodwin's game factory into the ground by producing unfair games, and it's up to your students to use their arithmetic skills to save the company! Students work in pairs performing hands-on experiments with spinners, dice, coins, and cards to test the probabilities of Cheatum's games. The flip of a coin or the roll of the die determines the moves they make as they advance through the factory, examining games for fairness. As they find problems, they make modifications and record reasons for their decisions. In the final push to save the company's reputation, student pairs design their own games and present them with an explanation of their fairness.
Advanced Placement Short Story: Challenging Approaches for Honors, Gifted, and AP English Classes
Description: A sophisticated collection of 36 teacher plans and student handouts based on seven short stories (included) by well-known writers. The activities may be used in many ways. They may heighten awareness of how plot, theme, character, setting, point of view, and style interconnect; they may give students practice in answering the sort of multiple-choice and essay questions they will meet on the AP exams; or they may simply illuminate the art of the short story as practiced by some of its masters: E.B. White, Katherine Mansfield, Langston Hughes, Tillie Olsen, Raymond Carver, Sean O'Faolain, and Bernard Malamud. Index. Supplemental reading list.
Up to 15 hours of instruction
Description: Black Gold is a challenging, multi-disciplinary study of petroleum and our reliance upon this vanishing fossil fuel. The science, geography, research, mathematics, and language arts activities center around the global dynamics of petroleum production and consumption. Your students will
- create a map of the world showing the magnitude of petroleum reserves and consumption, and trace major transportation routes and techniques;
- use a variety of research tools, analyze information, and present and defend their conclusion;
- buy and sell crude oil at a commodity market (at their desks or via e-mail); and
- devise techniques to clean up a disastrous oil spill.
Trends in Gifted Education
The NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children)
Convention was held in November. Each year, I like to read through the entire catalog of presentations so that I can form general impressions about categories that were considered important.
Disclaimer: I do not have access to information about presentation proposals that were submitted nor do I have information about how the presentations were chosen. I do not look at this information to make judgments; only to observe trends.
Like everything else in society, certain topics wax and wane. Someone else may interpret this very differently than I do. But, for the record, this is what I see.
Some of the topics that were considered top priorities in the past 10-30 years that I see no longer getting the same attention include
GT resource teachers
Theory of giftedness
Topic trends that I do see increasing are
The integration of technology into the curriculum rather than treatment as a separate subject
Interest of programs on an international level (in fact, at the NAGC convention this year, a strand was added titled “International”)
Special schools and programs
Less talk about specifically meeting the needs of the gifted and more emphasis on the need for an increase in general academic rigor, including the need to let students advance at a faster speed
I would love to hear the ideas of others on these trends. You can always leave a comment at this blog entry or email me if you would prefer that others do not see your comments.
Science OCW Geared to AP Courses and Beyond
Lately, we seem to be on a roll with more and more tools becoming available for advanced science students. (Click on the Science category in the column on the left of this Web page to see recent entries.) And now, yet another resource is available.
More and more very reputable universities are making available free video and audio clips, animations, lecture notes, and assignments online. Now MIT has taken that concept one step further and created Highlights for High Schools
. This new site takes the information that MIT had already made available through what’s known as OpenCourseWare and has created a site that categorizes that information to match the Advanced Placement (AP) physics, biology, and calculus curricula.
The site also has just plain interesting, free courses appropriate for gifted high school students, including a class that teaches how to design sets for theater and one on designing toys (both under the heading of Knowledge in Action: Build Stuff).
There are also high school courses created by MIT students such as Guitar Building; a course exploring Gödel, Escher, and Bach; and Combinatorics, a fascinating branch of mathematics that applies to problems ranging from card games to quantum physics to the Internet.
You can also subscribe to an online newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on new courses and other information.
An estimated 10,000 U.S. high school teachers and 5,000 U.S. high school students already visit MIT OpenCourseWare each month, and MIT expects Highlights for High School to make MIT’s course materials even more useful to these audiences.
Just What Are the Capabilities of Gifted High School Science Students?
The Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology
, one of the nation's most prestigious student science contests, gives young people the opportunity to demonstrate and be rewarded for their intense research. Awards were announced Dec. 3, and girls walked away with top honors in both individual and team categories.
Sixteen-year-old Isha Jain, a senior at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was awarded a $100,000 scholarship for her studies of bone growth in zebra fish. The tail fins of the zebra fish grow in spurts, similar to the way child’s bones do.
Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, both 17-year-old seniors at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview, New York, will split a $100,000 scholarship for creating a molecule that helps block the reproduction of drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria.
Alicia Darnell, a 17-year-old senior at Pelham Memorial High School in Pelham, New York, won a $50,000, second place for research that identified genetic defects that could play a role in the development of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
This year, 48% of the contestants and 11 of the 20 finalists were female. It was the first year that girls outnumbered boys in the final round.
Eighty percent of the competitors were from public high schools. One team of finalists consisted of home-schooled girls.
The interest in science for many of the competitors began at home and they began working with mentors
at early ages. Three-quarters of the finalists have a parent who is a scientist. Many of the schools whose students were represented have close ties to nearby universities or research labs. As James Whaley, Siemens Foundation President notes, “There are very few [high] schools that have the resources or labs to support this high level of research.”
For more information, see the following:
Science Video Sharing for Gifted Students
There are more and more groups of professionals who are committed to making information freely available to the public through the Internet. Many universities and scientists are willing to share their lectures and expertise. Instructional videos are available for students of all ages—elementary through graduate school.
SciVee is operated in partnership with the Public Library of Science (PLoS), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). It has a relatively new Web site that contains some material for elementary students and larger quantities of material for older students through scientists. Young people who are interested in careers in science will be fascinated by the various topics being studied. Just seeing what is going on at different universities may help students focus on their future objectives.
Examples of videos available at the site include Where Does Water Go When It Rains? Dissections, and Freezing by Boiling. There is also much information on highly sophisticated topics that will be appealing for highly able high school students.
Bio-Alive Life Science is another open access Web site. Available here are university lectures and videos on the human skeletal system, tissue engineering, and aging genes to name just a few.
Some scientists have been amazed at the number of people who are watching university lectures on the Internet now. Viewers come from a wide age range: Some are elementary school children, many are high school students, and others are adults who want to know more about science for a myriad of reasons.
Remember that these new uses of technology are still in their infancy; they are certainly on the verge of exploding, changing the way we learn.
Mentors for Gifted Science Students
Amber Hess is a passionate science student who has won awards at many prestigious science competitions. She was an Intel Science Talent Search Finalist, a semifinalist for the Siemens Westinghouse competition, and she won a First Place Grand Award in Chemistry at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). She qualified to compete at the California State Science Fair five times, winning 4th, 3rd, and two 1st place awards. Hess is now attending MIT where she is majoring in chemical engineering. In her article How to Find a Mentor, she stresses the importance of a mentor/advisor, stating that the vast majority of winners of top fairs have mentors and the vast majority of students have to find their own mentors.
Hess gives specific steps for finding a mentor and stresses the importance of students finding their own mentors. It is, she states, the only way they’ll appreciate the advisor. She also feels strongly that mentors respond when contacted by motivated students, not motivated teachers.
Many other valuable tips for participating in science competions can be found at the Science Buddies Web site where this article is posted.
If you are a serious science student or a potential mentor of one, you will want to read these articles.
SAT Exam, Taken at Age 13, Can Predict Career Path of Gifted
A new study from Vanderbilt University finds that the future career path and creative direction of gifted youth can be predicted well by their performance on the SAT at age 13. The study offers insights into how best to identify the nation’s most talented youth, offering opportunities for educators and policymakers to develop programs to cultivate these individuals.
The current study looked at the educational and professional accomplishments of 2,409 adults who had been identified as being in the top 1% of ability 25 years earlier at age 13. Significant differences in the creative and career paths of individuals were found, with those showing more ability in math having greater accomplishments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, while those showing greatest ability on the verbal portion of the test going on to excel in art, history, literature, languages, drama, and related fields.
The key was to administer the SAT at a young age. When students take the test in high school, the most able students all score near the top, and individual differences are harder to see. Using the test with gifted students at a young age creates the potential to help shape that person’s education.
Overall, the creative potential of these participants was extraordinary, with individuals earning 817 patents and publishing 93 books.
With this knowledge, the policy question becomes: How best can we support these individuals, especially during their formative years?
For more information, see:
Girls and Science: What Are the Myths?
Since 1993, The National Science Foundation (NSF) has been working to broaden the participation of girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). According to their Research on Gender in Science and Engineering program, there are five myths about girls and science.
- Myth: From the time they start school, most girls are less interested in science than boys are.
Reality: In elementary school there are about the same number of girls (66%) as boys (68%) who report liking science. But, by second grade, most students portray a scientist as a white male in a lab coat. Children often draw women scientists as severe and not very happy. There is a stereotype of the relationship between gender and careers in science. By eighth grade, boys are twice as interested in STEM careers as girls.
- Myth: Classroom interventions that work to increase girls' interest in STEM run the risk of turning off the boys.
Reality: Interventions that work to increase girl’s interest in STEM, such as showing images of women scientists, also increase such interest among the boys.
- Myth: Science and math teachers are no longer biased toward their male students.
Reality: Teachers, without realizing it, often treat boys differently than they do girls, explaining more to boys when asked for assistance, while just simplifying experiments for the girls.
Girls Creating Games was created as an afterschool and summer program designed to support the interest of middle school girls in computers and information technology. Its goal is to increase the number of females in the IT workforce.
- Myth: When girls just aren't interested in science, parents can't do much to motivate them.
Reality: Parental support has been shown to be crucial to a girl's interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. Parents can make girls aware of the range of science and engineering careers available, the relevance of these jobs in society, and the types of courses and grades necessary to put students on a path to a STEM career. A guide for parents can be found at Sally Ride Science.
- Myth: At the college level, changing the STEM curriculum runs the risk of watering down important "sink or swim" coursework.
Reality: Women often perceive "Bs" as inadequate grades and drop out, while men with "Cs" will persist with the class. Effective mentoring and "bridge programs" that prepare students for challenging coursework can counteract this. To help retain both women and men in engineering schools, programs should:
- have students work in pairs on programming in entry-level computer science and engineering courses, and
- provide coursework in spatial visualization.
One of the most effective interventions is mentoring. MentorNet, a virtual e-mentoring network and community offers award-winning, research-based, technology-leveraged mentoring programs that pair young people with professionals working in STEM careers in industry, government, and higher education.
Additional, helpful resources funded by the National Science Foundation are available online.
Many women have made significant contributions to the advancement of science. Go to Women in Science
to hear some of their stories.
Neuroscience for Gifted Kids
There is a great Web site available for students (elementary through high school) and teachers titled Neuroscience for Kids
. The site, maintained by Eric H. Chudler at University of Washington, provides a wealth of information on the brain in fun, clear, easy-to-understand terms and illustrations. Not only is there great information, but there also are experiments, activities, questions and answers, other links and resources, and a place to sign up for a free newsletter.
The table of contents includes (click on "Explore" to find this)
- The World of Neuroscience
- Brain Basics
- “Higher” Functions
- The Spinal Cord
- The Peripheral Nervous System
- The Neuron
- Sensory Systems
- Neuroscience Methods and Techniques
- The Effects of Drugs on the Nervous System
- Neurological and Mental Disorders
I have had so much fun exploring this Web site and finding interesting, complicated information presented in an understandable manner. It would be a great site for students to use for an independent study or as an extension of a school science topic.
Portions of the site are in Portuguese, Slovene, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Japanese, and Turkish.
Using Search Tools on Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog
You may have noticed that the format of this blog changed a bit recently, and I want to make certain readers understand the search possibilities available. This is the 120th weekly blog that has been posted in more than 2 years, so there is a lot of information here. There are two ways to search.
· Categories—In the left column of the web page, you will find a section titled Categories. Within that section, you will see a list of more than a dozen subjects. If you click on any of these, all the articles that fit into that grouping will appear.
· Search—You can also search for words, phrases, or topics you do not see listed under Categories. With the new format of the blog, you will need to sign in to use the search function. There is a section on the upper right where you can register. Your user name and password are case sensitive.
Example—You might want to search on “underachievement.” To do this, click on the word Search either at the bottom of the Categories list or near the top of the page. Once you do this, a number of boxes will appear and you can fill in the appropriate information. (You do not need to fill in all the boxes.) Click on Search, and all of the articles will come up that meet the criteria you entered.
These are great tools, so make sure you take advantage of them.
GeekDad--Ideas for Parenting Gifted Kids
I am constantly amazed at the growing resources on the Internet. Some of the resources are created by universities or large companies, but others are created by parents (i.e., last week’s blog entry on homeschooling and traveling with gifted kids).
Today I want to tell you about a blog titled GeekDad
. It is put together by a team of writers and each entry contains information and ideas about working with children—all from a dad’s perspective. Some recent entries include finding answers to kids’ unanticipated questions, creative cooking with youngsters, making digital movies, simple computer programming, constructive ways to use YouTube
, turning your photographs into wallpaper for a room, treasure hunts using a GPS
, a discussion of what it means to be a geek, online games, and the top 10 reasons geeks make good fathers. There are many ideas for activities in the areas of science, technology, research, and field trips.
You’ll want to check this site often, as there are frequent postings. Also, if a particular subject interests you, click on “View Comments” at the end of that posting. Readers have often added even more information that will be helpful.
Smithsonian Resources for the Gifted
In 1826, James Smithson, a British scientist, drew up his last will and testament, naming his nephew as beneficiary. Smithson stipulated that, should the nephew die without heirs (as he would in 1835), the estate should go “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” Since its founding, the Smithsonian Institution has grown to be the world's largest museum complex and research organization. The Internet has enabled the institution to grow even more and avail its resources more readily to people around the world.
A specific area of the institution’s site, Smithsonian Education
, is of particular interest to gifted students, their families, and educators.
The section for educators (my favorite) includes extensive lesson plans and suggestions for uses of technology in the classroom. (Currently, the Web site shows how student podcasting can be used as a learning tool.) Lesson plans are divided into the categories of Art & Design, Science & Technology, History & Culture, and Language Arts. The many lesson plans and resources within each of these categories can be used as wonderful differentiation tools. Individual or small groups can be formed to investigate the various subjects, using primary sources on the Internet. The wonderful part is that it’s free and already developed for teachers.
The family section provides information for those who want to visit one of the museums in person. It has suggestions for before, during, and after activities to make a family visit most enjoyable and educational.
The section for students includes many interactive modules to help young people learn in the areas of Everything Art, Science & Nature, History & Culture, and People & Places. You might want to spend a little time looking at this section. Although there are activities for many different levels of ability, it may take a little hunting to find a section that is most appropriate for your student.
In addition to the Internet resources, Smithsonian Education also offers a free e-mail newsletter that is filled with interesting information. You can view a sample copy before signing up for the newsletter.
This may be one of the best distance learning sites on the Internet.
Incredible New Math, Science Web Site for the Gifted
Are you a precollege student who is passionate about math and science? The Center for Talented Youth (CTY) at Johns Hopkins University, along with eight partner organizations, recently launched a Web site that will feed your passion. The Web site, Cogito.org
, means “I think.” Although most of the content at the site is available to the public, members have access to interactive features not available to everyone.
On Cogito.org, you can read news and features on topics ranging from global warming and biostatistics, to cold fusion and bioethics. You can explore the intersection of science and the arts, from computer animation, to science fiction. You can find great resources including book reviews, "Best of the Web" guides, and listings and reviews of summer and distance-education programs, internships, and academic competitions.
If you are a member, you can also participate in online interviews with experts in various fields and in discussion forums with other members. Membership also grants you access to the Cogito.org virtual library where you can find a wide variety of research materials and a librarian dedicated to helping you. Membership is currently offered by invitation only from Cogito Partners and Affiliates.
Cogito.org also publishes student-written work. Ideas must be submitted before sending actual drafts. Acceptable student submissions include full-length book and movie reviews, feature stories and articles, and essays. Also needed are Best of Web guides.
If you are a math and science buff, spend some time perusing the Cogito.org Web site. Just browsing the site will help you to become familiar with all that is available, but if you want to focus on a specific area, you can search using filters.
Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth After 35 Years
What does it take to create an intellectual leader like Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking?
A report based on 35 years of research from the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth was published on December 18
and reflects data collected from more than 5,000 participants. The report, from Vanderbilt University, reveals that a complex mix of factors is necessary to create these leaders: cognitive abilities, educational opportunities, investigative interests, and old-fashioned hard work. Both personal attributes and learning environments are required that are truly beyond the norm. While mathematical gifts and a variety of aptitudes have significant impact, special educational opportunities and commitment can dramatically increase this impact.
Researchers found that differences in ability exist even among the very top of this elite group. Researchers also found that the majority of the highest performers at age 33 were willing to work more than 65 hours a week.
Differences were revealed between men and women in types of abilities and interests. Female participants were more likely to prefer careers such as the social sciences, biology, and medicine, while men were more likely to prefer engineering and the physical sciences.
It will be interesting to follow the impact of this report and see if it has any influence on educational opportunities made available to students with top cognitive abilities who are also willing to work very hard.
Science for Gifted Students
Science is an often neglected subject, especially in elementary school. In the early grades, the controversy continues surrounding the best method to teach science: direct instruction or discovery.
When attempting to identify young students who may be gifted in science, educators may find help at this site
. By clicking on the menus on the right side of the page, you will also see examples for differentiating the science curriculum for gifted students within the regular classroom.
Since science is not usually emphasized in the classroom, parents should expose their children to the subject outside of school as much as possible through books, museums, nature centers, Internet sites, experiments—anything that exposes them to the subject.
Competitions in science are not readily available in the early grades. Note that ExploraVision listed below is the only competition listed that includes younger students.
Middle and High School
As one approaches middle and high school there are many more opportunities for advanced classes and competitions in the subject. The National Science Teachers Association recognizes that many kinds of learning experiences, including science competitions, can contribute significantly to the education of students of science. With respect to science competitions, such as science fairs, science leagues, symposia, olympiads, scholarship activities and talent searches, the Association takes the position that participation should be guided by certain principles
Some competitions that you many want to consider include
This is a multi-tiered competition designed to stimulate and promote achievement in high school chemistry.
This science essay competition is for students in grades 7-12 and provides prizes up to $5000.
ExploraVision is a competition for students of all interest, skill, and ability levels in grades K-12. The purpose of the competition is to encourage students to combine their imaginations with the tools of science to create and explore a vision of a future technology. Prizes include U.S. Savings Bonds and laptop computers.
This is the world's largest pre-college celebration of science. It is held annually in May and brings together over 1,400 students from more than 40 nations to compete for scholarships, tuition grants, internships, scientific field trips and the grand prize: a $50,000 college scholarship.
This competition is intended to increase knowledge of the oceans on the part of high school students, their teachers and parents, as well as to raise the visibility and public understanding of the national investment in ocean-related research.
This is an academic competition among teams of high school students who attend science seminars and compete in a verbal forum to solve technical problems and answer questions in all branches of science and math.
This competition provides middle and high school students an opportunity to hone their skills as science sleuths by learning the scientific method employed by epidemiologists.
This national model rocket competition for U.S. high school and middle school students has a grand prize pool of over $60,000 in cash and savings bonds that is shared by the winning teams.
The American Association of Physics Teachers and the American Institute of Physics sponsor a competition each year for high school students to represent the United States at the International Physics Olympiad Competition.
This is a biology competition for high school students.
The YES Competition offers college scholarship awards to high school juniors and seniors who conduct outstanding research projects that apply epidemiological methods of analysis to a health-related issue.
This is an essay contest for students in grades 7-12. Essays based on studies conducted by a class, a summer institute, summer camp, pre-college student research program, or environmental program and are eligible as long as the student conducted his or her own research and expanded the investigation to include his or her own topic question.
Ratchet Science Fairs Up for Gifted Children
In many elementary, middle, and high schools, science fairs occur annually. These fairs offer gifted students a chance to explore areas of interest in depth. The fairs also provide opportunities for planning, academic discipline, and academic rigor. There is much information available on the Internet to help teachers, students, and parents work through the process. A sampling includes
Science Fair Central
--For students, teachers, and parents. Student section includes a "soup to nuts" handbook, project ideas, links and books, questions and answers, and tip sheets. For teachers, there is a science fair organizer. For parents, there are tips on helping your young scientist.
Science Fair Projects
--Includes a search tool that will help you find ideas for experiment. There are lists of topics for elementary, middle school, and high school science fair projects. Also included are links to useful sites.
Science Fairs Homepage
--This site is designed to aid students in the most difficult aspect of their science fair experience; getting an idea. It lists projects in three categories: elementary, intermediate, and senior.
--This website includes a sample science fair judging sheet to help the student and parent better understand how a project may be evaluated.