The sun has recently set on another summer of SOAR Camp. Around forty campers gathered together to say their goodbyes to their comrades and support group from the week. The unique thing about these campers is that they are all gifted. SOAR Camp is a traditional summer camp in northern Wisconsin for gifted middle level children. While being a traditional camp and offering the activities a camp might (i.e canoeing, swimming, crafting, hiking, star gazing, campfire songs, etc.) additional special activities and lessons were prepared for them throughout the week in order to support the needs of these gifted youth. This programming not only supplemented learning and inspired passion for exploration in a world where they are cornered into boredom, but also provided a platform for young gifted students to learn self-advocacy and connect with other gifted kids (https://soarcamp.weebly.com/) .
As I watched these kids sit around a campfire and sing “Lean On Me” or heard them exchange experiences and find companionship based on their shared intellectual prowess, I was struck by several things. First, the campers had an incredible sense of humor. Lightning quick and light-hearted, they were continually patient with me as they explained punchlines that ‘soar’ed over my head (forgive the pun). That same patience and humor was shown among the peer group in other ways. Gifted students oftentimes have intensities that are not exhibited in the general population (http://sengifted.org/overexcitability-and-the-gifted/ ). The campers, instead of being critical of one another, could often see a reflection of themselves in the actions and reactions of their peer group. One of my favorite examples of this was on the first day of the camp. The campers were playing an ice breaker game together and one piped up to some occurrence or another “you’re so immature! You’re not being socially appropriate” to which another camper laughingly responded while trotting by “we’re at Geek Camp, none of us are socially appropriate!!” This humor, protectiveness, and lightheartedness, was readily given at every turn at camp because these campers found safety and comradery in one another. They had the space and trust to finally find a strong voice for themselves among peers and adults.
So how do we create the same space and trust for our gifted students in the “real world?” Isn’t that our job as parents, teachers, educators, and advocates to offer protection and safety for these talented youth? This doesn’t necessarily mean creating a “protective bubble” for gifted learners. Rather, this means offering scaffolded support that allows youth to create a platform on which to flourish. This kind of support offers assistance and ‘upkeep’ when needed without threatening the unique integrity and structure of the learner. It allows for collaborative work with others on programming for gifted youth as well as supporting their social and emotional needs. This support is flexible enough to adapt and grow with the learner without forcing the learner to adapt to a system that doesn’t work for them. Most importantly, this style of support leaves room for the learner to have a voice to advocate for themselves in a space that offers safety and protection (http://www.gtcarpediem.com/self-advocacy-overview/) .
As we briskly approach the beginning of another school year, how do we as a community of educators, parents, and advocates for gifted youth, achieve the goals of this proposed “scaffolded support?” Referencing the song “Lean on Me” that was so powerful for the campers, if you are the ‘strong one’ in your district or area, I urge you to be the support for others to lean on. Call your state and local representatives, be part of brainstorming conversations on meeting the needs of gifted kids in your district, donate to ‘worthy causes’ when able, and remember to be at the table. If you are the one who needs to do the leaning, don’t be afraid to call on resources… we’ve been there. We can help grow the support network and offer strength in numbers. Find the “champions” in your school, network within your CESA’s, ask if you do not understand or need guidance, and join us at the State Fall 2018 WATG Conference (http://www.watg.org/about-the-conference.html) . Don’t be afraid to be the one to say, “How can we make this work?”… These learners depend on the support you are willing to give so that they have the room to use their voices and succeed because… we all need somebody to lean on.
Summer greetings! I hope that this newsletter finds you in the excitement of the possibilities of summer vacation. I know that you did not ask for my advice, but I would like to humbly offer some to you who will be enjoying summertime with children… especially gifted children! As a mom of five kids I think I may have some tips that will make your summer especially meaningful to you and yours no matter what their age.
My first piece of advice? Put a tight, short limit on the amount of device time allowed this summer. Believe it or not, it may take some practice to get out of the habit of “needing” this device time. However, they will thank you for it in the end. Kids may feel bound to their devices because their social life and entertainment is held within the technology. But if you limit the time allowed, your child will find other activities to fill that time. There is a certain amount of stress that comes with being “connected”. We all feel it! You can help your child by limiting the time. Their friends will quickly learn that they will not respond immediately, but they will respond. And the pressure is off your child for not responding because it is you setting the time limit.
After that free time is found, the sky’s the limit! There are educational and fun opportunities everywhere and you don’t have to spend a fortune. The library will be a great resource for research materials for projects, activities and vacation ideas.
At home, make sure that you have plenty of building materials at hand. Your kids may enjoy researching the types of birds in your area and the appropriate feeding stations and houses for them. They can design and build based on their research. Bees (Mason), butterflies and bats also appreciate handmade shelters. Science projects that use household materials are easy to create in the backyard or at the kitchen table. Make yogurt or cheese. Make a compost site and propagate red worms. Kite flying may seem like it’s become a lost leisure time activity, but I can tell you that when our kids flew their kites, the entire town took notice of the flying bi-plane, pirate ship, and skate boarder kites. It would even draw people in from the river and lakes to see the kiters. All ages of children will be thrilled by how spectacular model rockets look in the summer skies and the exercise that comes with chasing them down as they parachute to the ground is an added bonus. Giving your kids tree, plant and animal identification keys will entertain them for hours. Start a garden. Find a pen pal overseas. Buy a journal to record the summer. Make music. Read. Read. Read. Make sure that they have access to a fairly good microscope, magnifying glass and perhaps even a telescope. You never know when something might grab their attention and they’ll want to see it closer. Spend time in local lakes, ponds, marshes, parks, swamps, woodlands and prairies. Sit quietly and observe for 10 minutes (or more!) “Unplug” yourself as well and enjoy! The time spent “being” while you are there will refresh your soul and a new discovery may be made!
Vacations can offer different opportunities that you may not be able to find at home. Make sure that you check out things like:
The list goes on and on! Summer offers time for relaxation and learning opportunities. I hope that you can take some time to enjoy it with your children. It’s amazing what is out there… right outside your door… Your gifted children will appreciate you feeding and nurturing their voracious appetite for learning in a relaxed and peaceful summer setting. Pressure off for all of you!
We’d love to have you share your family’s summer ideas with us to be published in the July newsletter. Please send a list or a single item to email@example.com so that we might include it in the next newsletter. Like I said, you get the best ideas when you ask for them! Here’s to summer! Enjoy!
From the President
"The campers, instead of being critical of one another, could often see a reflection of themselves in the actions and reactions of their peer group."