If all the recent school closure days have you thinking ahead to how you’re going to keep your children occupied over summer vacation, now is a great time to start planning! At the Belin-Blank Center, we specialize in bright kids. Whether or not they participate in their school’s gifted and talented program, if your child shows a deep curiosity when a topic sparks their interest, a love of learning, or a particular talent in an area, they will feel right at home here!
Our summer programs are designed specifically for students in grades 2-11 who want to take a deep dive into a topic while having fun with other kids who share their level of interest and ability. Students get to choose one class to focus on all day, for a full week – and these aren’t just any regular classes!
For example, grade school students can choose from classes such as Harry Potter, STEAM, Mixed Media Art, Virtual Reality, and Programming in our Blast program. Middle school schools students can apply for our Junior Scholars Institute (JSI) to explore Leadership, Women in Engineering, Archaeology, 3D Printing, or a Mixed Media art workshop, among many other options. High school students can learn about the research process and just what is involved in creating new knowledge in our Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI). Class sizes are kept small (a maximum of 16-20, depending on age group), to ensure that each student has a positive experience learning something they enjoy.
The programs take place on the University of Iowa campus, giving students access to valuable university-level experts and resources. Our instructors are vetted professionals, including classroom teachers, local artists, and professors who have the expertise to delve into a subject at an advanced level, while keeping it accessible for the age group. Classes utilize specialized spaces and equipment, such as research laboratories, the Van Allen Observatory, 3D printing facilities, the National Advanced Driving Simulator, art studios, maker spaces and the university library.
We understand that many bright students may also have a disability or impairment that can present behavioral, emotional, social, or learning challenges. Our staff are experts in gifted education and talent development, and we offer specialized social and academic support for these twice-exceptional students.
If you think our programs sound like a good fit for your child, be sure to check them out at www.belinblank.org/summer. Payment plans and financial aid are available. With options for students from elementary to high school, covering a wide range of topics, we’re sure to have something for you and your family. We can’t wait for you to join us this summer!
This is when we need to start shifting our thinking from creating one
gifted program that serves the “all-around gifted student” to providing
services for students with strengths in specific areas. This shift in thinking
helps us to be more responsive to our students’ needs and helps ensure that
they are challenged in school every day.
Subject acceleration (also called content acceleration) is useful for students who have demonstrated advanced ability in one or more academic areas. Examples include a 2nd grader moving into the 3rd grade classroom for reading, a student taking an Advanced Placement (AP) course, or grouping several advanced 6th graders for math instruction. Subject acceleration can be appropriate for a high-ability student who isn’t recommended for whole-grade acceleration, exhibits an uneven academic profile with an extreme strength area, or has already skipped a grade but needs additional challenge in one area.
Some people might be concerned that subject acceleration may
cause academic harm or put students in situations that are too challenging. Research (such as that provided in A Nation
Empowered) tells us otherwise:
High ability students engage in abstract
thinking at a younger age than typical students.
Accelerated students do not have gaps in their
Accelerated students will not run out of
courses before high school graduation. (Students never really run out of
content to study, but the high school might not offer the next course that is
needed. In this situation, a student might need to utilize other options, such
as dual enrollment or online coursework.)
Accelerated students do not “burn out.” Research
shows that acceleration leads to higher levels of achievement.
Others may argue that, “We already have enrichment, so why
do students need content acceleration?” We agree that STEM clubs, science
fairs, English festivals, and pull-out programs provide valuable enrichment.
However, they do not provide a systematic progression through the curriculum.
Subject acceleration has many advantages:
The regular classroom teacher does not have to
search for materials for the advanced student, because that student is removed
during class (for example, the student moves to a different class for math).
It is more likely that the student will be
grouped with intellectual peers.
The student receives credit for work completed.
The student is appropriately challenged and
therefore remains interested in the subject (and in school).
Research clearly supports the use of
acceleration with academically talented students.
The disadvantages of subject acceleration include:
Although the student is now working at a higher level, the pace may still be too slow.
If the student is accelerated by only one year, there may be little new content.
The student may not receive credit for high school courses completed before enrolling in high school due to district policies.
Additional planning and discussion time may be required, if subject acceleration is new in a school or to a particular group of educators.
Long-term planning is essential, so the student does not “run out” of coursework before graduating from high school.
Utilizing subject acceleration can be challenging, and it requires
us to consider a variety of questions:
How are grades and credit assigned?
When completing the school’s regular testing,
which grade-level achievement test does the student take (“age-appropriate” or
What transportation is needed?
How do we schedule the same subject at the same
time for the two grade levels? (For example, one district offers math at the
same time every day across the district, so students don’t miss another subject
if they are accelerated for math.)
What indicators of accelerated coursework are
needed on the student’s transcript?
How is class rank determined?
Subject acceleration requires careful thought and planning. However, the time invested in thinking through some of the challenges and long-term issues presented by subject acceleration provides an important result: students who are appropriately challenged and engaged in school.
Have you wondered why certain methods of curriculum modification work better than others for high-ability kids? Are you curious about the interplay of research, policy, and best practice in gifted education? Are you always looking for new ways to advocate for bright students?
Whatever your involvement with bright students, our upcoming webinar can help you understand the research and best practices for working with them.
Counseling in Gifted Education: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going
Drs. Megan Foley Nicpon and Susannah Wood January 30, 4:30 – 6:00 PM
Counseling is considered an integral part of the “whole child” approach to working with gifted children. This webinar session will a) provide a historical overview of counseling the gifted; b) highlight 10 major areas of research related to counseling the gifted individual; and c) apply these findings via recommendations for practice for counselors, teachers and administrators.