Lessons in Leadership
Wisconsin’s state statutes, ss118.35 and ss121.02(t) mandate that gifted students be identified in the areas of intellectual, specific academic, creativity, the visual and performing arts, and leadership. Though many districts do a good job of identifying students in the intellectual and academic areas, and often provide “stretch” opportunities (e.g., contests, art shows, various ensembles, solo and ensemble competitions, theater productions) in the visual and performing arts, students are often vastly underidentified and served in the areas of creativity and leadership.
Keeping this in mind, one of our goals at this year’s SOAR camp, a traditional summer camp for gifted youth, was to program for leadership. Using provocative questioning, and then taking a leadership inventory, discussing the components of leadership, putting leadership skills into practice, and then reflecting on progress, our campers were able to grow in their leadership prowess.
Guided by research on leadership development, we used the Roets Rating Scale for Leadership as a starting point for our group discussions. Students analyzed their current leadership skills using the inventory, which provided insight into the many components of leadership. These included:
We then moved on to an activity which required precision in communication, a highly important quality of effective leadership. Working in pairs, campers designed something with Legos behind a screen. Then they communicated how to build an exact replica to their partner (who had the exact same Legos). In the first iteration, partners were NOT allowed to ask clarifying questions. The results were quite interesting :) For the second round, the person receiving instructions WAS allowed to ask clarifying questions. Our goal was to show how important it was to be precise, to give exact directions, and to receive feedback and questioning graciously. In this iteration, the results were dramatically better. Finally, campers asked if they could design their own rules for the third iteration. Most chose to do the entire challenge non-verbally! The willingness to challenge themselves was astounding, and the techniques that they used were both hilarious and inventive.
After debriefing this activity, we challenged campers to use their newly found and newly polished leadership skills; activities at camp, such as the low ropes course, games and initiatives, canoeing, group work, and team-building would require this. Our hope was that they would transfer their learning immediately, and they did.
Finally, we challenged our campers to take all that they had learned home with them, and into their schools and communities. We emphasized that leadership skill takes practice; leaders must be patient, flexible, and willing to grow.
Our hope was that these lessons in leadership provided a foundation for future leadership endeavors for our campers; we wish them much success on their journey!
Jackie Drummer, Past President and Current Board Advisor
Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted
(WATG would like to extend a huge thank you to Dr. Martha Aracely Lopez of Milwaukee Public Schools for translating this article into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking families and educators. The translation can be found in our website blogs.)
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think.