Author Archives: belinblank

Message from the Director: Doing No (Educational) Harm

Susan Assouline

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

The famous medical phrase, “do no harm,” has been echoing in my mind. Specifically, I consider the potential for harm when well-meaning educators or parents believe that the best academic intervention is to maintain the status quo. In other words, to do nothing.

Students with high cognitive ability need advanced and challenging educational experiences in order to be engaged in the learning process. Doing nothing is harmful because it may cause these students to disengage. If high-ability learners drop out from learning, both the student and society suffer the loss.

The Belin-Blank Center is a leader in research on twice-exceptionality and academic acceleration. Twice-exceptional students, as well as students who need academic acceleration, are equally at risk of disengaging from the learning process if their unique needs go unmet. Appropriate educational interventions, informed by research findings, keep them engaged. Below, I describe a few ways that the center supports parents and educators in supporting twice-exceptional students and students who need academic acceleration.

Practitioners in gifted education know much about high cognitive ability and the necessary interventions to help high-ability students. Educators with a background in special education have excellent training in supporting students with a diagnosed learning or social-emotional disorder. However, traditional assessment and intervention approaches often do not detect when a student has high cognitive ability plus a diagnosed learning or social-emotional disorder. In other words, they miss twice-exceptional students, which jeopardizes those students’ engagement in the learning process.

We continue to learn more about identifying and supporting twice-exceptional students. We’ve uncovered unique patterns of strengths and difficulties for twice-exceptional students through our collaborative research with the Iowa Neuroscience Institute (INI). These patterns have important implications for educational interventions. We are excited to share these findings as part of the inaugural Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality, held virtually on May 17 and 18. All registrants can access the live sessions and the recording of all presentations after the event.

Our work in academic acceleration encompasses a broad set of services, including above-level testing, student programs such as Advanced Placement coursework through the Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy, and reliable resources through the Acceleration Institute. These resources enhance awareness about academic acceleration, guide advocates in creating acceleration policy, and help child study teams make decisions about various forms of acceleration.

The Integrated Acceleration System, our newest resource, is an online, interactive system. This tool integrates the necessary information for deciding whether acceleration is an appropriate intervention for a particular student. The Integrated Acceleration System synthesizes the data and generates a report with recommendations specific to that student. When it comes to academic acceleration, parents and educators need no longer assume that doing nothing is the best way to “do no harm.”

Educators and parents are essential advocates for appropriate placement and services for high-ability and twice-exceptional students. Taking action through tailored intervention is the best way to ensure that we do no educational harm and actively engage students in the learning process.

Springing into More Professional Learning

Dr. Laurie Croft, Associate Director for Professional Development

“Spring semester” began long before spring, and a few of our classes are already under way, but we have several classes coming up. The 19th-century Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, said, “Spring is the time of plans and projects.”  We want your plans to include professional learning with the Belin-Blank Center!

The Center, in partnership with the University of Iowa College of Education, offers both “extension” classes and “workshops.”  The “extension” classes, usually either 2 or 3 semester hours, have course numbers that end with something like 0EXW, and they unfold over several weeks.  The “workshops,” either 1 or 2 semester hours, have course numbers that end with something like 0WKA, and they are scheduled over three-week periods. Everything is fully online, and most workshops tend to be completely asynchronous, while most extension classes tend to be organized so that work is required each week.

The next extension class available to you is EDTL:4066:0EXW, Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education (3 semester hours; Mar 22 – May 14); one of my favorite classes (and I get to teach this one), Curriculum Concepts explores various curriculum models, curriculum needs of gifted learners, and introduces options for differentiation.

Our upcoming one-semester-hour workshops address issues we know are important to you:

The following workshops are considered summer term at the University, so enrollment has to be for summer rather than for spring:

  • PSQF:4128:0WKA – Neuroscientific Implications for Gifted Ed: Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality (May 20 – Jun 10)
  • EDTL:4022:0WKA – Math Programming for High-Ability Learners (May 25 – Jun 14)

Practicum is available every semester; email educators@belinblank.org for permission to enroll.

Get Registered

To participate in our classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student.  For the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most at belinblank.org/educators/reg.  All of our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.

Questions?

Email educators@belinblank.org with questions about any of our upcoming classes.

Autism, Gender and Sexual Identity Conference

Looking for opportunities to learn more about autism?  The Autism Society of Iowa (ASI) will be hosting a one-day online seminar on Autism, Gender, and Sexual Identity.  Attendees will have the opportunity to:

  • Increase their understanding of the role that Autism might play in the consolidation of gender identity.
  • Enhance their knowledge base of environmental and psychological factors that play central roles in adolescent identity formation in all adolescents, and the distorting impact of STIGMA leading to psychopathology.
  • Review the emerging data base supporting a higher rate of gender diversity (GNC/GE/etc.) in youth with autism, and vice versa.

For more information or to register, click here.

Mark Your Calendars!

Although it may be cold outside, we are already gearing up for spring and summer at the Belin-Blank Center! We are offering many exciting online opportunities for educators, students, families, and gifted education researchers. Mark your calendars with these upcoming dates.

FOR EDUCATORS

FOR RESEARCHERS

FOR STUDENTS & FAMILIES

A New Face at the Belin-Blank Center

We are excited to welcome a new staff member!

Dr. Amanda Berns is a Licensed Psychologist who is joining the clinical staff in the Assessment and Counseling Clinic. She attended the University of Iowa while obtaining her Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Education Specialist, and Doctor of Philosophy in School Psychology. Dr. Berns gained experience working in schools, outpatient clinics at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, the local homeless shelter, and children’s homes through the Early Access Autism Resources Team at Grant Wood Area Education Agency. She also completed an iLEND fellowship and externships at Nisonger Center and St. David’s Center.

Dr. Amanda Berns, Licensed Psychologist at the Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic

For two years in graduate school, Dr. Berns held an assistantship providing mentorship to talented and gifted college students at the Belin-Blank Center, as well. Dr. Berns attended a predoctoral internship at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health and a postdoctoral fellowship at The Counseling Center of Nashua. She also worked in public schools as a traveling school psychologist and Autism Consultant, and outpatient settings at Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP).

Besides having a wealth of clinical experience across these settings, Dr. Berns has particular expertise in assessment and intervention services for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In particular, her research background is in the social-emotional experiences of those who are twice-exceptional. She is excited to join the Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic, where she is conducting twice-exceptional evaluations and providing counseling services.

Be sure to check out all of the clinical services we provide in our Assessment and Counseling Clinic. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment or requesting more information, you can do so here!

Free Live Sessions with STEM Experts

A free adventure for all Iowa high school students and their teachers!

We are excited to announce a very exciting day of live online sessions with STEM experts from Iowa and around the world! Through our 2021 Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, Iowa teachers and students can register and attend for free! Join us online March 1-2, 2021.

Keynote presenter photo and title "Secrets of the Mind - Revealed by Magic Tricks & Psychology Research.

You’ll learn from a University of London researcher, Alice Pailhès. Alice studies free will and the illusion of control. Her presentation will present various original experiments using magic tricks, as well as their surprising results.

Photo of presenter with title "Dive Under the Sea with a Shark Expert"

Travel to Cape Town, South Africa, and meet Lesley. Find out how this researcher went from being called Shark Bait to the Shark Warrior when she met an extraordinary shark named Maxine. Join Lesley for a virtual underwater dive to meet sharks! Learn about these amazing animals, the threats they face, and why we need to save our sharks.

Photo of presenter and title "Open a Beehive with a Beekeeper"

Travel to Lisbon, Portugal, and meet Joana. She will take you out to visit her beehives! Joana is a 4th generation beekeeper, and her passion for bees began when she was seven, and her grandfather took her to an apiary. She rescues wild bee colonies!

Picture of the presenter with the title "Uncover Pompeii with and Archaeologist"

Travel to Pompeii, Italy, to meet Roberto and go back into Roman times! Discover the ancient history and beauty of Pompeii, the famous site buried by the Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD. Learn the city’s history, from the beginning to the eruption and then to the discovery of the remains. Roberto is an archaeologist and an authorized guide of the Campania Region. He has worked as an archaeologist all around the Mediterranean Sea.

After a world tour, come home to Iowa and meet some local STEM experts.

Meet biochemist Dr. Maxwell J. Holle. Maxwell evaluates unique antimicrobials used to kill the harmful bacteria in cheese! These chemical substances can improve cheese safety by killing and hindering the growth of the bacteria that cause the illness so that everyone can eat them. He grew up in Oskaloosa, IA, and now he is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Iowa.

Walkthrough a patient case with a Carver College of Medicine medical student and work together to diagnose a patient. Ask any questions you have about being a medical student and becoming a doctor!

Meet a University of Iowa rocket scientist and an engineer on NASA rocket and satellite missions. Suman Sherwani has an engineering degree from the University of Iowa and went to rocket school in Norway. Yep, rocket school is a thing! Join this Q & A session to get a backstage pass to engineering school, landing a dream internship, going to an international rocket school, and working on NASA missions.

You will also have an opportunity to learn from high school students conducting their own original research!

Hurry! The Writers’ Room Starts Soon

Let us bring our UNESCO City of Literature and the Writing University to your home with the Writers’ Room

The Writers’ Room is a collection of online creative writing classes for students in grades 6-12. Challenge yourself by exploring form, discussing creative writing fundamentals, and completing stimulating assignments. Receive thoughtful feedback of your work from world-class faculty and graduates of the University of Iowa’s famed writing programs. Learn how to give and receive artist-centered feedback with your peers and enjoy the benefits of building a community with other inspired young writers. 

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Join the community

Our community of student writers is impressive and welcoming. Check out this digital anthology of past students’ work. You could be next!

“I really enjoyed the fact that the teachers seemed to be so engaged, and that I was able to make friends, even online. My confidence as a writer has been so strengthened by this experience.” – 2020 student writer

Get your seat at the table

Submit your application to the Writers’ Room today to make your writing stand out from the crowd. Don’t wait – time and space are limited! The program starts February 14th. Apply before it’s too late!



Message from the Director: Humility, Gratitude, and Optimism in 2021

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

Like a long-awaited visitor we thought would never arrive, 2021 is almost here! My colleagues and I are ready to greet the new year with humility, gratitude, and optimism. Humility counters the pride with which we entered 2020 and the assumptions that we held about the format of our programs and services. That self-assuredness blinded us to the crises lurking in the shadows that came out in full force to affect our health, economy, climate, and sense of social justice.

These crises-imposed restrictions resulted in new ways of collaborating to find creative ways to provide programs, deliver services, and conduct research. I am grateful for the continued assessment and counseling services our licensed psychologists offered through a hybrid format. The student program team re-imagined several new opportunities for students. I am also appreciative of the continuation of our many professional development opportunities for educators.  

There are many reasons for which I am optimistic about 2021. The teachers and students participating in our grant-funded services displayed astounding resilience, despite the learning format’s unpredictability. We started a new collaboration with colleagues at the National Center for Research on Gifted Education, housed at the University of Connecticut; our focus will be on academic acceleration. Our research collaboration with the Iowa Neuroscience Institute continues, and we are looking forward to a re-imagined Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality in a virtual format.

The Integrated Acceleration System’s development team completed the online interactive product designed to produce a report that offers information about the appropriateness of academic acceleration for individual students.  

These are just a few of the reasons why we will enter 2021 with humility, gratitude, and optimism. I am humbled by the Belin-Blank Center staff’s efforts and those of our colleagues in the College of Education. I am awed by the continued support of our Advisory Board. Their commitment to the Belin-Blank Center’s mission, and the students, families, and educators we serve, has never wavered despite the many obstacles experienced.  

May 2021 be a year in which we continue to seek social justice and address racism. May we find new ways to tackle our many climate challenges, observe improvement in our economy, and realize an abatement of the pandemic. We look forward to seeing you in 2021, in person and virtually. Happy New Year!

Annual National Association for Gifted Children Convention: Reimagined for 2020

Written by Dr. Laurie Croft

This is information that was reported to the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children (WCGTC) newsletter as part of the current report from the United States. Dr. Laurie Croft is one of the three U.S. delegates to the WCGTC.

NAGC hosted the 67th annual convention as a “reimagined” and virtual event—and a very successful professional development and networking opportunity with almost 4,300 participating.  Attendees came from 48 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (D.C.), as well as 13 additional countries, and benefited from almost 300 presentations.  The first fully virtual convention featured many familiar elements, including educational pre-conference workshops, keynote presentations, choices of invited and concurrent sessions, posters, and NAGC Network and Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings; the reimagined convention included new ways of participating in events, as well as new opportunities:  an expanded timeline, from four to six days for the convention; virtual lounges to drop in and visit with others; Table Talks, sponsored by Networks; and access to all of the concurrent sessions and posters, available on demand—through the end of May 2021.   

Having access to presentations for six months is an extraordinary benefit to busy teachers, counselors, administrators, families, and university faculty who advocate for gifted and talented learners.  For keynote and special sessions, participants could type in questions during the session that presenters addressed, and they could discuss content with each other, using a chat feature provided by the platform. Presenters for concurrent sessions took advantage of a platform provided by NAGC to capture their sessions, complete with PowerPoints, comments, and often, handouts.  Even Poster sessions had recordings to amplify their content.  While participants must choose among an array of interesting sessions when attending an in-person convention, participants now have access to all the sessions!   

The concurrent sessions this year are identified as “On Demand,” and the majority of these feature topics selected through a blind review process conducted by volunteers for each Network.  These sessions provide a wide variety of topics, from encouraging artistic expression and critical and creative thinking to “speed geeking” and virtual reality; from cultivating psychosocial skills among advanced learners to building better educator capacity to recognize and develop talents; from tips for parents to successful advocacy at local, state, and national levels.  All categories of presentations featured sessions that highlighted the critical importance of equity in gifted programming and the need to identify and serve underrepresented populations of gifted children in the United States as well as enhance best practices for talent development for all children. 

College Board Scholarships for AP Summer Institute

This summer, the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center will be hosting an online Advanced Placement® Summer Institute (APSI). (formerly known as the AP Teacher Training Institute or APTTI). APSI is designed for teachers who want to learn to teach AP® courses, current AP® teachers, and educators who wish to strengthen their school’s core curriculum. The event will take place June 28 – July 2, 2021, and all courses will be offered fully online. Check out our website for more information and registration details.

The College Board offers the following two scholarships that support teachers in attending an APSI. Both applications are open now and are due February 17, 2021

  • AP® Fellows Program: For teachers at schools serving majority underrepresented minority and/or low-income students 
    • Scholarship Amount: $1,000 – for cost of tuition and lab fees (when applicable) 
  • AP® Rural Fellows Program: For teachers at schools serving rural areas
    • Scholarship Amount: $1,500 – for cost of tuition and lab fees (when applicable) 

Another funding opportunity is the AP® Summer Institution Grant, offered by the Belin-Blank Center’s Iowa Online AP® Academy. More information and a link to the application can be found here, under the heading “Financial Aid”. The deadline to complete this grant application is June 1, 2021. 

  • AP® Summer Institution Grant: For Iowa-licensed middle school or high school teachers  
    • Award Amount: $450 – for cost of tuition plus funding for materials (when applicable) 

Online Experiences Designed for Gifted Kids

We’ve heard your requests for online versions of the enrichment opportunities you love from the Belin-Blank Center! We’ve designed our new Enrichment Expeditions program to reconnect bright children with each other and to explore their complex interests, both online and offline.

These are not your typical Zoom class! Our expert instructors combine hands-on learning with high-quality, live, online sessions that follow a depth and pace that keeps bright students engaged. We send a customized fun kit straight to your door, containing all the necessary supplies. There’s no need for shopping, ordering, or gathering items around your house.

Don’t miss the last class of the session, coming up in January!

Bravery: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Grades 2-4
January 24, 9:00 am – noon (Central)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Supreme Court Justice for 27 years, passed away this year. As a lawyer and a judge, she used her voice to fight for equal rights for all people – regardless of race, gender, or ability. In this class, you will learn about Ruth Bader Ginsburg (or RBG as many call her) and her work fighting for our rights. We will focus on the writing and speaking strategies that help others want to listen to us. From writing to speaking to history and even a little bit of art, this class will cover it all! You’ll also get to continue your expedition after class ends with the Ruth Bader Ginsberg issue of the beautiful Bravery magazine. Be ready to channel your inner RBG and speak up!

Save the Date for the Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality

In January 2020, members of the Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute were eagerly preparing for a summer Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality (2e). We planned to invite researchers, clinicians, and educators to the University of Iowa campus to discuss and advance the field of 2e research. Like many other large gatherings scheduled for this year, the COVID-19 pandemic led our team to reimagine the event as a virtual experience. We are excited to invite you to join us online this spring! 

The virtual Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality will occur May 17-18, 2021, and registration is available now! This event aims to advance research in the area of twice-exceptionality by sparking conversation and collaboration across disciplines. Both days will feature presentations from prominent scholars highlighting the potential for collaboration among neuroscience, gifted education, psychology, and special education. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from experts at the Belin-Blank Center, including Dr. Susan Assouline, Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, and Dr. Alissa Doobay, as well as members of the Iowa Neuroscience Institute, including Dr. Jake Michaelson, Dr. Ted Abel, and Dr. Thomas Nickl Jockschat. We’re also proud to welcome Dr. Sally M. Reis from the University of Connecticut, Dr. James Booth from Vanderbilt University, and Dr. Marjorie Solomon from the University of California-Davis. More information about all of our speakers is available on our website.  

Everyone is welcome to register. The content will be most relevant for people interested in learning about research developments on the topic of twice-exceptionality, pursuing or informing future research, and applying research findings to better understand and support twice-exceptional individuals. We hope you will join us for this exciting interdisciplinary event! 

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

As the year comes to a close, we are looking forward to the many exciting online opportunities for educators, students, families, and gifted education researchers that are happening at the Belin-Blank Center in 2021! Mark your calendars with these upcoming dates.

For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • Program Models in Gifted Education
      • January 25 – March 22, 2021
    • Identification of Students for Gifted Programs
      • January 26 – March 22, 2021
    • Administrative and Policy Issues in GE
      • February 2 – April 30, 2021
    • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education
      • March 22 – May 14, 2021

For Students & Families

For Researchers

Let’s Talk 2e Virtual Conference for Educators

Please join us at the Let’s Talk 2e virtual conference for Educators launching January 25, 2021 and then remaining EVERGREEN allowing you forever-access. To register click here.

The conference brings together expert speakers addressing topics for teachers to utilize in their virtual, hybrid and in-person classrooms within four strands:

  • Understanding 2e
  • Classroom Strategies
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Clinical Considerations

Our own Drs. Megan Foley-Nicpon, Alissa Doobay, and Katie Schabilion will be among the presenters!

If you’re a parent – this conference is an excellent teacher gift!

Along with 25 presentations attendees will enjoy:

  • Free Gifts from every speaker
  • A Companion Conference Planner
  • A Full Exhibitor Hall (with opportunities for prizes)
  • Community Building and Live Events in our Facebook “Teachers’ Lounge”
  • The Opportunity to earn Credit and Contact Hours from various states, schools and associations

We hope you’ll join us! https://www.withunderstandingcomescalm.com/~access/a1c1076f/

Adventures in the Sky with Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart

We’ve heard your requests for online versions of the enrichment opportunities you love from the Belin-Blank Center! We’ve designed our new Enrichment Expeditions program to reconnect bright children with each other and to explore their interests, both online and offline.

These are not your typical Zoom class! Our expert instructors combine hands-on learning with high-quality, live, online sessions that follow a depth and pace that keeps bright students engaged. We send a customized fun kit straight to your door, containing all the necessary supplies. There’s no need for shopping, ordering, or gathering items around your house.

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

Amelia Earhart 

Adventures in the Sky

Grades 2-4
December 6, 9:00 am – noon (Central)

Airplanes revolutionized our ability to travel to new places around the world. Believe it or not, they are a fairly new technology. Two aviators – Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart – were some of the first to explore the skies using airplanes. 

In this class, you will learn about these two amazing women’s adventures, and the sometimes-mysterious stories told about them. This class mixes writing and STEM! We will spend half of our time exploring the structure of airplanes and how well they fly. We will spend the other half learning how to write a good story with narrative writing. When we’re done, you’ll get to continue the fun with your own copy of the Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart issue of the beautiful Bravery magazine. Writers, builders, explorers, and all lovers of adventure are encouraged to join!  

Photo by Ömer Aydın from Pexels

Python Programming for 4th-6th Graders

It’s not too late (yet) for your child to join the Coders’ Lab!

Our new Coders’ Lab class, called Explorations in Coding I, will teach students how to code “for real” using the Python programming language. It will also help them discover how they can make a difference in the world through computer science!

How it works

Students will meet twice weekly with one of our best teachers and other curious and highly capable kids. They will also have independent time to work through modules and develop projects on their own. Classes at this level are typically recommended for middle school students, but bright and motivated students in grades 4-6 will feel right at home. We think your child has what it takes! No prior computer science experience is necessary.

“Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.” 

-Bill Gates

Help your child become 21st century-ready

This class will help your child grow in problem-solving, critical thinking skills, creativity, collaboration, and communication – all from the comfort of your home. So, what are you waiting for? Hurry, class starts November 2nd!

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

We’ve heard your requests for online versions of the enrichment opportunities you love from the Belin-Blank Center! We’ve designed our new Enrichment Expeditions program to reconnect bright children with each other and to explore their interests, both online and offline.

These are not your typical Zoom class! Our expert instructors combine hands-on learning with high-quality, live, online sessions that follow a depth and pace that keeps bright students engaged. We send a customized fun kit straight to your door, containing all the necessary supplies. There’s no need for shopping, ordering, or gathering items around your house.

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

Grades 6-8
December 5, 1:00 – 4:00 pm Central

Do you have the skills needed to survive in a world full of Zombies? Using your Zombie Survival Kit, you will navigate in a world without GPS, build a primitive tarp shelter, and learn some basic first aid. Our expert guide will teach you some of the essential skills needed to survive a Zombie Apocalypse. These skills are also very useful for wilderness and/or backyard activities like hiking, camping, scouts, geo-caching, scavenger hunts, adventure races, but more likely… surviving a zombie apocalypse! 

Online Neuroscience Class for Middle Schoolers

We’ve heard your requests for online versions of the enrichment opportunities you love from the Belin-Blank Center! We’ve designed our new Enrichment Expeditions program to reconnect bright children with each other and to explore their interests, both online and offline.

These are not your typical Zoom class! Our expert instructors combine hands-on learning with high-quality, live, online sessions that follow a depth and pace that keeps bright students engaged. We send a customized fun kit straight to your door, containing all the necessary supplies. There’s no need for shopping, ordering, or gathering items around your house.

Getting to Know Your Brain: A Crash Course in Neuroscience

Grades 6-8
November 10 (Part 1) and November 17 (Part 2) , 5:00-6:30 Central
OR November 14 (Part 1) and November 21 (Part 2) , 5:00-6:30 Central

Take a peek between your ears and get to know your beautiful brain! The brain helps us experience everything in our world. From information coming in from our environment to internal memories of a fun day that happened years ago – your brain is what makes you “you”! In this class, you will explore how the brain processes sensory information and learn how different parts of the brain communicate with each other. Then, you’ll use this knowledge to build your own “ideal” brain. 

Online Math Class: Master Mathematicians Battle Round!

We’ve heard your requests for online versions of the enrichment opportunities you love from the Belin-Blank Center! We’ve designed our new Enrichment Expeditions program to reconnect bright children with each other and to explore their interests, both online and offline.

These are not your typical Zoom class! Our expert instructors combine hands-on learning with high-quality, live, online sessions that follow a depth and pace that keeps bright students engaged. We send a customized fun kit straight to your door, containing all the necessary supplies. There’s no need for shopping, ordering, or gathering items around your house.

Master Mathematicians Battle Round

Grades 4-6
November 15, 3:00 – 6:00 pm (Central)

Are you ready to outwit your friends and become a mathematics problem-solving master? Get your brain and buzzer set for a fun, game-filled session of math challenges and competitions. This class will teach you some of the best math problem-solving strategies and challenge you to think outside the box. You’ll get your own copy of Edward Zacarro’s fun book, ”Becoming a Problem Solving Genius.”  We’ll use it to help you master math using logic, “Think 1”, algebra, functions, and more. The best part…you’ll practice your new skills in several live-action games with buzzers, whiteboards, and lots of FUN! 

Online RBG Class

We’ve heard your requests for online versions of the enrichment opportunities you love from the Belin-Blank Center! We’ve designed our new Enrichment Expeditions program to reconnect bright children with each other and to explore their interests, both online and offline.

These are not your typical Zoom class! Our expert instructors combine hands-on learning with high-quality, live, online sessions that follow a depth and pace that keeps bright students engaged. We send a customized fun kit straight to your door, containing all the necessary supplies. There’s no need for shopping, ordering, or gathering items around your house.

Don’t miss the last class of the session, coming up in January!

Bravery: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Grades 2-4
January 24, 9:00 am – noon (Central)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Supreme Court Justice for 27 years, passed away this year. As a lawyer and a judge, she used her voice to fight for equal rights for all people – regardless of race, gender, or ability. In this class, you will learn about Ruth Bader Ginsburg (or RBG as many call her) and her work fighting for our rights. We will focus on the writing and speaking strategies that help others want to listen to us. From writing to speaking to history and even a little bit of art, this class will cover it all! You’ll also get to continue your expedition after class ends with the Ruth Bader Ginsberg issue of the beautiful Bravery magazine. Be ready to channel your inner RBG and speak up!

New Online Student Programs!

Experience the classes you have come to love from the Belin-Blank Center, from the comfort and safety of home.  

Enrichment Expeditions 
Grades 2-8 

Enrichment Expeditions are evening and weekend online classes that explore fun topics like aviation, female role models, problem-solving strategies, neuroscience, survival skills, and more! 

Coders’ Lab
Grades 4-6 

Our Coders’ Lab classes will teach you programming and help you discover how you can make a difference in the world through computer science. No prior computer science experience is necessary. 

Coding with Python 
Grades 7-9 

Learn the Python programming language at your own pace, wherever you want, without worrying about class times or the pressure of grades. No prior computer science experience is necessary. 

Enrichment Classes are Back – Online!

Are you looking for joyful and engaging online learning experiences? Do you know a bright elementary or middle school student who would like a chance to connect with other like-minded kids? Our Enrichment Expeditions program is a new way to experience the classes you have come to love from the Belin-Blank Center. Shake up your pandemic routine with bite-sized lessons that will cultivate interests, spark curiosity, and enhance learning!   

Enrichment Expeditions are 1-3 hour online experiences built around topics that kids don’t often have a chance to learn about in school. Each class includes:

  • Live instruction from vetted teachers who can work with bright students. 
  • Curriculum developed or approved by our gifted education experts.
  • A fun supplies kit with everything you’ll need to support the hands-on activities. No shopping, ordering, or hunting around your house! 

Each expedition introduces students in grades 2-8 to advanced level topics and other bright kids their age. Plus, these engaging online classes are limited to 10 students, giving children room to enjoy their instructor’s unique talents and hands-on experiences with their classmates. Our current classes explore aviation, female role models, problem-solving strategies, neuroscience, survival skills, and more! Students do not have to be in a gifted and talented program to participate.

We are creating a variety of evening and weekend Enrichment Expeditions to fit any schedule. With the addition of new classes throughout the academic year, we aim to have something for everyone! If you or a child in your life has an idea for an expedition, let us know, and we’ll do our best to create the experience. 

Start your expedition today at belinblank.org/enrichment!  

Message from the Director: Clarity During Confusing Times

The director’s message typically offers a brief reflection of the recent past and hints about the near future. However, as I write this October message, the observation that hindsight is 20/20 looms large. As is true for every one of us, the reality of 2020 contrasts sharply with the ambitious vision I suggested one year ago.  This observation led me to question whether clarity is possible when the times appear confusing.

Below is a snapshot of four goals I had anticipated the Belin-Blank Center would achieve by this time in 2020. 

  1. An abundance of opportunities for educators, students, and families.
  2. Expansion of commuter programming to 8th graders.
  3. Experience of a dynamic in-person summit on the neuroscience of twice-exceptionality.
  4. Extensive scholarship related to our comprehensive research agenda.

Did the confusion caused by the ongoing health, economic, social, and environmental crises obscure those goals?   

Not exactly. I discovered an essential filter through which I now view the future: the “optimism” filter. Through this filter, I can see the unwavering hopefulness and collective energy demonstrated by our very talented faculty and administrative, clerical, and graduate staff.  Our professional team never lost sight of the need to stay safe and healthy to continue focusing on our primary aim of nurturing potential and inspiring excellence.  

Did the confusion caused by the ongoing health, economic, social, and environmental crises enhance our focus?   

Yes, to some extent. These crises have been, and likely always will be, a part of our reality. The experiences of the past months have made clear that some issues must remain central to the Belin-Blank Center’s vision for our programming, services, and research.  We will stay dedicated to addressing them through all aspects of our work.

As a Belin-Blank Center staff member for three decades, I can draw upon experience to remain optimistic about the near future. In the coming weeks and months, we will: 

  1. Continue to offer meaningful opportunities for educators, students, and families, thanks to technology;  
  2. Utilize our decades of online learning experience to create new online elementary, middle, and high school programs; 
  3. Host a dynamic virtual summit on the neuroscience of twice-exceptionality; 
  4. Make our scholarship more relevant to the most significant crises facing us today and in the future.  

We already have many exciting developments on these fronts. This fall alone, we have created an unprecedented four brand-new student programs designed to accommodate learners both during the pandemic and afterward. (Check out the Writers’ Room, the Coders’ LabCoding with Python, and Enrichment Expeditions!) In the spring, we will add a host of online student competitions. Keep an eye out for news on Invent Iowa, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

We have an extensive catalog of online professional learning courses for educators and those seeking a TAG endorsement. Planning for our online Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality is well underway, and we are looking forward to lively discussions of research and networking opportunities in May.  

Though life remains unpredictable and often confusing, every crisis holds opportunity. We hope you will join us in the new opportunities we are creating for you. 

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

Mark your calendars for the many exciting online opportunities for educators, students, families, and gifted education researchers that are happening at the Belin-Blank Center this year!

For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • Bibliotherapy: October 12, 2020
    • Academic Acceleration: October 12, 2020
    • Conceptions of Talent Development: October 19, 2020
    • Practicum section: October 26, 2020
    • Creativity 101: November 2, 2020
    • Practicum section: November 9, 2020
    • Leadership in Gifted Education: NAGC Conference: November 12, 2020
  • AP Summer Institute
    • June 28 – July 2, 2021

For Students & Families

For Researchers

Join a National Research Study on Acceleration

The National Center for Research on Gifted Education (NCRGE) has several innovative research projects underway, and you are invited to learn more about participating in two studies: the National Study on Improving Acceleration Practices (https://ncrge.uconn.edu/acceleration/) and the National Study on Improving Identification (https://ncrge.uconn.edu/identification/).

Academic acceleration is the intervention for advanced learners that has shown the greatest effect on student achievement. Participants in the acceleration study will receive (a) free professional learning opportunities around what acceleration actually is and how it can be used, (b) a universal screening process to assist in determining which students should be considered for acceleration, and (c) resources and training that will help you implement grade acceleration decisions for those students who wish to accelerate. 

Consider joining the identification study if your school/district uses universal screening with a teacher rating scale as part of identifying students for gifted services. The team at NCRGE would love to talk with you about participating in one of our new studies. Participating schools and districts will have hands-on support to review and improve their district’s identification system for increased equity and efficiency.

Don’t Miss NAGC’s Convention Reimagined

by Dr. Laurie Croft

“I’ve been a big fan of attending conferences as a great way to learn, network, socialize and enjoy a new environment. It’s always refreshing to get out and see a whole new world.”  So said author Mark Skousen, and I completely agree!

The excitement is building for the 2020 NAGC convention!  NAGC20 has been Reimagined in a way that will re-ignite the passion that we all have for the future of gifted and talented education.  NAGC’s “67th Annual Convention Reimagined!” will be held November 12-17, 2020, bringing together thousands of professionals from around the world who are dedicated to supporting the needs of high-ability children.  I hope you’ll join us at NAGC’s first virtual national convention.

The NAGC20 convention experience will be like no other…. it’s accessible anytime and anywhere you are in the world. “Reimagined!” offers attendees access to 200+ live and on-demand sessions, table talks, Q&A sessions, and opportunities for networking.  Participants can attend sessions live or at their own pace throughout the convention.  And if you can’t participate in a session during the convention time, not to worry.  Attendees have a 6-month all-access pass to all 200+ sessions.

Also new in 2020, schools/districts may purchase a site license for $5,995 so that an unlimited number of professionals can attend. This can be your chance to show your colleagues the meaningful presentations for the ages they teach or the content they share.  NAGC20 offers hundreds of hours of professional learning at your fingertips. These can be used for faculty retreats, all-staff professional learning days, group and/or division training, and weekly staff meetings. You can build an ongoing professional learning curriculum for the entire team and the entire school year using the school site license option.  Contact Adriane Wiles (awiles@nagc.org) to register.

The Belin-Blank Center is pleased to offer either one or two semester hours of credit for those who participate in the NAGC convention.  “Continuing Education Individual Study: Leadership in Gifted Education” (PSQF:5194:0WKA) can apply to the “Administrative Strand,” and because you are having to pay to register for the convention itself, we provide an automatic 50% tuition scholarship for those enrolled at the graduate level (a smaller scholarship for those enrolled at the undergraduate level).  Although teachers earning the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement need semester hours from an accredited university, some of you might benefit from the CEU’s that NAGC has arranged (see bit.ly/NAGC20ceu).

Those working on the endorsement through the Belin-Blank Center should contact educators@belinblank.org for information about student registration costs (50% of the above), student membership costs (only $59 for the upcoming year), and for information about getting registered for the academic credit!

To register, go to http://bit.ly/Reimagined20CM (or contact awiles@nagc.org).  Registration fees are $345 for members or $495 for non-members. Membership includes 1-year access to bonus content, including free issues of Gifted Child Quarterly, Teaching for High Potential, and Parenting for High Potential

A 21st-Century Superpower You May Not Be Learning in School

Do you like logic, puzzles, or putting things in order? Are you creative? Do you want to make a difference in the world? Are you interested in learning how to code? If any of these describe you, check out the Belin-Blank Center’s new online coding courses!

We need more of our children to learn computer programming skills, regardless of their future profession. Along with reading and writing, the ability to program is going to define what an educated person is.” 

– Salman Khan

Our Coders’ Lab program currently offers a class called Explorations in Coding I for talented students in grades 4-6. (More are on the way!) This class will teach you how to code using the Python programming language. It will also help you discover how YOU can make a difference in the world through computer science! Sometimes, you will meet with the instructor and other curious, smart kids about your age. Other times, you will have independent time to work through problems and develop projects on your own. Class starts on November 2nd. 

Coding with Python is a self-directed online learning experience for bright and motivated students in grades 7-9. Through a series of interactive online modules, you will learn computer science using the Python programming language. This isn’t just any online course, though. You will have access to an exclusive student forum where expert coders are standing by to answer your questions or help you debug your code. (Don’t worry, parents, it’s moderated!) You will learn how to think computationally, solve complex problems, and be prepared for advanced computer science courses. Start anytime, and enjoy access to the content through June 30th, 2021. 

Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.” 

Bill Gates

No matter what your future goals are, coding will be an essential skill for your career. At the Belin-Blank Center, we know that you’re not too young to start learning. And the best part? There are no grades to worry about, and no prior computer science experience is necessary! Join us to unlock your superpowers and build your future your way.

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Launch Today!

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition program for creative teens in grades 7–12. The Belin-Blank Center serves at the affiliate for art and writing for both the state of Iowa and the Midwest Region-at-Large.

Get started early!
Submissions are only open from September 1 through December 1, but it’s never too early to get started! Students, save the work you’re creating over the spring and summer…even if you’re creating it from home.

Sign up!
Submissions open for the 2021 Scholastic Awards on September 1, 2020 on our website at belinblank.org/scholastic. On this date, students can create an account to upload their work. If you are an educator, create your account on September 1, 2020, to register your students.

We can’t wait to see what you create!

Message from the Director: When the School Bell Rings

A ringing school bell has special meaning this year. I realized this during an early morning walk a few weeks back when I passed our neighborhood elementary school just as the bells were ringing, preparing for the opening of the school year. Immediately, I felt joy at hearing these bells, abruptly silenced for so many months. It felt like the school was exercising its vocal cords for the first time after a long and troubled sleep. Joy quickly succumbed to the complex feeling of uncertainty at the realization that the buildings and playgrounds had been silent and empty for an important reason, to ensure the students’ and staff’s safety. Finally, uncertainty yielded to optimism, thanks to the knowledge that educators and administrators at all levels, pre-K through graduate school, worked assiduously during the summer months to prepare for a variety of fall opening day scenarios, and a variety of possibilities throughout the 2020-2021 academic year. These preparations aimed to simultaneously respect schools’ and universities’ educational mission while upholding the primary value of safety for all.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My colleagues and I realize that the most crucial aspect of the Belin-Blank Center’s preparation is to uphold our primary value of our students’ and staff’s safety. We will do this while striving to maintain – to the extent possible – programming and services for students and teachers and pursuing our active research agenda. For safety, during the fall semester, the majority of the Belin-Blank Center staff and faculty will continue to work off-campus. Others have shifted to a hybrid approach to doing their work. No matter what the arrangement, we are all fully present to serve you.

Each area of the Belin-Blank Center is adapting to the many changes that this school year brings. Our programming and services for students and teachers have shifted online. We replaced the cancelled Summer Writing Residency with the Summer Writing Online Experience for high school students. Program evaluations indicated that this was a wonderful experience for all involved. We also introduced a new online summer writing class for junior high students, the Workshop for Young Writers, which started at the same time as a derecho approached our location in eastern Iowa. Despite the physical and humanitarian devastation from this natural disaster, including extreme technology challenges due to electricity loss, the Workshop for Young Writers was a success. We are now developing comprehensive online writing opportunities through a new program, the Writers’ Room.

The ever-changing nature of this time calls for many pivots and timely updates to keep you informed. Therefore, last month, we published the first special issue of the Belin-Blank Center newsletter to distribute information about new opportunities for students and teachers. We will continue to offer special editions as needed to announce new pandemic-safe initiatives as they arise.

The Assessment and Counseling Clinic rose to the challenges of working off-site by offering their services online during the pandemic’s early months. When the campus commenced a phased re-opening in early July, the Clinic resumed in-person services with COVID-19 precautions in place. So, too, the professional development program for teachers seemed not to skip a beat during the summer. Check out the many opportunities that await teachers during this coming year.

COVID-19 restrictions somewhat altered the timeline for activities related to our grant-based research agenda. Nevertheless, we have published the research we conducted over the two years before the pandemic in four recent peer-reviewed articles:

This month, we welcome our students, including the Bucksbaum Academy first-and second-year students, and our graduate assistants to a new and unprecedented year. It is energizing to see students back on the University of Iowa campus and meet virtually with Belin-Blank Center students. It has re-ignited the spark of optimism that comes with the ringing bells ushering in every new school year.

On behalf of the Belin-Blank Center team, we extend each of you our wishes for a safe and energizing start to the new school year. This fall, we may not hear the school bell in person; yet, I hope you feel optimistic with the knowledge that the bell and the schools are still there. Whether virtual, in-person, or hybrid, the school bell represents new beginnings and opportunities to thrive in an educational environment and within various learning and teaching formats. Have a safe and wonderful year!

Your Writing Community is Waiting

Here in Iowa, we know a thing or two about writing.

Let us bring our UNESCO City of Literature and the Writing University to your home with the Writers’ Room

The Writers’ Room is a collection of online creative writing classes for students in grades 6-12. Challenge yourself by exploring form, discussing creative writing fundamentals, and completing stimulating assignments. Receive individual feedback on your work from world-class faculty and graduates of the University of Iowa’s famed writing programs. Learn how to give and receive artist-centered feedback with your peers and enjoy the benefits of building a community with other inspired young writers. 

Join the community

Our community of student writers is impressive and welcoming. Check out this digital anthology of past students’ work. You could be next!

“I really enjoyed the fact that the teachers seemed to be so engaged, and that I was able to make friends, even online. My confidence as a writer has been so strengthened by this experience.” 

– Summer 2020 student writer

Get your seat at the table

Submit your application to the Writers’ Room today to make your writing stand out from the crowd. Don’t wait – time and space are limited! Class starts September 14th (grades 6-9) and 15th (grades 9-12). 

Professional Learning in Fall 2020

Born in the late 12th Century, Francis of Assisi lived in very different times from ours, but doesn’t this still capture what we want for our advanced learners?  “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” 

Teachers—and parents—may feel that much of life, and certainly learning, is well described by Francis’ words (translated by someone unknown over the millennia).

Fall 2020 offers three-semester hour courses that both non-degree-seeking students (such as those earning their endorsements in gifted education or interested parents) and degree-seeking students, include as part of their fall learning.  Teachers earning their endorsements in gifted education have registered as distance learners and enrolled for credits this fall (courses with no instructor listed are facilitated by Dr. Laurie Croft):

  • Psychology of Giftedness (PSQF:4120:0EXW), offered over Fall semester. (Dr. Toni Szymanski)
  • The Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (RCE/EDTL:4137:0EXW and 0EXV) has two sections for the first time.  Offered in an accelerated format over the first eight weeks of the semester, the class has enough students for two sections. (Drs. Laurie Croft and Kim Chandler)
  • Academic Acceleration (PSQF:4123:0EXW), offered in the second half of the semester, from October 12 – December 11. (Dr. Ann Shoplik)
  • Conceptions of Talent Development (EDTL:4067:0EXW), offered in the second eight weeks of the semester, from October 19 – December 18.

We also have one-semester-hour classes, offered in the workshop format, available this fall.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus over three weeks on one topic.  The credit correlated with the NAGC convention can be taken for either one or two semester hours—your choice—and will be based on participation in the fully online convention (the 67th annual convention is completely “re-imagined”!).

  • EDTL:4024:0WKA Differentiating with Technology will feature Dr. Jenelle Miller facilitating an exploration of the best online resources for gifted learners—as well as ways to engage learners without them plugging in for everything.  Dr. Miller’s class will begin on September 21 (through October 29) and will follow a webinar co-sponsored by the Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association, launching the topic of resources appropriate for gifted learners. (Look for that on our website at belinblank.org/webinar next week!)
  • EDTL:4096:0WKA Bibliotherapy for Gifted Learners is back by demand in October, featuring Dr. Kristine Milburn; Dr. Milburn has the expertise to facilitate your understanding of how bibliotherapy can engage gifted students with the right book at just the right time, and help our gifted/talented learners engage with a protagonist who successfully handles life’s challenges.
  • EDTL:4096:0WKB Creativity 101 Is a book study offered by Anna Payne in November/December providing an exploration of creativity and how we can inspire our students to embrace and develop the creativity we need them to bring to the world today.
  • One or two semester hours are also available for those who take the opportunity to attend the virtual NAGC convention in November.  (PSQF:5194:0WKA Continuing Education Individual Study: Leadership in Gifted Education NAGC 2020).  The convention costs less than ever, provides HUNDREDS of on-demand sessions, and those enrolling for credit get an automatic 50% tuition scholarship from the Belin-Blank Center.

The practicum experience required for the Talented and Gifted Endorsement is available every semester.

Let’s do the impossible together this fall.  Develop your understanding of the nature and needs of high-ability learners, and feel more confident about ways you can meet our students’ needs, whether they are learning in person, online only, or in a hybrid format.  These classes are designed to help you with any setting!

Learn more about the professional learning opportunities available through the Belin-Blank Center, in partnership with the University of Iowa College of Education, by visiting belinblank.org/educators/courses.  Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org.

Invent Iowa…Online!

Welcome back to another year of inventing, Iowa! We are excited to announce that we will be hosting the Invent Iowa State Convention on April 19, 2021. Due to the ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, students will participate virtually.

Invent Iowa state finalists have a strong track record of going on to win big at the National Invention Convention! For the past four consecutive years, Iowa students have brought home national prizes. Your future inventor could be next!

Our website has been updated to reflect dates and deadlines for the 2020-2021 academic year. If you plan to participate, be sure to mark your calendars for these important dates.

The free National Invention Convention curriculum can be accessed here.

Please feel free to pass along the information below to other educators or parents who may be interested in learning more about invention education.

Questions? We’re here to help at inventiowa@belinblank.org!

Save the Date for the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)

Mark your calendars for March 1st and 2nd, 2021! The JSHS online symposium promises new ways for Iowa students to connect, learn, and share their research.   

If you are looking for research projects that do not require a lab setting, consider using publicly available data sets or working on a citizen science project. And if you’re still unsure where to begin this year, be sure to check out this guide to getting started on a research project. 

We hope you’re inspired to get out there and start researching. For more details, be sure to keep an eye on our website. See you in March!

Let’s Talk 2e! Virtual Conference for Parents

Have you heard about Let’s Talk 2e! virtual conference? Launching for FREE on August 19-21, this conference (formerly known as “2 Days of 2e”) is for parents of twice exceptional children to learn about:

  • Managing Transitions
  • Spiritual giftedness
  • Strategies to address and relieve stress
  • Homeschooling
  • Alternative educational placements
  • Education Strategies
  • Identifying learning styles
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Communication
  • Culturally diverse learners
  • Strategies to address trauma
  • Bullying
  • Neurodiversity
  • Giftedness and Autism
  • Connecting personality and learning styles
  • Technology tips for your 2e learner
  • Launching your 2e child

Gain free access for 24 hours and then the option to purchase an ALL ACCESS PASS, which includes speaker gifts for you, audio files, and a live Q/A session with speakers!

Don’t miss our own Drs. Alissa Doobay, Megan Foley-Nipon, and Katie Schabilion’s session, “Twice Exceptionality: The Intersection of Giftedness and Autism” on August 20. And check out the rest of the incredible line-up below.

We hope you’ll join us! Register here.

Message from the Director: The Mission Continues

In April, I acknowledged the Belin-Blank Center’s “Big Pause,” aimed at doing our part to flatten the pandemic curve. We shared that summer coursework for educators and programs for students would not be as we had hoped.  Although programming was paused, the Belin-Blank Center’s mission to serve and empower the worldwide gifted education community was never on hiatus.

This mission requires us to examine our actions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  We consistently strive to address gaps in these areas; however, my colleagues and I know that we can do better.  We are stepping up our efforts to educate ourselves about the history and impact of racism, particularly as it relates to education.  We started with introspection, which will continue indefinitely as we also work to increase our awareness through dialogue and new learning.  We remain dedicated to diverse, equitable and inclusive programming that increases access to gifted education opportunities in underserved populations.  Based on our own enhanced awareness of the issues, we will be able to take informed actions to improve our programs and services.  

An important aspect of our approach will be to maintain a local focus while also addressing nationwide issues, including educational disparities that have been made salient through COVID-19.  Educators involved in gifted and talented education are aware of disparities in access to gifted programs, and the only federal legislation concerning gifted education, the Jacob Javits Gifted & Talented Students Education Act, has a singular focus on increasing access to underrepresented populations through funding research-based programming. There are two components to this funding.  First, the Javits Act provides grants to state education agencies.  Our TICE (Talent Identification-Career Exploration) project, which works with rural Iowa schools, was funded by one of these grants. 

The second part of the Javits Act establishes a national research center through a highly competitive proposal process approximately every five years.  Since 1988, the University of Connecticut has been awarded this funding.  We congratulate them on their extraordinary work, which was recently renewed.   We are honored that as part of that renewal, the Belin-Blank Center will be one of their partners. The research will focus on the following important questions:

  • How can we simplify identification systems while expanding participation opportunities for underserved students?
  • What impact do teachers have on gifted students’ academic success?
  • What are the benefits of gifted programs? How do they extend beyond academic achievement?
  • Can universal screening be effectively implemented for acceleration?

In the April newsletter, I shared my perspective that these past few months have created some challenges as we adapted to the changes made necessary by COVID-19.   However, we also recognized exciting new opportunities to grow and advance into the future.  My colleagues are hard at work developing new online programs for pre-college students.   We have long dreamt of increasing access to our programming through online options, and now we are poised to make this possible.  We will have more details on these programs, some of which you inspired with your suggestions, over the coming weeks. 

I hope that you are enjoying the sunshine while staying well and safe.  We will see you soon, online, with new, innovative programming that nurtures potential and inspires excellence.

Online Courses for Teachers

True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.

Nikos Kazantzakis, Greek writer, early 20th century

The Belin-Blank Center, in partnership with the academic departments in the University of Iowa College of Education, collaborates with educators who work with gifted learners, so that as teachers, counselors, and administrators, they feel confident about being bridges to their students’ futures! 

Teachers who work with gifted/talented learners in Iowa, and in several other states, must earn an endorsement in gifted education.  The State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement mandates a total of 12 hours in different “strands” that ensure teachers better understand the unique nature of gifted learners (the Psychology strand), how to better meet special needs that arise from being a gifted learner (the Programming strand), administrative kinds of issues that impact gifted education (the Administrative strand), and envision working with the K-12 gifted population (the Practicum experience).  The Center provides choices across the required strands so that earning the endorsement in one summer is possible (belinblank.org/courses).  For those who already have the endorsement, the focused one-semester-hour workshop-style classes are ideal for updating skills. 

Summer classes are fully online (classes are one-semester-hour unless otherwise noted):

  • Cognitive and Affective Needs of the Gifted (PSQF:4126:0WKA), June 29 – July 17 (Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon).
  • Practicum (EDTL:4188:0EXW), June 29 – August 6 (Dr. Laurie Croft, permission required; this section is typically for full-time students and/or those seeking more than one hour of practicum.  For the one required hour for endorsement, see EDTL:4189:0WKA, below)

Online classes continue in July and August:

  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4074:0WKA), July 8 – 28 (Dr. Kristine Milburn)
  • Practicum (EDTL:4189:0WKA), July 13 – 31 (Dr. Laurie Croft, permission required; this section is typically for those earning their endorsement in gifted education seeking the one required practicum hour. For those wanting more than one-hour of credit, or for those who are full-time university students, see EDTL:4188:0EXW).
  • Special Topics: Giftedness 101 (EDTL:4096:0WKC), July 15 – August 4 (Anna Payne)
  • Special Topics:  The Gifted Brain: Neurodiversity and Gifted/Talented Learners (EDTL:4096:0WKE), July 22 – August 11 (Dr. Antonia [Toni] Szymanski & Dr. Laurie Croft, team teacher)
  • Special Topics:  Personal Learning Plans (EDTL:4096:0WKB), August 3 – 21 (Lora Danker)

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua, named for the popular adult education movement in the early 20th century, is back in July.  This summer, Chautauqua classes will also be online; each will include virtual class times via Zoom on the dates the class would have met at Blank Honors Center, that is, the first two days of each class.  Scholarships for Chautauqua participants will remain the same.  We wrote more about this year’s changes to accommodate an online-only Chautauqua in A 19th-Century Idea Meets 21st-Century Technology.

Want to Support a Student?

We know that times are hard for many students and their families right now. On this #GivingTuesdayNow, we are grateful that the Iowa way is to support each other.

If you are able and would like to help gifted and twice-exceptional students have their unique needs met, please consider donating at belinblank.org/donate. Your support creates life-changing experiences for the next generation of our most promising minds.

Message from the Director: New Normal, Unchanged Mission

Many who are reading this message will have finished their day as a first responder, an essential worker, or a dedicated teacher who is adjusting to online teaching while taking care of young children.  Your commitment to the health and well-being of your communities inspires us and we are grateful.   As we adjust to the new normal of life during a pandemic and alter our behaviors and attitudes to do our part to flatten the curve, we focus on what has not changed. This “Big Pause” cannot blunt the Belin-Blank Center’s dedication to the educators, students, and families we serve.  Nor has it altered our mission of nurturing potential and inspiring excellence.

For educators, most of our summer courses and workshops will proceed as intended; the only exceptions are that we have canceled the AP Teacher Training Institute, and everything else will be online, including the two weeks of Chautauqua.  Chautauqua instructors will use some of the time that would have allowed face-to-face time on campus, scheduling some time to meet via Zoom over the first two days of each class.

The situation is different for our summer 2020 pre-college student programming. Every day since mid-March, we have examined how we might conduct – or simulate – our summer 2020 programs for elementary, middle, and high school students.  After six weeks, we recognized that our commitment and enthusiasm could not overcome the fact that the best way to ensure the safety of hundreds of 2nd through 11th graders as they attend programs on the University of Iowa’s campus was to (a) defer most of our pre-college programs to the summer of 2021 and (b) turn our attention and energy to planning for this coming fall and next spring and summer.  This will be the first summer since 1988 that pre-college students will not be on the UI campus during the summer.  Nevertheless, we remain inspired by our past programming and look forward to the future.

We are working on exciting new possibilities for meeting the needs of bright students, their teachers, and their families during and after the pandemic, and we would appreciate your input.  You can share your thoughts and offer suggestions by filling out this brief survey:

 https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2gdbgSRnrKXzaaV

The “Big Pause” has not only impacted the summer; it also affected our major spring events. Although we were able to enjoy the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Celebration on the University of Iowa campus in March, the JSHS national event took place virtually, and the national Scholastic Art and Writing Awards celebration will be online, as well.   Young inventors taking part in Invent Iowa submitted their clever inventions online well before the advent of social distancing; however, the State Invention Convention occurred online (and is still available to browse), and so too will the national convention.

Physically, we were able to transition to remote work without too much difficulty.  The Belin-Blank Center’s faculty and staff are all good-natured and their humor has served the Center well during the Pause.  Thanks to the amazing technical skills of the faculty and staff (and a few six-feet-apart computer equipment drop-offs!), we are still meeting as often as ever – if not more – writing our reports and manuscripts, teaching, and always planning for the future.

Psychologically, we have been working assiduously to juggle our personal and professional lives during this time of uncertainty and unpredictability.  In my humble opinion, the “Big Pause” is bringing out the best in an already superb cast of Belin-Blank Center professionals.  Each of us has examined the challenges of remotely working from home.  We have also considered positives, which go well beyond wearing sweatpants or pajamas and having no commute. 

Personally, I find the main positive and the major challenge are the same.  This “Big Pause” has been an opportunity to accept with greater humility that uncertainty and unpredictability have always been in the background and are now in the foreground of our lives.  Uncertainty and unpredictability lead to new and different ways of living and working.  New and different does not mean more or less, or better or worse.  New and different are simply challenges and opportunities, and with humility we can accept their place in our lives.

We hope you and yours are staying safe and well, and we look forward to the day when we can welcome you back to the Belin-Blank Center.  In the meantime, we strive to nurture potential and inspire excellence apart, together.

A Time for Learning

Do you remember when Frodo said, “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” and Gandalf responded, “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Those of us at the Belin-Blank Center believe that this time of physical distancing has to be a time for learning.  We’re all having to learn how to reach out to others virtually, supporting each other from a “safe distance.”   Professional learning opportunities are going to continue this summer, providing educators with more opportunities to understand the unique needs of gifted learners.  Educators will have more confidence in their abilities to support gifted learners’ social-emotional needs, as well as to challenge them academically.

An Iowa TAG Endorsement in One Summer

For someone with the desire to earn the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted, the Center provides choices of classes across the required strands so that earning the endorsement in one summer is possible (belinblank.org/endorsement).  For those who already have the endorsement, the focused, one-semester-hour, workshop-style classes are ideal for updating skills.  Summer classes begin in June with fully online options (classes are one-semester-hour unless otherwise noted):

  • Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (RCE:4137:0EXW – 3 semester hours), June 8 – July 27 (Dr. Susannah Wood)
  • Special Topics: Understanding and Addressing the Unique Needs of Gifted LGBTQ Students (EDTL:4096:0WKA), June 8 – 26 (Dr. Haley Wikoff)
  • Current Readings and Research (EDTL:4085:0WKA), June 15 – July 6 (Dr. Laurie Croft)
  • Math Programming for High Ability Learners (EDTL:4022), June 22 – July 13 (Dr. Ann Shoplik)
  • Cognitive and Affective Needs of the Gifted (PSQF:4126:0WKA), June 29 – July 17 (Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon).

Online classes continue in July and August:

  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4074:0WKA), July 8 – 28 (Dr. Kristine Milburn)
  • Special Topics: Giftedness 101 (EDTL:4076:0WKA), July 15 – August 4 (Anna Payne)
  • Special Topics:  The Gifted Brain: Neurodiversity and Gifted/Talented Learners (EDTL:4097:0WKE), July 22 – August 11 (Dr. Antonia [Toni] Szymanski & Dr. Laurie Croft, team teacher)
  • Special Topics:  Personal Learning Plans (EDTL:4096:0WKB), August 3 – 21 (Lora Danker)

Although we had looked forward to seeing you for Chautauqua in July, Chautauqua classes will also be online; each will include virtual class times via Zoom on the dates the class would have met at Blank Honors Center, that is, the first two days of each class.  Scholarships for Chautauqua participants will remain the same. Details on the changes to Chautauqua are outlined in a separate blog post.

Chautauqua classes include:

  • Special Topics:  Foundations of Giftedness: An Overview (EDTL:4096:0WKD) July 6 – 24, with Zoom time scheduled on July 6 and 7 (Dr. Susan Assouline & Dr. Laurie Croft, team teachers)
  • Science for High-Ability Learners (EDTL:4021:0WKA) July 8 – 28, with Zoom time scheduled on July 8 and 9 (Dr. Hallie Edgerly) 
  • Programming/Curriculum for High Ability:  Real-World Problem Solving (EDTL:4073:0WKA) July 10 – 30, with Zoom time scheduled on July 10 and 11(Dr. Kristine Milburn)   
  • Social Studies for High-Ability: Explorer Mindset (EDTL:4065:0WKA) July 13 – 31, with Zoom time scheduled on July 13 and 14 (Stacey Snyder)
  • Advanced Seminar:  Solution-Focused Skills for Working with Common Concerns of Gifted Students (RCE:5238:0WKA) July 15 – August 4, with Zoom time scheduled on July 15 and 16 (Dr. Susannah Wood)
  • Staff Development for Gifted Programs (EPLS:4113:0WKA) July 17 – August 6, with Zoom time scheduled on July 17 – 18 (Dr. Laurie Croft)

Get Registered

To participate in our classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most at belinblank.org/educators/reg.  All of our classes fulfill strands required for the endorsement.

A 19th-Century Idea Meets 21st-Century Technology

For several years, the Belin-Blank Chautauqua has mirrored the eponymous adult-education movement that was so popular in the late 1800s – early 1900s.  Classes have brought teachers together for an accelerated learning experience, as well as time to interact with one another.  Chautauqua has featured six separate workshops that met for two days each on campus, with additional online components. 

Summer 2020 will continue Chautauqua in a way those from the late 19th century could never have imagined. Participants can still choose one class, or the three classes in one week, or all six classes over the two weeks, from July 6 – August 6.  Those who enroll in all three workshops in one week still receive an automatic scholarship for the cost of graduate tuition for one class (you pay for two, the Center provides a full scholarship for one); those who attend all classes over both weeks still receive an automatic scholarship for the cost of graduate tuition for one class each week (you pay for four, the Center provides a full scholarship for two).

Instructors will schedule blocks of time each morning and afternoon to meet via Zoom on the two days the classes would have met on campus.

It’s easy to earn the Iowa TAG endorsement over two summers through Chautauqua, receiving scholarships both summers.  Chautauqua classes can be combined with online classes and practicum to complete the endorsement in one summer. Classes are always different from year to year; the one-semester-hour classes this summer include:

Week 1:           

Special Topics:  Foundations of Giftedness: An Overview (EDTL:4096:0WKD) July 6 – 24, with Zoom time scheduled on July 6 and 7 (Dr. Susan Assouline & Dr. Laurie Croft, team teachers)

Science for High-Ability Learners (EDTL:4021:0WKA) July 8 – 28, with Zoom time scheduled on July 8 and 9 (Dr. Hallie Edgerly)     

Programming/Curriculum for High Ability:  Real-World Problem Solving (EDTL:4073:0WKA) July 10 – 30, with Zoom time scheduled on July 10 and 11 (Dr. Kristine Milburn)

Week 2:           

Social Studies for High-Ability: Explorer Mindset (EDTL:4065:0WKA) July 13 – 31, with Zoom time scheduled on July 13 and 14 (Stacey Snyder)

Advanced Seminar:  Solution-Focused Skills for Working with Common Concerns of Gifted Students (RCE:5238:0WKA) July 15 – August 4, with Zoom time scheduled on July 15 and 16 (Dr. Susannah Wood)

Staff Development for Gifted Programs (EPLS:4113:0WKA) July 17 – August 6, with Zoom time scheduled on July 17 – 18 (Dr. Laurie Croft)

The one-semester-hour classes included in the list above are offered in the three-week workshop (i.e., 0WKA) format.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus for three weeks on one topic.

Get Registered

To participate in our classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most at belinblank.org/educators/reg.  All of our classes fulfill strands required for the endorsement.

Summer 2020 Student Programs Update

The Belin-Blank Center is committed to maintaining the safety and well-being of all our visitors and we have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic over the last several weeks. Following the guidance of the University of Iowa and College of Education leadership, we are sad to share that we must cancel many of our 2020 summer programs for K-12 students. After considering guidelines for social distancing, whether families and staff would be able to safely travel and stay on campus, and the protection and wellbeing of minors on campus during a pandemic, we made the difficult decision to cancel much of our summer programming. 

For information about a specific event or program, please check our Emergency Alerts page for further updates.

Photo by Magda Ehlers

We know this is difficult news to hear, and we share your disappointment. We are working hard to create future opportunities for talented students, and their families and teachers, to create community, learn new things, and be supported in their unique needs. Stay tuned! Given this year’s unexpected events, our Summer 2021 programs will be even more special.  

In the meantime, we hope you will stay connected with us through our website, newsletter, and social media channels (@belinblank on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram). If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at summer@belinblank.org.    

We will miss seeing our students this summer, and we hope you stay healthy, safe, and well during this unprecedented time. We look forward to seeing you again soon! 

SSTP Acceptance Status FAQ

Acceptance emails for the 2020 Secondary Student Training Program go out on April 1! With this information comes lots of questions, so here are answers to some of the most frequent questions we get.

Q: I’m an alternate. Why was I selected as an alternate?

A: Congratulations! Being an alternate means, you have an impressive and competitive application. After selecting students, we search for research group placements that match based on declared research interests, previous research experiences, and high school coursework. When the pieces fall into place, we offer a placement in a research group for the summer. In many cases, we are unable to provide students with outstanding application materials a spot in a research group because we are unable to find a suitable lab placement.

Q: I’m an alternate. What number am I on the waitlist?

A: We work to match you with your indicated research interest. Because of this, ranking the names on the waitlist 1 – 100 is not possible. When a student declines their invitation to SSTP, we look for an alternate with similar research interests that is a good match for the open seat.

Q: I’m an alternate. I really want to come to SSTP, but I’ve been invited to join other programs. What should I do? 

A: This is a question only you can answer. We cannot guarantee that anyone on the waitlist will be offered a spot in the SSTP program.

Q: What about COVID-19 concerns?

A: The Belin-Blank Center is committed to maintaining the safety and well-being of all our staff, students, and families, and we continue to actively monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. We are following the University of Iowa’s guidance and the CDC’s recommendations, and we will continue to do so throughout the duration of the situation. Furthermore, we continue to rely on University of Iowa leadership for guidance regarding our summer programs.

We have been told that the university will make decisions later this semester about face-to-face programs that begin mid-June or later. As soon as we have that information, the Belin-Blank Center will provide email updates to our program participants and their families about whether their program will proceed as planned or has been canceled, rescheduled, or modified for a different format. If the University of Iowa requires that we cancel a program due to COVID-19, all enrolled participants will receive a full refund of any program fees that they have already paid.

Q: I’m accepted! What’s next?

A: Congratulations! We look forward to your participation in SSTP. Once we have the decision from the University, we will send additional information. There are no further steps you need to take at this time. Assuming the program is able to proceed as planned, you will receive an email with information regarding your faculty mentor match, the first payment deadline, and additional program details.

Congratulations to all of the 2020 SSTP applicants! You are an impressive group of students and should be proud of your many accomplishments.

COVID-19 Update

In response to COVID-19, we are following the University of Iowa’s guidance and the CDC’s recommendations, and will continue to do so as the situation changes. We are committed to maintaining the safety and well-being of all our visitors.

Currently, all Belin-Blank Center events are scheduled to proceed as planned. As the days and weeks go on, please monitor our Emergency Alerts page often for updates about whether a specific Belin-Blank Center event or program has been canceled, rescheduled, or moved online.

If the University of Iowa requires that we cancel an event or program due to reasons related to COVID-19, all registered participants will receive a full refund of any paid fees associated with that event or program. They will also receive an email.

Upcoming Event or ProgramDate ScheduledStatus
(Current March 12, 2020)
AP Teacher Training InstituteJune 29 – July 2Proceeding as Planned
Belin-Blank Fellowship ProgramJune 21 – 26Proceeding as Planned
Blank Summer InstituteJune 22 – 26Proceeding as Planned
Bucksbaum Academy Information DayMarch 24Proceeding as Planned
Bucksbaum Academy Information DayApril 28Proceeding as Planned
Chautauqua IJuly 5 – July 11Proceeding as Planned
Chautauqua IIJuly 12 – July 18Proceeding as Planned
I-Excel test date at Belin-Blank CenterJune 11Proceeding as Planned
Invent Iowa State Invention CompetitionApril 20Proceeding as Planned
Javits-TICE Professional DevelopmentJune 15 – 16Proceeding as Planned
Junior Scholars Academy – Session 1June 15 – 19Proceeding as Planned
Junior Scholars Academy – Session 2June 22 – 26Proceeding as Planned
Junior Scholars Academy – Session 3July 6 – 10Proceeding as Planned
Junior Scholars Academy – Session 4July 13 – 17Proceeding as Planned
National Invention ConventionJune 3 – 5Proceeding as Planned
National JSHSApril 15 – 19Under Review
Perry Research Scholars InstituteJuly 6 – 17Proceeding as Planned
Secondary Student Training ProgramJune 17 – July 24Proceeding as Planned
STEM Excellence Professional DevelopmentJune 9 – 10Proceeding as Planned
Summer Art ResidencyJuly 6 – 24Proceeding as Planned
Summer Writing ResidencyJuly 6 – 24Proceeding as Planned
Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice ExceptionalityJuly 20 – 21Proceeding as Planned
Current as of March 12, 2020, 2:15pm CDT.

Assessment & Counseling Clinic

In order to maintain the health and safety of our staff and clients, please contact us to reschedule if you or your child are ill, if you have known exposure to COVID-19, or if you have recently traveled to a location with a high rate of COVID-19 (as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). We will work with you to ensure your rescheduled appointment occurs as soon as possible. If you are planning to travel by airplane for the evaluation, you may also consider rescheduling your child’s appointment to reduce risk of exposure.

Message from the Director: At the Edge of Knowledge, What do Students Need?

The needs of gifted students come from their strengths, not their deficits. 

I’m paraphrasing, slightly, what Executive Director of Western Kentucky’s Center for Gifted Studies, Professor Julia Link Roberts, expressed last month during Denver University’s annual Gifted Education Conference.  This simple yet elegant statement captures the essence of the Belin-Blank Center’s model for serving gifted and talented students from grade 2 through college.  Our strength-based model features various systems for discovering domain-specific talent and then developing that talent.  A strength-based model is synonymous with talent development.

Although highly effective, there is one critical group of educators who neither implement nor advocate for a strength-based model in which talents are developed.  The group is comprised of the vast majority of faculty in colleges of education across the country; the same individuals who prepare future teachers and counselors.  

This was the situation decades ago when I was preparing to be a science teacher, and it remains true today.  For example, students with strengths in science reasoning need to be able to do what scientists do – create hypotheses, conduct research, experience success…and fail, and start all over again. It’s the rare science classroom where students with strengths in scientific reasoning have regular opportunities to experience “science” during the school day.  The same is true for individuals with talent in mathematics. 

To some extent, the lack of emphasis on talent development in schools explains the popularity of university-based summer programs among parents and students.  Every summer, tens of thousands of elementary, middle, and high school students across the country take advantage of myriad programs and courses that build on their strengths and nurture the development of their talent.  The Belin-Blank Center’s programs are among these. Our students explore their interests and stretch their intellectual muscles in the Blank Summer Institute, the Perry Research Scholars Institute, the Secondary Student Training Program, Summer Art  Residency,  and Summer Writing Residency and find respite from the lack of challenge during the school year.

Educators who participate in the Belin-Blank Center’s summer professional development can observe talented pre-college students in programming that is uniquely strength-based and talent-development focused.  Our hope is that by observing a strength-based classroom, educators will see the importance of taking this model into their own classrooms during the academic year.  This is one of the most critical lessons from their professional development experience because for every student who attends a summer program in a university setting, there are several others who are equally talented but don’t have this opportunity.

Education doesn’t have to be strengths vs. deficit.  In fact, every program we offer, including outreach programming such as the STEM Excellence program, now in its sixth year of implementation in nine rural schools across Iowa, is an excellent example of a thriving strength-based program that aims to develop the math and science talents of middle-school students.

Our work in twice-exceptionality offers additional evidence that understanding a student’s strengths is as important as understanding their challenges.  Individuals with a diagnosed disability or disorder face challenges (deficits) that can – and must – be addressed. However, this should be done in alignment with developing their strengths.

The strength-based approach is the essence of our collaborative twice-exceptional research agenda with our Iowa Neuroscience Institute partners. This work uses an unprecedented amount of data from our Assessment and Counseling Clinic to better understand the relationship between high ability and challenges in learning, social-emotional development, or behavior. Indeed, understanding the role of cognitive strengths within the context of learning and social-emotional difficulties is a critical aspect of the research we are conducting.  It is only with a sample of twice-exceptional individuals, who have both intellectual strengths and cognitive challenges, that each of these can be controlled for, allowing researchers to examine their effects both independently and combined.

We are looking forward to bringing together researchers, clinicians, educators, and parents to learn about the research on twice-exceptionality at the Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality this July. We invite you to join us in discussing new, unprecedented studies of twice-exceptionality, the future of research in this field, and the possibilities available for collaboration among institutions, gifted education organizations, and talent development centers in order to advance our understanding of this unique population and their strengths and challenges.

The needs of gifted students – and the professionals who are involved in their education – come from strengths not deficits.  Yet, for the foreseeable future, deficit models in education will likely dominate our thinking – and funding.  I recommend that we “lean into” the current deficit model and use it as a platform to reveal the many advantages to including a strength-based approach in gifted education and talent development.  We will continue to share our perspective and research findings, and we hope to see you at one of our events or programs soon.

Not Your Ordinary Science Fair

Conducting original research projects will spark students’ curiosity. Through research processes, students develop 21st-century skills and meet Next Generation Science Standards. Ok, you’re convinced. You’re ready for students to work on research projects. But how do you take student research out of the classroom and into the world? 

The Iowa Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) is a high school science research competition, grounded in engaging students in unique research experiences. The uniqueness of Iowa JSHS begins with students submitting a symposium proposal in the form of a scientific article. (See how to write a scientific article.) The symposium proposal is an authentic audience for whom students write. Students put their work out into the world, and a panel of experts reviews each submission for potential inclusion in the symposium. 

The premier event of Iowa JSHS is students listening to presentations of research that has been conducted by their peers. Presenting at Iowa JSHS is an exciting experience, but for students in the audience, seeing what is possible through near-peer mentorship is an impactful experience. Yet, Iowa JSHS is more than students presenting research. Time is provided for the students to socialize, forming impactful connections resulting in life-long friendships. Iowa JSHS also enables students to experience a research-intensive university first hand. Through laboratory tours, students get a backstage pass to world-class labs and the professional scientific community. 

Any school in Iowa can bring five students to attend Iowa JSHS free of charge, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Tri-Services and the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Iowa JSHS truly is an experience that goes beyond the ordinary science fair. If you’re interested in learning more, send us an e-mail at jshs@belinblank.org and check out our website

Everything Needed for the State of Iowa TAG Endorsement in One Summer

For someone with the desire to earn the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement, the Belin-Blank Center provides choices of classes across the required strands so that earning the endorsement in one summer is possible (belinblank.org/endorsement)!

Here, we’ve compiled a list of the available options to earn all 12 hours of credit for the endorsement through the Belin-Blank Center this summer.

Online Classes (various semester hours)

Summer classes begin in June with fully online options:

  • Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (RCE:4137:0EXW – 3 semester hours), June 8 – July 27 (Dr. Susannah Wood)
  • Special Topics: Understanding and Addressing the Unique Needs of Gifted LGBTQ Students (EDTL:4096:0WKA – 1 semester hour), June 8 – 26 (Dr. Haley Wikoff)
  • Current Readings and Research (EDTL:4085:0WKA – 1 semester hour), June 15 – July 6 (Dr. Laurie Croft)
  • Cognitive and Affective Needs of the Gifted (PSQF:4125:0WKA – 1 semester hour), June 29 – July 17 (Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon).

Online classes continue in July:

  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4976:0WKA – 1 semester hour), July 8 – 28 (Dr. Kristine Milburn)
  • Special Topics: Giftedness 101 (EDTL:4076:0WKA – 1 semester hour), July 15 – August 4 (Anna Payne)   

Additional opportunities in July include face-to-face time on the University of Iowa campus:

Advanced Placement Teacher Training

EDTL:5080:0WKA (2 semester hours) plus EDTL:4976:0WKA (1 semester hour)

The AP Summer Institute sponsored by the Belin-Blank Center will take place from June 29 – July 2. The credit option will officially begin for those who attend the Institute on July 6 – 14 (Dr. Laurie Croft), giving participants time to get enrolled.  Those who choose to enroll in this two-semester-hour credit receive an automatic 50% tuition scholarship applied to the cost of graduate credit.  The credit is earned through participation in the Institute, as well as any follow-up assignments from the College Board Consultants.  Those APTTI participants who choose to extend their learning experience by enrolling in Differentiation at the Secondary Level (am additional 1 semester hour; see above) receive a 50% scholarship for that class, as well.

Neuroscientific Implications for the Gifted

(PSQF:4128:0WKA – 1 semester hour)

The Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality, co-hosted by the Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute will take place on July 20 – 21 on the University of Iowa campus.  The Summit will bring educators an opportunity to interact with researchers, clinicians, and parents to address the state of research on twice-exceptionality, as well as best practices for supporting 2E students.  The credit option will officially begin for those who attend the Summit on July 27 – August 14 (Dr. Laurie Croft), giving participants time to enroll.  The credit is earned through reflecting on the Summit, selecting relevant readings, and designing an action plan for advocacy or instruction, meeting personal needs.  Summit participants receive an automatic 50% tuition scholarship, applied to the cost of graduate credit.

Belin-Blank Chautauqua

(up to 6 semester hours)

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua mirrors the adult-education movement that was so popular in the late 1800s – early 1900s!  Classes bring teachers together for an accelerated learning experience, as well as time to interact with one another.  Chautauqua features six separate workshops meeting for two-days each on campus, with additional online components.  You can choose one class, or the three classes in one week, or all six classes over the two weeks, from July 6 – August 6.  Those who attend all three workshops in one week receive an automatic scholarship for the cost of graduate tuition for one class (you pay for two, the Center provides a full scholarship for one); those who attend all classes over both weeks receive an automatic scholarship for the cost of graduate tuition for one class each week (you pay for four, the Center provides a full scholarship for two).

It’s easy to earn the endorsement over two summers through Chautauqua, receiving scholarships both summers. Classes are always different from year to year; the one-semester-hour classes this summer include:

Week 1:            Special Topics:  Personal Learning Plans for Gifted (EDTL:4096:0WKB), July 6-7 on campus – July 24 (Lora Danker

Science for High-Ability Learners (EDTL:4021:0WKA), July 8-9 on campus – July 28  (Dr. Hallie Edgerly) July 10-11 – July 30:         

Programming/Curriculum for High Ability:  Real-World Problem Solving  (EDTL:4073:0WKA), July 12 – 13 on campus – July 30(Dr. Kristine Milburn)          

Week 2:            Social Studies for High-Ability: Explorer Mindset  (EDTL:4065:0WKA), July 13-14 on campus – July 31 (Stacey Snyder)

                        Advanced Seminar:  Solution-Focused Skills for Working with Common Concerns of Gifted Students (RCE:5238:0WKA), July 15-16 on campus – Aug 4 (Dr. Susannah Wood)

                        Staff Development for Gifted Programs (EPLS:4133:0WKA), July 17-18 on campus – Aug 6 (Dr. Laurie Croft)

The one-semester-hour classes included in the list above are offered in the three-week workshop (i.e., 0WKA) format.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus for three weeks on one topic.

For those who already have the endorsement, the focused one-semester-hour workshop-style classes are ideal for updating skills. 

To participate in our classes, you must register with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most; follow belinblank.org/educators/reg.  All of our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.

Springing into Professional Development

In the spring—and it’s looking like spring in Eastern Iowa–a teacher’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … professional learning opportunities in the summer.  Alfred, Lord Tennyson, originated the wording for a different audience, but it’s true that teachers are always looking for better ways to help their students achieve.  The Belin-Blank Center offers professional learning opportunities throughout the spring and the summer to provide educators with more opportunities to understand the unique needs of gifted learners, supporting their social emotional needs and challenging them academically.

To participate in our classes, you must register with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars by registering for undergraduate credit.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most; follow belinblank.org/educators/reg.  All of our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.

This is a list of classes still available this spring:

  • Gender Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4123:0WKA – 1 semester hour), March 23 – April 11. (Dr. Jolene Teske)
  • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education (EDTL:4066:0EXW – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from March 23 – May 15 (Dr. Laurie Croft)
  • Differentiated Instruction for the Gifted (EDTL:4025:0WKA – 1 semester hour), April 13 – May 1. (Debra “Debbie” Judge)

The one-semester-hour classes included in the list above are offered in the three-week workshop (0WKA) format.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus for three weeks on one topic.

Thinking About Perfectionism

By Gerald Aungst

Thanks to Gerald Aungst, Curiosity Engineer (@GeraldAungst, www.geraldaungst.com) for writing this guest post.

Parents have many questions while raising a gifted child. Some seek advice about perfectionism.

Many sources, including some psychologists and the National Association for Gifted Children, refer to two types of perfectionism: “healthy” and “unhealthy.”  The healthy type, sometimes called adaptive perfectionism, describes people who consistently pursue excellence and persist in reaching those goals. Greenspon (2000) argues, though, that this isn’t actually perfectionism because those people aren’t seeking perfection. Instead, their behavior may be better described as perseverance, high achievement, and having high standards.

Although it is often listed as a common characteristic of giftedness, research has failed to find a link; in general, perfectionism is as likely to appear in both gifted and non-gifted populations (Pyryt, 2004). It is still worth understanding perfectionism and asking how to support and help gifted children who are perfectionists.

Characteristics of perfectionism

Though perfectionism can manifest differently in different children, there are a few common characteristics:

Perceived conditional acceptance

Perfectionists believe their worth as a person hinges on their ability to perform perfectly. They cannot see their own worth and accept themselves only if they are perfect. This leads to a dichotomy: the child and their work is either perfect, or it is worthless.

Procrastination

Perfectionists can feel intimidated by the need to complete the task perfectly, so they delay or avoid it.

No satisfaction from achievement

Since perfection is not actually achievable, perfectionists gain no satisfaction from real achievements. It doesn’t matter how well they perform or what they accomplish; the child believes their work is never good enough.

Transforming desires (wants) into demands (musts)

When perfectionists want to do something well, they interpret that as a requirement to perform perfectly. This can lead to a compulsive drive to succeed. Perfectionists may also feel guilty if they are not constantly working. There is no downtime.

Addressing perfectionism

Research suggests several things that can help.  Perfectionism is not a disease or disorder. It is a mindset and belief system. Changing this mindset takes time and persistence. Steady, consistent, patient guidance from parents and others over the long term is the most effective course.

Don’t tell them how to be

 “Telling a perfectionist not to be so hard on him- or herself may make logical sense; what he or she is likely to hear, however, is the criticism that he or she has not been a good enough perfectionist” (Greenspon, 2000, p. 206). Remember that they already believe their worth in your eyes is tied to their perfection, so directly telling them what to do or not do will be perceived through that filter.

Recognize that perfectionism isn’t a positive trait

Perfectionism doesn’t necessarily result in high performance. Perfectionism can impede productivity through procrastination and learned helplessness (Ullrich, 2013).

Affirming environment

To turn around a perfectionist child’s self-perception requires the adults around that child to build an affirming environment:

  • Point out your own imperfections and failures, modeling how to persist and feel valued even when you do not succeed.
  • Emphasize effort and process, not end results.
  • Give affection, support, and encouragement liberally regardless of whether goals are met; withholding these can promote perfectionism.

Help children set realistic expectations

Perfectionists have unrealistic expectations for themselves. They set goals beyond their capabilities.

  • Avoid setting high standards that are non-negotiable.  Show children how expectations can change when circumstances change.
  • Know when good enough is good enough. Teach children how to recognize that it is time to be done and move on.
  • Teach children to allocate their time based on the importance of an assignment; perfectionists will spend large amounts of time on a low-value or small task just to keep fine tuning it.
  • Change the goal. Instead of an end-product, focus on improvement and enjoyment.

Study lives of successful people

Though successful people may seem to be models of perfection, help children to learn that most successful people have flaws and failures in their lives.

Perfectionism is a challenge, but with perseverance and support from adults, a perfectionist child can learn to see their inherent worth and that they do not need to be perfect to make a valuable and meaningful contribution to their world.

References

Greenspon, T. S. (2000). “Healthy perfectionism” is an oxymoron! Reflections on the psychology of perfectionism and the sociology of science. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 11(4), p. 197-208.

Greenspon, T. (2010). Tips for Parents: Perfectionism. http://www.davidsongifted.org/search-database/entry/a10567

National Association for Gifted Children. (n.d.). Perfectionism. https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources-parents/social-emotional-issues/perfectionism

Pyryt, M. (2004, June). Helping Gifted Students Cope with Perfectionism. http://www.davidsongifted.org/search-database/entry/a10459

Ullrich, J. (2013, September 26). Perfectionism as a Roadblock to Productivity: The truth behind the personality trait. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-modern-time-crunch/201309/perfectionism-roadblock-productivity

Message from the Director: Visions for 2020

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”  

-Jonathan Swift

With the year 2020 staring us in the face and ushering in a new decade, it’s hard to resist “vision” metaphors.  I’ve always appreciated this quote by Jonathan Swift; in fact, we featured it during the January 2004 opening of the Blank Honors Center, where the Belin-Blank Center is housed.  In retrospect, this quote was a great choice for the occasion, because it characterizes the optimism and collective energy that the Belin-Blank Center’s staff pour into our work for bright students and their teachers. Over the past 16 years, we have enjoyed this wonderful space and created many engaging opportunities, always looking toward the goal of nurturing potential and inspiring excellence. 

Looking forward, opportunities in 2020 abound! Indeed, there is no better time than the shortest days of winter to envision the long, warm days of summer 2020 and the classes being planned for students and teachers. We are pleased to let you know that applications for our student summer programs are now open!

In our planning, we aspire to be as responsive as possible to the needs of our program participants.  For example, for several years, we’ve offered University of Iowa credit to high school students enrolled in the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) and the Scholastic Art and Writing Residencies.  New in 2020, we will offer 1 semester hour of University of Iowa undergraduate credit to students attending the Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI).

2020 brings additional changes to our elementary and middle school student programming. Two of our previous programs, Blast and the Junior Scholars Institute, have joined forces to create a new commuter program for 2nd – 8th graders, called the Junior Scholars Academy (JSA)! Through JSA, the full complement of coursework offered in the two former programs will be available to students who live within commuting distance to the Blank Honors Center (on the University of Iowa campus).

Our high school programs have always been residential because that aspect is a very important component of the whole-student experience.  We will maintain a residential component for 7th and 8th graders through the Blank Summer Institute (BSI).  BSI, a signature program for junior high school students, was the original Belin-Blank Center student program.  Co-founders Myron and Jacqueline Blank had phenomenal vision; they saw what was invisible to others, which is that junior high is a critical time for students to have enriching and engaging learning experiences in order to be successful in school.

Educators will also have a new opportunity this summer. In addition to the Chautauqua series, professionals will be able to participate in our inaugural Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality, co-hosted by the Belin-Blank Center and our Iowa Neuroscience Institute colleagues.

A proper December message requires mention of New Year’s resolutions, which are usually intended to help us improve in some way.  Making a resolution requires vision.  Take a peek at our many opportunities available for students and educators seeking improvement through engagement and challenge, especially during the long days of summer when school is not in session.  Such experiences are life-changing and profound in ways often invisible to others. We hope to see you next summer!

May this season of gratitude and giving usher in a bright new year and a decade of promise and inspiration.

Professional Development in 2020

Oprah Winfrey is one of the many notables that have contributed thoughts for the new year, saying, “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”

At the Belin-Blank Center, we have been getting professional development right for four decades!  We invite you to join us through the gifted-teachers listserv (belinblank.org/listserv), through our Facebook (facebook.com/BelinBlank), and Twitter (@belinblank) accounts, through our blog (belinblank.wordpress.com), and through our professional development opportunities coming up (belinblank.org/educators/courses).  We know that you are committed to understanding the varied needs of gifted/talented children, and learning about ways that parents, teachers, and friends can meet those needs. 

To participate in our classes, you must register with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most; follow belinblank.org/educators/reg.  All of our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.

Here is a list of what’s coming up, organized in chronological order. All of these are online and asynchronous. Courses with no instructor listed are facilitated by Dr. Laurie Croft):

  • Current Readings & Research in Gifted Education (EDTL:4085:0WKA – 1 semester hour), winter session class shaped to your needs, December 30, 2019 – January 17, 2020.
  • Practicum in Gifted Education (various start dates for different populations—EDTL:4188:0001 is for full-time students in the College of Education and spans the entire semester; EDTL:4188:0EXW is for educators who want to earn more than one hour of practicum, March 24 – May 9; and EDTL:4188:0WKA is for educators who want to earn the one required hour of practicum, April 14 – May 4.  One ICON site that opens in January.).
  • Program Models in Gifted Education (EDTL:4199:0EXA – 3 semester hours), first spring class offered in an accelerated format from January 21 – March 14.
  • Identification of Students for Gifted Programs (PSQF:4121:0EXW – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from January 28 – March 27. (Dr. Susan Assouline)
  • Administration and Policy in Gifted Education (EPLS:4110:0EXW – 2 semester hours), offered from February 4 – May 1. (Dr. Randy Lange)
  • Math Programming for High Ability Students (EDTL:4067:0EXW – 1 semester hour), February 26 – March 24. (Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik)
  • Gender Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4123:0WKA – 1 semester hour), March 23 – April 11. (Dr. Jolene Teske)
  • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education (EDTL:4066:0EXW – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from March 23 – May 15.
  • Differentiated Instruction for the Gifted (EDTL:4025:0WKA – 1 semester hour), April 13 – May 1. (Debra “Debbie” Judge)

The one-semester-hour classes included in the list above are offered in the three-week workshop (0WKA) format.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus for three weeks on one topic.

Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org.