While working on revising an online course about young children, I came across materials about using everyday activities and resources to teach young children about STEM - science, technology, engineering, math. I thought it was interesting that there are still specific lesson plans, family activities, and a myriad of other resources to help adults focus on teaching STEM skills to young children using normal everyday activities.
Right away I thought of gifted children. Many gifted children naturally explore STEM activities (without knowing about STEM), and many start very early, even as a very young toddler. This often begins with a curiosity of trying to figure out how the world works. They try to explore everything, perhaps taking everything apart, whether or not it can be dangerous (due to small parts or parts that could cause injury or electrical connections). Young children are curious, and young gifted children are even more curious, which is why it is important for adults to monitor what children do, often in the background, so children can explore and play independently, but certainly stepping in when necessary to keep the children safe.
Some young gifted children may build things with blocks, Legos, or household items such as pots and pans. These children imagine great things while they build. Other young gifted children collect items and sort them, sometimes on a continuous and lifelong basis. I have known young gifted children who collect rocks, pinecones, buttons, spoons, stamps, marbles, or many other specific items and count, sort, and showcase their treasures regularly.
All of these activities help young gifted children explore and practice STEM skills. Following are some concepts, ideas, and resources to help young gifted children learn through play while exploring STEM skills.
Resources abound for STEM activities for young children. See below for a series of ideas, books, websites, and other resources related to STEM for young gifted children. It is a good idea to let the play and activity be child-driven, meaning the child decides what to do, and when and how to do it, for it is then that the child is truly engaged in active play to learn about the world around them.
STEM Teaching Books:
Teaching Early and Elementary STEM
Open Resource Book, East TN University
Free PDF download: https://dc.etsu.edu/etsu-oer/8/
Teaching STEM Literacy: A Constructivist Approach for Ages 3-8
Juliana Texley & Ruth M. Ruud, 2018
STEM Play: Integrating Inquiry into Learning Centers
Deirdre Englehart, 2016
The Questioneers, by Andrea Beaty
World Wildlife Fund, Teaching Toolkits, K-12
Smithsonian Science Stories, Smithsonian Education Center
Lewis Latimer House Museum, Tinker Lab, ages 4-10
STEM Picture Books
All About Weather, by Huda Harajli
Cece Loves Science, by Kimberly Derting and Shelli R. Johannes
Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building, by Christy Hale
Have You Thanked an Inventor Today? by Patrice McLaurin
When I Build with Blocks, by Niki Alling
Iggy Peck, Architect, by Andrea Beaty
-Resources by STEMRead, Northern IL University
Rube Goldberg’s Simple Normal Humdrum Day, by Jennifer George
-Resource-TinkerLab-Rube Goldberg Machines
Dr. Wanda Routier
Former WATG Board Member
In recent years, taking time to give students a brain break has become a common practice in many classrooms, at home, and other places. When students work hard or give 100% to a particular task, they are often rewarded with a brain break for a few minutes. This practice may be somewhat controversial; some people may consider the time spent on a brain break to be a waste of time when there are so many important things to teach and learn during the school day and never enough time to cover it all. Others may consider a brain break as essential to the learning process to give students an opportunity to step away, move, relax a few minutes, and come back ready to continue learning. It turns out that research has found that brain breaks serve several purposes and actually help increase recall of material, among other things. During a brain break the brain continues to work.
Students who are gifted have the same need for brain breaks as other students do. Students who are gifted may have brains that appear to never shut off or relax because there is so much to learn in the world, or because they are so focused on their area of interest, among other reasons. These students need brain breaks, too, in order to allow their brains to do the work needed to absorb and recall what is being learned.
An article from Edutopia (below) talks about brain breaks and provides links to several studies. Take a look at the article, investigate the research, and consider giving your student a few brain breaks during the day. In fact, consider taking a brain break yourself - to refresh yourself and your learning.
We Drastically Underestimate the Importance of Brain Breaks
Youki Terada, 4/21/2022, Edutopia
Studies Referenced in the Edutopia Article:
Consolidation of Human Skill Linked to Waking Hippocamp-Neocortical Replay
2021 Study, Buch, Claudino, Quentin, Bonstrup, and Cohen
Open Access: DOI:
Cognitive Fatigue Influences Students’ Performance on Standardized Tests
2016 Study, PNAS-Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA
Silversten, Gino, and Piovesan,
Rats Dream About Their Tasks During Slow Wave Sleep
2001 Study, MIT News, 5/18/2002, M. Wilson
Dr. Wanda Routier
Former Board Member, WATG
Each year in Wisconsin, February marks the beginning of the school open enrollment period. This is the time when families may apply to other school districts in hopes of enrolling their students. For many families it is a viable and desirable educational choice for their children. Open enrollment includes face-to-face public and charter schools, and virtual public and charter schools.
This year, the open enrollment time frame for the 2022-2023 school year is February 7 to April 29 2022 at 4:00 p.m.
The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has a website that provides information about open enrollment and an application for families to complete and submit. There are many rules and deadlines for open enrollment, so be sure to carefully read the website.
Why would a family want to open enroll their gifted student in another school district? The reasons are as varied as the families themselves. Some families pursue open enrollment so that their children can attend school near the place of employment of the parent/caregiver. This ensures that they are close-by should there be a sudden illness or problem in school that needs attention. Other families want a larger or smaller school district for their children. Still other families see different programs offered by neighboring school districts that would benefit their children. If the local school district does not have a robust gifted program or few or no teachers of students who are gifted, the family may choose to enroll their gifted student in the other district which has gifted programs and teachers. There are other reasons for the personal choice to open enroll students, and only the family can make that decision.
If you are considering open enrollment for your child, you and your child should do your homework, then apply by the 4:00 p.m. deadline on April 29, 2022. What kind of homework is necessary? Read the DPI website. Look at all the links in the left menu in addition to the home page. Read the application. Explore what other school districts have to offer your child and talk to parents/caregivers whose children attend that school district. Go to open house meetings, whether in-person or virtual to learn more about the school district or school. Meet some of the teachers. Talk to parents. Many families are very happy with their choice to open enroll their students, and are willing to share their experiences. They can offer things to consider.
Only you and your child can make this decision for your family, and if you do your homework, you can be assured that you are making a good decision. Good luck on your journey!
Dr. Wanda Routier, Former WATG Board Member
(WATG would like to extend its deep appreciation to Esther Vazquez Guendulain of Appleton Bilingual School for translating this article into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking families and educators. The translation can be found below.)
Cada año en Wisconsin, febrero marca el inicio del periodo de inscripción foránea. Este es tiempo en el que las familias pueden solicitar inscripción para otros distritos escolares con el deseo de inscribir sus estudiantes. Para muchas familias es una opción de educación viable y deseada para sus hijos(as). La educación foránea incluye escuelas presenciales públicas y “chárter” y escuelas virtuales públicas y “chárter”.
Este año, el periodo de inscripción foránea para el año escolar 2022-2023 es del 7 de febrero al 29 de abril a las 4:00pm.
El Departamento de Educación Publica (DPI por sus siglas en inglés) tiene una página web que proporciona información sobre la inscripción foránea y un formulario de solicitud de inscripción para que las familias lo llenen. Hay muchas reglas y fecha límite para la inscripción foránea, por eso es importante que se asegure de leer cuidadosamente la página web.
¿Porque una familia querrá hacer inscripción foránea para su estudiante con talentos excepcionales en otro distrito? Las razones son variadas como lo son las familias. Algunas familias buscan inscripción foránea así sus hijos(as) puedes asistir a una escuela cerca del lugar de trabajo del padre/tutor. Esto asegura que estén cerca en caso de que se presentara una enfermedad o un problema en la escuela que necesite de su atención. Otras familias quieren un distrito más grande o más pequeño para sus hijos(as). También, otras familias ven que los distritos escolares aledaños ofrecen diferentes programas que beneficiarían a sus hijos(as). Si el distrito escolar local no ofrece a los niños con talentos excepcionales un programa que sea robusto o no hay o hay muy pocos maestros de estudiantes con talentos excepcionales, la familia podría escoger inscribir a su estudiante con talentos en otro distrito que cuente con programas y maestros para talentos excepcionales. Hay otras razones para la decisión personal de pedir inscripción foránea y únicamente la familia puede tomar esa decisión.
Si usted está considerando la inscripción foránea para su hijo(a), usted y su hijo(a) tendrán que hacer su tarea, y entonces aplicar a más tardar el 29 de abril antes de las 4:00 pm. ¿Qué clase de tarea se necesita? Leer la página web del DPI. Vea todos los enlaces que están en el menú del lado izquierdo además de lo que existe en la página principal. Lea la solicitud. Explore lo que otros distritos pueden ofreces a su hijo(a) y hable con padres/tutores que tienen a sus hijos en otros distritos escolares. Vaya a sesiones de puertas abiertas, ya sea en persona o virtual, para aprender más sobre el distrito escolar o la escuela. Conozca a algunos de los maestros. Hable con padres de familia. Muchas familias están muy contentas con la opción de inscripción foránea de sus estudiantes, y están dispuestos a compartir sus experiencias. Ellos pueden ofrecer cosas para que las considere.
Únicamente usted y su hijo(a) pueden tomar esta decisión para su familia, y si hace su tarea, puede asegurarse de que está tomando una buena decisión. ¡Buena suerte en esta aventura!
Dr. Wanda Routier, Miembro anterior de la Junta de Gobierno de WATG
(WATG extiende su agradecimiento a Esther Vazquez Guendulain de la Escuela Bilingüe de Appleton por la traducción de este articulo al español para nuestras familias y educadores hispano-hablantes. La traducción la puede encontrar también en los bloques de nuestra página web.)
Recently a parent and I were talking about her concern for her high school student who is gifted. Like so many other high schoolers, the student has so many emotions, feelings, questions, concerns, and wonderings about school, grades, friends, dating, the pandemic, future plans after high school, and a myriad of other things. The student is “stressing out” over all these concerns, especially about planning high school courses and the future.
This situation is one that many parents and guardians face with their children, whether gifted or not, in high school or younger. There has been a lot said, studied, and understood regarding the social-emotional needs of children and youth, especially during the pandemic. Great needs in this area can lead to stress, depression, and other serious mental health issues. One way that may be effective in reducing stress and reducing some mental health issues is to learn more about oneself and how that can impact one’s future.
The parent with whom I was speaking said her student had many interests, as many gifted students do, and was having a difficult time considering what to do after high school. Choices included: go to college, get a job, go to a technical school, join the military, etc. This is similar to what many school-aged students worry about for years, especially when so many well-meaning people ask the questions, “What do you want to do after high school?” or “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Gone are the days when people experienced only one job or career throughout a lifetime.
While pondering this, I came across an article by Pete Wright about finding one’s own interests, written by a twice-exceptional successful adult. One of the most interesting parts of the article was the fact that the author took the same two interest tests during his lifetime and the results remained consistent. His experience is compelling when considering how to help gifted students narrow their wide-ranging interests into a guide for selecting courses in school, activities in and outside of school, and a plan after high school.
Though many gifted students are given tests of various sorts throughout their school years, not many are given interest inventories or aptitude tests that are reliable formal tests. These can provide insight for the student (and parents/guardians) into areas that the student may wish to pursue in elementary, middle, high school, and beyond. Taking a more formal interest test may be of value for all students, as it was for Mr. Wright.
All students have their own unique ways of demonstrating what they know and can do, and though reliable, valid tests and inventories do not guarantee 100% accuracy or success, they are one way to gain more valuable information. Of course, each student and family must then make their own decisions. Pete Wright’s article is a place to start a discussion about gaining this valuable information to help plan a student’s future.
Find Your Dream Job: Know Your Interests, Aptitudes, and Personality
By: Pete Wright, 1/24/22
Dr. Wanda Routier
Former WATG Board Member
At the end of December I received an email from Ian Byrd at Byrdseed.com. Do you know about Byrdseed.com? Ian Byrd, a gifted person, spoke at the WATG fall conference a few years ago. He has a website; an e-newsletter; resources; a subscription video site called Byrdseed.tv that offers lessons, videos, professional development; and more. Byrd has a unique approach to teaching and learning for gifted students since he himself is gifted. Because of that, I have followed his website for years.
In the December email, Byrd mentions a reflecting and planning method, Four List, that he uses quarterly. I do not propose using it that often, unless you wish to, but at the start of a new year, it may be a worthwhile endeavor to help you reflect and plan at least for the next few months. The Four List method utilizes four blank boxes on a page. Each box has a title: things that you want to continue to do, continue to not do, stop doing completely, and start doing. Byrd gives examples for teachers, and from his professional life. If you view the video and read the article on the website, he explains a little more about the Four List method.
Gifted students and their parents/caregivers may want to use this method, too. Sometimes students who are gifted have so many interests that they appear to go in many different directions. Others focus extensively on one or two areas. This Four List method may give all of these students an opportunity to reflect on how they spend their time, energy, and effort, and plan for their future endeavors. Parents/caregivers also may want to use the Four List method to help consider prioritizing activities in their busy family, professional, and personal lives. This may help parents feel empowered to say no to adding more activities to an already full schedule.
While some may view the Four List approach as focusing on the negative (not do, stop), rather than the positive (do, start), Byrd makes a good point about being deliberate and selective about what you do that takes your energy, time, and effort.
Only you can determine what is important in your life and what should be a priority for your energy, time, and effort. Perhaps using the Four List method by Ian Byrd is something to consider for students and adults to help make decisions as we seek to manage life in the new year, or any time.
Reflecting and Planning with Four Lists
By: Ian Byrd, www.byrdseed.com
Video, article, and download.
Dr. Wanda Routier
Former WATG Board Member
The holiday season is here again with holiday music heard only this time of year. Recently, some parents of gifted students were asking about music and its influence on their children who are gifted. For some of the students, their area of giftedness is in music. For the others, their areas of giftedness varied, but they all experienced asynchronous development. Because of this, their students each had stressors that impacted their life. The parents described students with sleeplessness, times of great activity with little down time, and emotional intensity. The parents asked about whether music could help their students relieve some stress and calm their ever-moving mind. Hence, the discussion about music and its influence on people commenced. The parents’ discussion helped support each other; this, in turn, helped their students.
There is a lot of research across decades showing the benefits of music to calm oneself, and to aid in academic learning, among other benefits. For some students who are gifted, music helps them study, learn, and work on their projects and interests. Students whose gifted area is music also benefit from the calming effects of music, apart from their specific musical abilities. A study in 2020 supports what gifted students say about how music helps them relax, focus, release stress, and express themselves (Jais & Farhana, 2020). For example, a student gifted in playing an instrument or singing, can spend hours per day or week practicing to become a better musician and to learn new musical compositions preparing for a performance, even if it is just a student recital. Apart from practicing, listening to music of their choice helps these students find benefits from music to calm themselves, among other things.
Some gifted students listen to music, others write music, others create music in traditional and/or non-traditional ways. One thing the parents shared is that some of them found it effective to stop insisting their students study and do schoolwork in ways that the parents did (e.g., working in silence). Most found that their gifted students thrived when simultaneously listening to music and studying and/or doing schoolwork. Often, their student’s selection of music was not what the parents would choose, but it was effective in calming the student and providing a means for them to accomplish their work and their own personal projects. Some of the parents found that allowing their students to select their own playlist, and listen when they needed to, enhanced the abilities of their students to interact with others and accomplish tasks. Others found that their students escaped by writing their own music, or playing music on whatever device worked for them. This flexibility by the parent was the key for the student who is gifted.
Below are a few music resources.
Supporting Musically Talented Children: Challenging Social and Emotional Roadblocks to Success, SENG, 2/11/21
The Significance of Music to Gifted Students
Md Jais, Ismail, & Azu Farhana
Quantum Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities 9(4), pages 43-44
Arts Integration, The Kennedy Center
Studying to Music Can Put Your Brain in the Right Frame of Mind
9/17/18, Vaughn College
3 Things I Learned from My Most Gifted Students
Alfred Music, 8/24/21
Websites for Kids
Music Teachers National Association
3 Ways to Use Music in the Classroom, Edutopia, 12/3/19
How to Engage Students Using Music Education
6/14/21, Teachers College, Columbia University
Dr. Wanda Routier
Former WATG Board Member
Have you or your gifted child ever participated in a virtual tour of a museum? There are many resources available to bring faraway places right into your home, child’s classroom, or as the first link says, “tour from the comfort of your own sofa”. It is quite astounding to think that we have the capability to view fine works of art, great architecture, historical artifacts and scenes, or visit other types of museums from around the world virtually. The world really is a small place when considering this perspective. Below are websites your family, gifted student(s), or any child or adult may wish to explore. Allow gifted students to delve deeply into favorite places or topics, and be open to where their curiosity and keen interest may take them. Their interest may even take them to places locally, in the state, or elsewhere to explore a similar topic closer to home or far away. It could even lead to a family vacation! A virtual museum tour may inspire some gifted students to pursue topics that are new to them, which helps broaden their minds and experience, and builds neural connections in their brains.
With colder weather and winter coming, virtual museum tours may be just the thing to keep advanced minds active. Match an activity with a virtual tour and you have a high level of active learning for the student. For example, if you visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and viewed Claude Monet’s Snow Scene at Argenteuil at the National Gallery, London, you could have the gifted student investigate Argenteuil to inform others about it, or to write a poem about the scene and what might be happening next. https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/snow-scene-at-argenteuil-claude-monet/6gG1NjNrhREvdQ?hl=en
Gather your gifted child and family, an Internet device, and some snacks; get comfortable on your sofa and enjoy some time on your virtual museum tour. Happy exploring!
Good News Network Virtual Museum Tours
Be sure to explore the link on the website above for “Text Me Any Masterpiece” where you text a topic, and the museum displays matching artwork.
Dr. Wanda Routier
Past WATG Board Member
Autumn is here with cooler temperatures, colorful leaves, and fall festivals. Even though the COVID virus is still here, and we are still dealing with a global pandemic, most school districts are back in session with face-to-face classes; this is another transition in a series of transitions during the pandemic.
Students who are gifted may sometimes have difficulty making transitions, especially in a short amount of time. The transition from various school situations during the pandemic to face-to-face school this fall may have impacted students who are gifted in ways that are difficult to see, or that manifest themselves in other ways. Students may appear overly sensitive, may have heightened anxiety and worry about illness and concern for others, may have an overabundance of energy, may have heightened awareness of their senses, may dwell on the worst thing that may happen, or hyperfocus their thoughts on a particular topic or topics. Many adults may think these are negative responses, and may indicate mental health difficulties; this may be true for some students, but they may also be a normal response by students who are gifted, and who demonstrate what Polish psychologist and psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski called overexcitabilities. Dabrowski’s work centers on his Theory of Positive Disintegration.
Overexcitabilities are considered to be inborn, and are an intensified response to stimuli. Students with overexcitabilities are often intense, excited, and sensitive. Dabrowski presented five types of overexcitabilities that may be found in some students who are gifted. They include psychomotor, sensual, imaginational, intellectual, and emotional overexcitabilities.
There is research that supports the existence of overexcitabilities, and it can help adults meet the needs of students who are gifted, instead of misdiagnosing a disability such as ADHD when the student appears to be unable to be still. While many view overexcitabilities as negative, many with experience in overexcitabilities view them as high levels of strength or depth in the five areas.
Parents and teachers may observe certain behaviors indicative of overexcitability in their students. These could include hypersensitivity to clothing labels or certain fabrics, an incessant need to move or fidget, an inability to slow down or relax, a tendency to hyper-focus (sometimes viewed as fixating) on a particular topic of interest, or intense worry about crises in their community or around the world. These are only a few possible typical responses of students who are gifted with overexcitabilities that parents and teachers may observe.
The important thing to remember is that students who are gifted often display behaviors that adults misinterpret, including parents and teachers. It is recommended that adults investigate overexcitabilities to learn about them, and to view their students through this lens. Additionally, seeking expertise by someone trained in overexcitabilities is essential to help with students who strongly display these characteristics in order to rule out other possible conditions or causes. The website below for Dr. Linda Silverman is a good place to start.
Overexcitabilities can be complex in students, and not all students who are gifted display them. However, educating yourself on this topic may provide information to help you advocate for your student.
Below are just a few resources available on the Internet about overexcitabilities.
New Insights into Overexcitability
Linda Kreger Silverman, 2020
Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration and Giftedness: Overexcitability and Research Findings, Sal Mendaglio, William Tillier
Journal for the Education of the Gifted. Vol. 30, No. 1, 2006, pp. 68–87. Copyright ©2006 Prufrock Press Inc., http://www.prufrock.com
Overexcitabilities and Sensitivities: Implications of Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration for Counseling the Gifted, Carrie Lynn Bailey, PDF Download.
Bailey, C. L. (2010). Overexcitabilities and sensitivities: Implications of Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration for counseling the gifted. Retrieved from
Overexcitability and the Gifted
Sharon Lind, SENG, 9/14/11
Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities in Gifted Children
Carol Bainbridge (2020)
Overexcitabilities and Why They Matter for Gifted Kids
Colleen Kessler, 2018
Gifted Students and Overexcitability
Mikey D. TEACH, 6/17/2018
Overexcitabilities: Windows into the Inner World of the Gifted
Dr. Linda Silverman, 10/26/2016
National Talent Centre of the Netherlands-NTCN
Overexcitabilities and Asynchronous Development in Gifted Kids
Ashley Darr, 9/22/20
Dr. Wanda Routier
Past Board Member, WATG
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