Tag Archives: gifted education

How Do We Prepare a Student for Academic Acceleration?

Josie is a 3rd grade student who gets high grades, has several good friends, and is in the school’s gifted program. It’s obvious to her parents and teachers that she is not challenged by the 3rd grade curriculum. The team of parents, teachers, and administrators met several times to talk about acceleration for Josie. They decided to move Josie up to 4th grade. BUT WAIT. Nobody has talked with Josie about this.

Let’s do a rewind and set this transition up for success.

At the beginning of the school year, Josie’s parents met with the gifted coordinator, Mrs. Fernandez, and talked about the possibility of acceleration for Josie. Mrs. Fernandez talked with Josie’s parents about discussing acceleration with Josie, and she made a plan to talk with Josie as well.

How might Mrs. Fernandez approach Josie with the idea of a possible grade skip?

  1. It’s helpful for both the parents/guardians and a teacher to have one or more conversations with the student before a formal meeting discussing acceleration.
  2. Change can be hard, even when we really want that change. The student might need some extra time to think about and discuss the change, even if she’s been complaining bitterly about not being challenged in school.
  3. How do educators talk with the student about acceleration? If you ask a student, “Do you want to leave your class and go to another one?” the tendency is to say no. It’s more helpful to ask broad questions, such as “What do you like about school?” and “What parts could be better?” or “If you were in charge of the school, what would you change for yourself?”
  4. Think about how much we should tell students before any changes are made, so they understand they are being considered for acceleration. Younger students need less information. Older students need more. Ask the student what he or she thinks about the possibility of subject acceleration or moving up into a higher grade.
  5. In conversation, you might ask the student if he or she knows older kids inside or outside of school (maybe older cousins or older kids in the neighborhood). Help them to realize they already know some older students and can build relationships with them.
  6. It’s helpful to let the student know that there are many ways to think about offering additional challenge, and academic acceleration is one of them. Let them know that you are having a meeting to talk about this possibility and to gather more information. 
  7. Answer the student’s questions. Let them know, “We want to make sure this is the right decision for you, and we are finding the right place for you.”
  8. If you ask, “What worries you?” the answer might be going into a room with a new teacher or being uncertain if they will know any of the other students in the new class. The student might be concerned that “The older kids will laugh at me.” What is a big issue to a 6-year-old isn’t necessarily a big issue to adults. But to this student, it is a big deal, so it should be addressed as a legitimate question or concern.
  9. Before the team meeting occurs, it’s helpful to prepare the student for different possibilities. If the decision is made not to skip a grade or move ahead in a certain subject, it doesn’t mean the student failed. It’s all about finding the right match for the student.
  10. No matter what the outcome, someone needs to talk to the student after the meeting to let him or her know (in age-appropriate terms) about any decisions made.
  11. If the student is accelerated, an educator should be assigned to the student to help with the transition for acceleration. This special teacher has the opportunity to develop a relationship with the student and be viewed as a trusted person who can help out on a hard day. Additionally, it’s important to consider what specific skills the student will need in order to make a successful transition to acceleration. These skills might be learning how to work a locker, figuring out lunchroom routines, or doing three-digit addition. A thoughtful transition period plan is key to success.
  12. Students will be reassured if they learn that other students have already done this successfully. It might even be helpful for the student to have a phone conversation with an older student who accelerated previously.
  13. Parents will also appreciate the opportunity to talk with other parents who have experienced acceleration with their children. If it isn’t easy to make these parent-to-parent connections,  they might enjoy reading some of the stories of acceleration included in Volume 1 of A Nation Empowered.
  14.  Acceleration decisions must be the result of a team approach. The adult members of the team need to remain student-focused during the process. This is best employed through open communication with the student, including during the transition period.

Integrated Acceleration System

Experts at the Belin-Blank Center have developed a tool to help you through the acceleration decision-making process. The Integrated Acceleration System is an interactive online tool that brings together all the relevant information to help you decide if acceleration is a good fit for your student. It generates a multi-page report that offers evidence-based recommendations, provides resources, and helps the student, parents, and educators better understand the student’s academic needs.

Sign up here to receive updates about this new online system and more information about academic acceleration. We post a blog about acceleration approximately twice a month. If you have questions, contact us at acceleration@belinblank.org.

We’re planning an online professional development session about the Integrated Acceleration System in Spring 2022. Send an email to acceleration@belinblank.org if you would like to be notified about the date of that session.

10 Reasons to Get Started on JSHS Projects

Now that the school year is underway, it’s time for Iowa high school students and teachers to get started on projects for the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. Your future selves will thank you!

If you are a high school student thinking that you would like to solve a problem, stretch yourself, and stand out – now is the time to get started on an original research project so you can present it at the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

If you are a teacher looking for opportunities for your students to present their work to an authentic audience of experts, explore STEM careers, and build a sense of belonging, start planning for JSHS now

Top 10 Reasons to Join Us at the 2022 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium:

  1. The symposium is returning to the University of Iowa campus!
  2. Learn how you can use publicly available data sets or working on a citizen science project to conduct research without a lab.
  3. Get hot tips from the brains behind a video series we made to teach you how to conduct a data science project. Check it out!
  4. Get a backstage pass to cutting edge University of Iowa research facilities like the National Advanced Driving Simulator. Since we know you can’t wait, here’s a 360 virtual tour to tide you over. 
  5. Trivia night is back! Geek out with nerds from across the state in a friendly competition. 
  6. Experience the wonders of the newest dining hall on campus where you can have sushi, a made to order burger, a Southwest salad, and pancakes all for lunch.
  7. Be inspired by research presented by students in Iowa who win big scholarships at National JSHS.
  8. Every high school in Iowa can bring 5 students and a teacher for FREE. We sponsor housing, meals, and all activities – including a trip down the lazy river
  9. Five students will win scholarships and an all expense paid trip to National JSHS in Albuquerque, NM.
  10. If we can’t meet on campus, we will meet online for virtual presentations, tours, and activities that span the globe. 

Join us on Monday, March 7 and Tuesday, March 8, 2022. 

Global Principles for Professional Learning in Gifted Education

The World Council for Gifted and Talented Children (WCGTC) hosted a virtual conference over the summer, and one of the most exciting things shared was the new “Global Principles for Professional Learning in Gifted Education.” 

In the United States, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has provided sets of standards to help define best practices in Pre-K – Grade 12 Programming, Teacher Preparation in Gifted Education (in collaboration with the Council for Exceptional The Association for the Gifted [CEC TAG], and Knowledge and Skills in Gifted & Talented Education for All Teachers. The new WCGTC principles suggest the 10 most important concepts for professional development in gifted education, to strengthen local and regional practices on behalf of gifted children around the world.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Several scholars involved in the development of the principles share a presentation available to the public. A poster with the 10 global principles is available to download and share or post. The full document, with research-based rationales that could be of interest to educators anywhere, is available at https://world-gifted.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/professional-learning-global-principles.pdf.

The last of the 10 principles, Empowering, is one of the most important to the Belin-Blank Center. The Center has long committed its professional development opportunities to empowering the gifted community, and throughout the academic year, educators can enroll in a variety of classes, including three-semester-hour coursework as well as one- and two-semester hour “workshops” that expand understanding about themes significant to identifying and understanding gifted children and their unique needs. Coursework, aligned with NAGC standards, encourages professionals to adopt best practices for meeting the needs of advanced learners, from acceleration to classroom differentiation to homogeneous grouping. Classes also provide insights into programming options that facilitate optimal learning environments.

The current schedule of courses is available at belinblank.org/courses; specifics about the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement are available at belinblank.org/endorsement. Visit our website for directions about registering with Distance and Online Education to take coursework as a non-degree-seeking student.  Share questions with us at educators@belinblank.org or give us a call at 319-335-6148! We look forward to collaborating with you to provide the best possible programming for gifted/talented children!

What’s the Best-Kept Secret in Gifted Education? Above-Level Testing.

We have said it before: the secret of above-level testing is really not much of a secret. It’s used extensively by university-based centers of gifted education.  Unfortunately, it is under-utilized by schools. This secret is hiding in plain sight!

What is above-level testing and how can it be used? Above-level testing is useful for decisions about:

  1. Identifying a student for a gifted program
  2. Determining what a student is ready to learn next
  3. Informing decisions about subject-matter acceleration
  4. Informing decisions about readiness to skip a grade

“Above-level testing” is exactly what it sounds like:  Give a younger student a test that was developed for older students. 

This idea was pioneered over one hundred years ago by Dr. Leta Hollingworth, sometimes called the “mother” of gifted education.  This concept was fully developed by Dr. Julian Stanley in the 1970s when he devised the “Talent Search” in which 7th and 8th graders took the college admissions exam, the SAT. 

Fast forward to the present day, and above-level testing is used extensively in outside-of-school programs for gifted students. In fact, hundreds of thousands of students around the world take above-level tests each year as part of university-based talent searches, such as the one offered by the Belin-Blank Center.  Some of these tests used are the SAT, ACT, and I-Excel.

Unfortunately, above-level tests are not used extensively in typical school gifted programs, but we would like to change that!

Academically talented students tend to perform extremely well on tests developed for their own age group. They do so well that they get everything (or almost everything) right, and we don’t really know what the extent of their talents might be. 

Psychologists call this “hitting the ceiling” of the test.

Think of it like a yardstick: The grade-level “yardstick” measures only 36 inches. If the student is 40 inches tall, we can’t measure accurately by using only a grade-level yardstick. What we need is a longer yardstick, and a harder test. An above-level test, one that is developed for older students, provides that longer yardstick and successfully raises the ceiling for that talented student.

above-level testing

The advantages of above-level testing include discovering “talented” and “exceptionally talented” students. In the figure, the bell curve on the left shows a typical group of students. A few students (the dark blue portion of the group) earn very high scores. They score at the 95th percentile or above when compared to their age-mates.

These are the students who “hit the ceiling” of the grade-level test. 

If that group of students takes a harder test — an above-level test that was developed for older students — voila! We see a new bell curve (the one on the right). The harder test spreads out the scores of the talented students. Now, we can better see what these students have already mastered and what amount of challenge they are ready for.

Why does this matter? Knowing how students performed on an above-level test helps us to give the students, their families and their educators better advice about the kinds of educational options the students might need.

For example, does this student need educational enrichment? Would that student benefit from moving up a grade level or two in math? Would yet another student benefit from grade-skipping?

Organizations such as the Belin-Blank Center who have used above-level testing for years. We have developed rubrics to help educators and parents understand the student’s above-level test scores and relate them to appropriately challenging educational options. In just one or two hours of testing, we are able to get important information about the student’s aptitudes.

Imagine you are working with two 5th grade students, Jessica and Mary.

Both of them have scored at the 99th percentile on the mathematics portion of their state test when compared to other 5th graders. They are both strong in math, but we don’t have specific information about the extent of their skills.  What should they learn next?

Psychologists say that these students have “hit the ceiling of the test” because they got everything (or almost everything) right on the grade-level test. What we need is a harder test that would more accurately measure their talents and help us to tailor instruction to their specific needs.

Rather than creating a special test for these students, we gave them I-Excel, which contains 8th grade content.  Jessica scored at the 85th percentile when compared to 8th graders, and Mary scored at the 20th percentile when compared to 8th graders. 

Both students have shown on the 5th grade-level test that they are very good at math compared to typical students in their 5th grade regular classroom. But their above-level test scores show that Jessica is ready for much more challenge in math than Mary.

Jessica likely needs acceleration, while Mary may benefit from enrichment. It would have been impossible to see this difference if we had only been using their grade-level scores.

Above-level testing is key to helping us tailor educational programs for gifted students. It helps us to understand a student’s need for challenge in specific subject areas and to act on the information appropriately.

We at the Belin-Blank Center are thrilled to be able to provide educators with specific information about your students via the in-school testing option for I-Excel, an above-level test for talented 4th – 6th graders.

For more information about how this could work in your school, see www.i-excel.org and www.belinblank.org/talent-search, or contact assessment@belinblank.org.

Students in 7th – 9th grade also have an opportunity for above-level testing by taking the ACT through the Belin-Blank Center. Due to the pandemic, ACT has prioritized testing 11th and 12th graders. We expect to be able to offer above-level testing in spring 2022. If you would like to be notified when we begin offering ACT testing again, please email us at assessment@belinblank.org and we will add you to the list.

Save the Date for Summer

Summer means sun, fun, and learning at the Belin-Blank Center! Check out our many classes and events for TAG educators and gifted students.

FOR EDUCATORS

Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:

  • AP Summer Institute (online); credit option will be available
    • June 28 – July 2, 2021
  • Teacher Training for Advanced Placement Courses
    • July 1 – 22, 2021
  • Family Issues in Giftedness (Chautauqua)
    • July 5 – 23, 2021
  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level
    • July 6 – 26, 2021
  • Topics in Teaching and Learning: “Talent Development: Arts, Academics, Athletics”
    • July 7 – 27, 2021
  • Topics in Teaching and Learning: “Serving Visual/Spatial Learners in Gifted Ed”
    • July 9 – 29, 2021
  • Creativity: Issues and Applications in Gifted Education (Chautauqua)
    • July 12 – 30, 2021
  • Chautauqua: Week I
    • July 12 – 16, 2021
  • Programming/Curriculum for High Ability Students: Real World Problem Solving
    • July 14 – August 3, 2021
  • Chautauqua: Week II
    • July 19 – 23, 2021
  • Individual Study: Leadership in Gifted NAG/NDE Virtual Conference
    • July 26 – August 13, 2021

FOR STUDENTS & FAMILIES

Summer 2021 Belin-Blank Chautauqua

“The Chautauqua movement pioneered the idea of extending learning opportunities to adults and nontraditional students.”

Scott Howell and Alma McGinn

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua offers a choice of six classes in a fast-paced (accelerated) format.

The first two days of each Chautauqua class include time for participants to interact with each other and the instructor on Zoom. Each class continues online for three weeks of asynchronous opportunities designed by each instructor to maximize the value of each class.

During the Belin-Blank Chautauqua (virtual in 2021), we are offering two new classes about meeting the needs of a broader range of gifted learners:

  • Talent Development: Arts, Academics, and Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB) focuses on the preparation required for gifted performers in the fields where these students stand out.
  • Serving Visual/Spatial Learners discusses ways to provide programming for students identified for advanced abilities beyond mathematical and English/Language Arts abilities. More than one educator has acknowledged the importance of identifying traditionally underserved students, but they are not sure what to DO for these students, since traditional programming will not match their strengths.

Chautauqua Week 1 includes:

Family Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4119)
Jul 5, 6 – 23 (Psychology strand)
Dr. Haley Wikoff and Dr. Erin Lane, Team Teachers

Talent Development: Arts, Academics, Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB)
Jul 7, 8 – 27 (Programming)
Kathy Green, Instructor

Serving Visual/Spatial Learners (EDTL:4096:0WKC)
Jul 9, 10 – 29 (Programming)
Dr. Vince Moore, Instructor

Chautauqua Week 2 includes:

Creativity (RCE:4129)
Jul 12, 13 – 30 (Psychology)
Dr. Clar Baldus, Instructor

Programming: Facilitating Student Research Projects (EDTL:4073:0WKA)
Jul 14, 15 – Aug 3 (Programming)
Lora Danker, Instructor

Evaluation of Gifted Programs (EPLS:4111)
Jul 16, 17 – Aug 5 (Administrative)”
Dr. Kim Chandler, Instructor

Automatic Scholarships

Scholarships for the cost of one class are available to those who enroll in three classes in either week. Those who take all six classes over the two weeks receive a full scholarship for the cost of one class each week.  

Registration

To take part 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 or benefit you. Follow belinblank.org/educators/reg.

All our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.

Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org!

Excellence Gaps in Education

On June 22, we are offering a three-week book study about Excellence Gaps in Education (Plucker & Peters, 2016). This online class (asynchronous) focuses on strategies we can use to eliminate the achievement gaps that exist even among the students who perform at the highest levels (EDTL:4096:0WKD).  

This is a new class, and if you haven’t read Excellence Gaps, this is the time!  Excellence Gaps won the 2017 Book of the Year award from NAGC, and our need to understand excellence gaps—going beyond achievement gaps—is more important than ever.  The Harvard Education Press posted:

In Excellence Gaps in Education, Jonathan A. Plucker and Scott J. Peters shine a spotlight on “excellence gaps”—the achievement gaps among subgroups of students performing at the highest levels of achievement. Much of the focus of recent education reform has been on closing gaps in achievement between students from different racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic backgrounds by bringing all students up to minimum levels of proficiency. Yet issues related to excellence gaps have been largely absent from discussions about how to improve our schools and communities. Plucker and Peters argue that these significant gaps reflect the existence of a persistent talent underclass in the United States among African American, Hispanic, Native American, and poor students, resulting in an incalculable loss of potential among our fastest growing populations.

This is one of the Belin-Blank Center classes this summer intended to help educators ensure that their districts are doing everything possible to ensure that they are identifying and serving ALL their gifted learners—including those that have been traditionally underrepresented.  The other two classes include 

  • Talent Development: Arts, Academics, and Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB), focus in on the preparation required for gifted performers, and 
  • Serving Visual/Spatial Learners, discussing ways to provide programming for students identified for advanced abilities beyond mathematical and English/Language Arts abilities.

To take part 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 or benefit you. Follow belinblank.org/educators/reg. All our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement, and the study of Excellence Gaps can apply to the Administrative strand.

Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org!

We look forward to having you join us for this one-semester-hour workshop, and for other classes available through June and July.

Belin-Blank Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality

Thank you to Bethany Erickson for this guest post about her experience at last month’s Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice Exceptionality. If you would like access to the recorded event, register by July 1 at belinblank.org/summit.


After attending the Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality, I am in awe and inspired.

I am in awe of the professionals who spoke: their expertise, experience, research and heart that came through their presentations. As a classroom teacher, I didn’t really know anything about neuroscience before this summit. Now, I wonder how can teachers be teachers without knowing more about how the brain works and learns.

The adage that ‘you don’t know how much you don’t know’ comes to mind. While learning from the presenters, three themes stood out to me over the course of the two days of lectures: the need for more collaboration, more research and more awareness to benefit twice-exceptional learners at all ages.  

Collaboration came up in almost every session.

So many of the presenters graciously gave credit to their teams and showed gratitude for the work they are able to do together. Parents talked about collaborating with educators. Students talked about the help they needed and received from their parents, medical professionals, and educators. Educators that work at the Belin-Blank Center, spoke to the importance of effectively communicating with each other as colleagues but also with parents and patients.

I was struck by several things during the student panel.

One student seemed to have had appropriate supports and interventions early on to help him cope with and understand his diagnosis. Another student didn’t find out about Autism Spectrum Disorder until later and had a harder path with fewer and later support services. Even so, both have found success and a way to overcome their difficulties by using their strengths and talents, which was another clear message from many sessions.  

I was impressed with how much these students could bravely tell us and it reminded me of the importance of knowing each individual.

I will be working with high school students for the first time next school year, and hearing the student panel reminds me that they are just looking for someone to listen and see them as a person, not just their diagnosis.

Another lesson on the importance of collaboration came from the parent panel.

The three moms on the panel gave such heartfelt and honest advice that I, as a teacher, will not forget. I wish more teachers could hear their stories. It stuck with me when they agreed that some of their most helpful teachers were the ones who admitted to not knowing about twice-exceptionality (2e), but being willing to learn along side them and see their child for more than just their behaviors or diagnosis.

I was so moved by the mom who explained what it felt like to drop off her son at a Belin-Blank Center summer program, and how it felt for her to know, for the first time, that he would be okay there without her because of the supports in place.

It made me think how much more school systems need to do for 2e students and parents to make school a safe place for them as well. A safe place where they can trust educators to be accepting of their talents and their challenges.

For students and parents to find schools as a welcoming and supportive environment for twice-exceptional students, teachers need to be made aware of 2e characteristics, talents, needs and challenges. It came up in the parent and student panel that they wished more people knew 2e students existed. As a teacher looking back, I can now think of several former students that were likely twice-exceptional, but I didn’t have the knowledge or resources at the time to help them.

This summit has given me an awareness that I am so grateful for.

The need to bring awareness to educators was mentioned in the student and parent panels. It was interesting to hear from the two teachers who were on the parent panel, as they shared how much they didn’t know as teachers until experiencing 2e as a parent. I wonder how many behavior issues could be prevented or diminished by addressing the needs of the students that are not being met due to undiagnosed neurodevelopmental disorders.

Before the summit, I was aware that students could have multiple diagnosed disabilities, but I didn’t know the symptoms, characteristics, talents and challenges. 

The research shared during the summit was so above and beyond what I expected.

An abundance of statistics, charts, graphs, and studies that all represent individual people and families, as one presenter pointed out.  Even in the midst of so much research, the case was continually made for how much more research is needed, all the things scientists still don’t know and want to know in order to better serve and accommodate for neurodiverse learners.

I was moved by how many presenters shared stories of their own children who have been diagnosed as twice-exceptional, and how that personal connection motivates their work.  

As I evaluate how this summit will affect my role as an educator, I hope it is by improving my collaboration with others – parents, students, colleagues, medical professionals, etc. I also hope it will affect my role as a talented and gifted teacher by granting me an awareness to help me see students that may need special education and gifted education services. Or notice characteristics of students that may come from having an indivisible disability and helping them to feel seen.

Experiencing this summit will help me bring an awareness back to my coworkers of what twice exceptionality is and how we can work together to find ways to support those learners and their families.

Message from the Director: Blue Sky Beyond

Susan Assouline

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“Even when the sky is filled with clouds, the sun still shines above.”

Janet Donaghy

This sentiment strikes me as an apt description of our personal and professional lives during the past year.

We experienced literal clouds with the August 2020 derecho. We saw the figurative dark clouds of social injustice through systemic racism and health and economic disparities.  Yet, our university’s campus leadership steered our students, faculty, and staff through the clouds of the past year.

Through it all, they never lost sight of the notion that the sun still shone above.

We discovered not only blue sky beyond the clouds of lockdown but many silver linings.

We stayed connected through Zoom meetings. We stepped up with creativity and resiliency to convert our on-site services and programming to online opportunities. We collaborated to create new, innovative programs and services.

Last April, it seemed daunting to sustain our mission without one of our most visible services: summer student programs.  Yet, our team of creative and dedicated professionals committed to providing students the specialized programming for which the Belin-Blank Center is known.

The student programming team re-imagined opportunities for K-12 students, which have been available throughout this past year. To do our part to help end the COVID-19 pandemic, we have moved our signature high-school residential programs online this summer. While a bit different from our traditional on-campus experiences, our team has worked hard to create impactful programming that students will remember for a lifetime.

Our excellent Assessment and Counseling Clinic professionals continued to see clients through telehealth technology.

As soon as they were able, with appropriate safety protocols in place, they resumed in-person assessments and have been conducting these for nearly a year.  We have even added new services and hired two new licensed psychologists, Dr. Amanda Berns and Dr. Katie Schabilion.

Professional learning opportunities had already transitioned to online learning over the past several years and were well-positioned to continue. In addition to the many courses and workshops planned, we will host an online Advanced Placement Summer Institute. Additionally, individuals attending the upcoming Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality can earn a semester hour of credit for the course associated with it.

By being online, the Summit will share crucial research with many more people throughout the world. Because we will record each presentation, a broader group of people will have access to the knowledge for a longer time.

Photo by Sunsetoned on Pexels.com

During this year of unprecedented challenges, UI President Bruce Harreld and his leadership team demonstrated excellent governance. The College of Education (our academic home) also offered significant leadership during the pandemic.

President Harreld’s service to the campus and the state gained admiration because he fostered transparency and shared governance. People appreciated his service as a staunch supporter of public universities, recognizing their importance at both a state and national level. President Harreld has served our campus for five years. When he announced last fall that he planned to retire, new clouds of uncertainty about the future appeared on the horizon.

Now those clouds have dissipated.

The University of Iowa expects to announce its 22nd President later today (update). We are looking forward to working with new leadership to move into the future. We also wish President Harreld and his wife, Mary, the best as they embark on this next phase of their lives.

Today, the sky is blue.

Opportunities for students, educators, and families seem unlimited.  We know there will be clouds again, but we will find new opportunities to be supportive and collaborative when they appear.

We will remember that there are silver linings and blue sky beyond.

Mark Your Calendars for Summer!

Summer means sun, fun, and summer programs at the Belin-Blank Center! Check out our many classes and events for educators, students, families, and gifted education researchers.

FOR EDUCATORS

Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:

  • Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality
    • May 17 – 18, 2021
  • Neuroscientific Implications for Gifted: Neuroscience of Twice Exceptionality
    • May 20 – June 10, 2021
  • Math Programming for High Ability Students
    • May 25 – June 14, 2021
  • Counseling and Psychological Needs of the Gifted
    • June 7 – 25, 2021
  • Reading for High Ability Students
    • June 14 – July 2, 2021
  • Academic Acceleration
    • June 14 – August 6, 2021
  • Belin Fellowship
    • June 21 – 25, 2021
  • AP Summer Institute (online); credit option will be available
    • June 28 – July 2, 2021
  • Teacher Training for Advanced Placement Courses
    • July 1 – 22, 2021
  • Family Issues in Giftedness (Chautauqua)
    • July 5 – 23, 2021
  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level
    • July 6 – 26, 2021
  • Topics in Teaching and Learning: “Talent Development: Arts, Academics, Athletics”
    • July 7 – 27, 2021
  • Topics in Teaching and Learning: “Serving Visual/Spatial Learners in Gifted Ed”
    • July 9 – 29, 2021
  • Creativity: Issues and Applications in Gifted Education (Chautauqua)
    • July 12 – 30, 2021
  • Chautauqua: Week I
    • July 12 – 16, 2021
  • Programming/Curriculum for High Ability Students: Real World Problem Solving
    • July 14 – August 3, 2021
  • Chautauqua: Week II
    • July 19 – 23, 2021

FOR RESEARCHERS

FOR STUDENTS & FAMILIES

Professional Learning in Summer 2021

Author Jenny Han said, “Everything good, everything magical, happens between the months of June and August.”

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

We have plenty of courses available for anyone working toward the 12 required hours for the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement.

We do begin in May, with two wonderful workshops. Teachers can earn academic credit with a 50% tuition scholarship* at our Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality (PSQF:4128). We are also offering Math for High Ability Learners (EDTL:4022). After that, we packed the summer months with classes that will increase your understanding of giftedness.

Join us for the magical professional learning opportunities this summer!

Serving Underrepresented Students

Gifted education programs focus on ways to identify and serve underrepresented gifted learners.

In June, we offer a book study about Excellence Gaps in Education (Plucker & Peters, 2016). This class focuses on strategies we can use to eliminate achievement gaps among the highest-performing students (EDTL:4096:0WKD).

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua, taking place online this summer, will also address the needs of these students. We are offering two new classes about meeting the needs of a broader range of gifted learners. Talent Development: Arts, Academics, and Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB) focuses on preparation for gifted performers. Serving Visual/Spatial Learners discusses ways to identify talent beyond mathematical and English/Language Arts abilities.

Belin-Blank Chautauqua

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua offers six classes in a fast-paced (accelerated) format. (Learn more about acceleration in Academic Acceleration (PSQF:4123:0EXW), a three-semester-hour class offered from June 14 – August 5.) The first two days of each Chautauqua class include time for participants to get to know each other on Zoom. Each class lasts for three weeks.

Chautauqua Week 1 includes:

  • Family Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4119)
    • Jul 5, 6 – 23 (Psychology strand)
  • Talent Development: Arts, Academics, Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB)
    • Jul 7, 8 – 27 (Programming)
  • Serving Visual/Spatial Learners (EDTL:4096:0WKC)
    • Jul 9, 10 – 29 (Programming)

Chautauqua Week 2 includes:

  • Creativity (RCE:4129)
    • Jul 12, 13 – 30 (Psychology)
  • Programming: Facilitating Student Research Projects (EDTL:4073:0WKA)
    • Jul 14, 15 – Aug 3 (Programming)
  • Evaluation of Gifted Programs (EPLS:4111)
    • Jul 16, 17 – Aug 5 (Administrative)

Scholarships for the cost of one class are available to those who enroll in three classes in either week. Those who take all six classes over the two weeks receive a full scholarship for the cost of one class each week*.

Online and Asynchronous Classes

Our online classes offer educators many options for better understanding their gifted and talented students. These classes take place over three weeks, but they have no scheduled synchronous meetings. These are designed to help you with your hectic schedule!

June

  • Counseling / Psychological Needs (RCE:4125)
    • Jun 7 – 25 (Psychology strand)
  • Reading for High Ability Students (EDTL:4026)
    • Jun 14 – Jul 2 (Programming)
  • Academic Acceleration (PSQF:4123:0EXW)
    • June 14 – Aug 5 (3 semester hours: 1 in Psychology, 1 in Programming, 1 in Administrative)
  • Topics: Excellence Gaps (EDTL:4096:0WKD)
    • Jun 22 – Jul 12

July

  • Advanced Placement credit for those participating in the University of Iowa Advanced Placement Summer Institute (APSI, formerly APTTI) :
    • (2 s.h., EDTL:5080)*
    • Jul 1 – 22 (Programming)
  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4074)*
    • Jul 6 – 26 (Programming)
  • Leadership Skills for G/T Students, K-12 (EDTL:4029)
    • Jul 13 – Aug 2 (Programming)
  • Current Readings/Research in Gifted (EDTL:4085)
    • Jul 20 – Aug 6 (strand determined by readings)

Practicum

Those earning the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement must have at least one semester hour (s.h.) in each of the four strands (Psychology, Programming, Administrative Issues, and practicum). Workshops vary over the two years teachers can use to complete their endorsements. We offer practicum every semester (EDTL:4189 for one s.h. and EDTL:4188:0EXW for two or three semester hours).

Registration

To take part 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 or benefit you. Follow belinblank.org/educators/reg. All our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.

Questions? Email educators@belinblank.org!


*Classes with an asterisk provide an automatic scholarship for those registered as graduate students.

Congratulations to the 2021 Junior Science and Humanities Symposium Winners!

In March, the Belin-Blank Center hosted students from across the state to compete at the premier high school science competition in Iowa, the 2021 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS). Students competed for scholarships and recognition by presenting the results of original research projects.

A panel of experts judged 10 impressive oral presentations, and the finalists were: 

  • 1st place: Meena Ramadugu (John F Kennedy High School) — “Comparison of nickel chelator to current standard triple antibiotic therapy to treat Helicobacter pylori infection” 
  • 2nd place: Kayla Livesay (Van Buren High School) — “Analyzing the effectiveness of nutrient placement on crop production and soil fertility: A study of the law of limiting factors” 
  • 3rd place: Shreya Khullar (Iowa City West High School) — “Dendrochronological data analysis to measure climate sensitivity and to develop climate reconstructions”  
  • 4th place: Claire Gu (Valley High School) — “Predicting harmful algal blooms in Iowa’s green valley lake using a machine learning model”  
  • 5th place: Karshana Kalyanaraman (Johnston Senior High School) — “Novel miRNA and gene enrichment associated with cardiac function in athletes”

In addition to scholarships, these five students qualified to compete at the 59th Annual National JSHS in mid-April. 

Approximately 160 high school students from all over the world attended the National JSHS to compete for scholarships and recognition in the fields of environmental science; life sciences; biomedical, cellular and molecular sciences; medicinal, behavioral and health sciences; engineering; mathematics and computer science; physics; and chemistry and material sciences. 

For the fourth consecutive year, Iowa regional finalists placed at the national competition! Kayla Livesay (Van Buren) and Meena Ramadugu (Cedar Rapids) both took home 3rd place in their respective divisions of the prestigious oral presentation competition, along with $4,000 scholarships.

This year marks the first time two Iowa regional finalists placed at National JSHS! It is also the first year an Iowa finalist has placed at National JSHS for a second time.

In 2019, Kayla earned third place in the Life Science division of the poster competition for her project, “Accelerating plant growth to improve crop production and soil fertility: analyzing the effects of macronutrients and mycorrhizal fungi for Zea mays: Phase III.” This year, Kayla earned third place in the Environmental division of the oral presentation competition.

Congratulations to all who participated in both the Iowa Regional and National Junior Science and Humanities Symposia! For more information on getting started with student research or the JSHS program, visit: 

Transition Planning for Grade-Skipping

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An important part of the discussion concerning skipping a grade includes considering how the transition to acceleration might occur. Grade-skipping happens after careful discussion and planning, with contributions from a team that includes teachers, administrators, and parents. These team members play an important role in developing the transition plan.

Some schools have a formal transition plan document that the team completes as part of the discussion.  If there is not a specific form to complete, below is a list of items that can be included in the transition planning discussion.

  • Answering the receiving teacher’s questions. This teacher might be uncertain about how to support the accelerated student, if the teacher has no previous experience with grade-skipping. The student’s current teacher might meet with the receiving teacher to make suggestions about ways to support the student, specific strengths, concerns the student has, etc.
  • Opportunities for the student to visit the new classroom and meet the new teacher before the acceleration occurs.
  • Other transition activities might include a tour of the school (if the student will move to a new building), learning about the cafeteria system, learning how to use a locker, and other activities that might help the student to become more comfortable in the new environment.
  • Support for the student, and a go-to person (such as the school counselor) if the student wants to chat about any concerns.
  • Identifying and filling in any academic gaps. Diagnostic testing will help to document gaps. The student might need time to meet individually with a teacher to learn new content, have questions answered, and clear up any misunderstandings about the content. It should be noted that the beginning of the school year is often a time for review for all students, and this review period will also help fill in the student’s gaps, if the acceleration will occur early in the year.
  • Trial period. Educators often plan for a trial period of 4 to 6 weeks before the decision to skip a grade is finalized. This amount of time allows the student to adjust to new routines and the new level of challenge. It is common for a student to feel somewhat overwhelmed or discouraged at first. Those feelings are normal.
  • Regular check-ins with the student. These might occur weekly or even daily at first.
  • Regular communication with the family.
  • Someone specifically assigned to monitor the transition. This is often the person who facilitated the team meeting in which the grade-skipping decision was made. This individual would be responsible for any follow-up and check-ins with the student as well as others who need to be made aware of the student’s progress and the success of the acceleration.
  • After the student has moved into the new grade, it will be helpful for the student and parents to meet with the school counselor to discuss the acceleration as well as how it might have an impact on course scheduling now and in the future.
Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

Indicators of a successful acceleration include:

  • The student is motivated and enthusiastic about the acceleration and is challenged (but not overly frustrated) by the new academic work.
  • The student makes new friends but keeps old friends.
  • The student has a positive attitude about school.

Ohio provides examples of Written Transition Plans that help you to consider factors to include in the transition plan. Michigan also provides some guidance about the transition to acceleration.

You might be interested in learning more about the recently-launched online Integrated Acceleration System, which facilitates a discussion about four forms of academic acceleration (grade-skipping, early entrance to kindergarten, early entrance to college, and subject acceleration). Sign up here to receive updates about this new online system and more information about academic acceleration. We post a blog about acceleration approximately twice a month.

Interested in learning even more about acceleration? The Belin-Blank Center will offer a 3-semester-hour graduate course on academic acceleration this summer. The course will be taught entirely online June 14-August 6 by Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, one of the co-authors of the Iowa Acceleration Scale and a co-developer of the new Integrated Acceleration System. Contact educators@belinblank.org for details about the class and about enrollment. 

We would like to thank Wendy Behrens and Dr. Randy Lange for helpful discussions contributing to this article.

Registration Open for AP® Summer Institute

Registration is now open for the University of Iowa’s AP® Summer Institute (APSI), hosted by the Belin-Blank Center! APSI will take place online from June 28 – July 2, 2021.

“Even if you are not going to teach an AP® class, the content and methods from the APSI at the Belin-Blank Center open up a myriad of teaching possibilities. I admit it—I was so energized about content after attending APSI!!”

-Jill Schany, APSI participant from Emmetsburg High School

APSI workshops offer online professional learning for these AP® courses:

  • Calculus AB
  • Computer Science Principles
  • English Language and Composition
  • English Literature and Composition
  • Human Geography
  • Physics 1
  • Psychology
  • Spanish Language
  • Statistics
  • US Government & Politics
  • US History
  • World History
Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

AP® courses introduce high school students to academically challenging material and offer a chance to earn college credit by taking AP® exams. APSI prepares teachers to develop and teach an AP® course.

College Board-endorsed AP® consultants instruct each workshop. APSI participants will discuss questions about AP® subject-area content and receive an overview of the Advanced Placement program®. They will also learn how to complete the College Board’s required AP® Course Audit. 

Participants can also earn academic credit (with a 50% scholarship!) or Iowa Licensure Renewal Units for successful completion of an APSI workshop. Grants of $450 are available to Iowa teachers through the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA).  

Click below to learn more or register today!

Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality

Co-hosted by the Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute

May 17-18, 2021
Online

Bridging psychology and neuroscience, the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute will collaborate to bring researchers, clinicians, educators, and parents together to address the current state of research on twice-exceptionality. Part of the purpose of this interdisciplinary summit is to form partnerships with other institutions in furthering twice-exceptional research and best practice.

The summit will take place on Monday, May 17 and Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The event will be completely online and feature a variety of keynotes and breakout sessions delving into recent research’s insights into twice-exceptionality. Registrants will have access to the live sessions, as well as recordings of all presentations after the event.

How to Register

Registration is available now!

If you currently attend or are employed by the University of Iowa, email us at summit@belinblank.org to register for free.

Outside of the UI, standard registration is $145 and non-UI current students may register for $45.

A credit option is available to those who participate in the summit through PSQF:4128:0WKA – Neuroscientific Implications for Gifted Ed: Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality (May 20 – June 10). The Belin-Blank Center provides a tuition scholarship equal to 50% of the cost of graduate-level tuition. Whether you choose undergraduate or graduate credit, your tuition for this one semester hour of credit will be $280.). Learn more.

Speakers

We feature speakers sharing research from several different domains, including neuroscience, genetics, gifted education, special education, psychology, and psychiatry.

Belin-Blank Center – Iowa Neuroscience Institute Presenters

Members of the Belin-Blank Center and Iowa Neuroscience Institute collaborative team look forward to sharing their current work with attendees through presentations and panel discussions.

Ted Abel

Edwin G. Abel, Ph.D.

Molecular Mechanisms of Memory Storage

Jake Michaelson

Jake Michaelson, Ph.D.

Genetic Signatures of Twice-Exceptionality

Thomas Nickl-Jockschat, Ph.D.

Disrupted brain growth patterns – a key mechanism underlying autism

Susan G. Assouline, Ph.D., Brandon LeBeau, Ph.D., and Katie Schabilion, Ph.D.

Integration of the Medical Model and Talent Development Model in Understanding 2e Students (Panel)

Alissa Doobay, Ph.D., Megan Foley-Nicpon, Ph.D., Duhita Mahatmya, Ph.D.

From Data to Diagnosis: Complexity of Understanding 2e Students with ASD and Anxiety Disorders (Panel)

Featured University of Iowa Speakers

Lane Strathearn, Ph.D.

Epigenetics and Social Experience in Autism: Discovering Modifiable Pathways for Intervention

Hanna Stevens, Ph.D.

Neurodevelopmental disabilities and striatum: insights from mentoring smart trainees

Dorit Kliemann, Ph.D.

Brain Networks in Autism

Seth King, Ph.D.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Research for Individuals with Multiple Exceptionalities

For a full list of speakers and topics, be sure to check out our webpage. We hope to see you in May!

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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

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!

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. 

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. 

Who is Ready for Early Entrance to Kindergarten?

How do we know which children might be ready to start kindergarten early? We hear lots of stories from parents about children who seemed to learn to read spontaneously – one parent said her 3-year-old started reading the back of the shampoo bottle in the bathtub. Other parents notice their child demonstrating an early interest in time (“Grandpa, only 17 minutes until we leave for the playground!”) or a facility with numbers and sophisticated vocabulary. These anecdotes might lead us to wonder if a child is indeed ready to enter formal schooling at an age younger than typical.

Before getting into this process, it’s really helpful to learn about the policies concerning early entrance to kindergarten in your state. Some states actually prohibit early entrance to kindergarten in public school. (Note: families might work around that by sending their child early to a non-public school for a year or two, then transferring to public school later.) Learn about your state’s early entrance to kindergarten policies here.

We’ve mentioned some of the characteristics of young, bright children: early reading, facility with numbers, and advanced vocabulary. Typically, researchers have found that the best candidates for early entrance are at least 4 ½ years old. Other characteristics include long attention span, extraordinary memory, and an ability to generalize and make connections between different areas of learning.

Won’t early entrants “burn out” on academics or become social outcasts? In a meta-analysis of  research studies focusing on acceleration, including early entrance to kindergarten, researchers found that students did very well academically and were better adjusted socially and emotionally compared to older students. In other words, as a group, students who entered kindergarten early did just fine socially, putting to rest our concern about accelerated students becoming social “misfits.”

When thinking about making this important decision, we might weigh the pros and cons. On the “pro” side, students entering school early won’t experience the social disruptions or concerns about gaps in their educational background that we would have for students skipping a grade at a later time.  The biggest negative is probably centered around the fact that 4-year-olds don’t have much of a track record in school; since we don’t have much school history to analyze, we tend to be cautious and recommend early entrance to kindergarten for only those students who are clearly ready. It seems prudent to wait and consider acceleration later for others.

The decision about early entrance to kindergarten can be made after collecting objective test data as well as measures of psychosocial functioning.  The Belin-Blank Center Assessment and Counseling Clinic uses a full intellectual battery (WPPSI-IV or Stanford Binet-5) and full achievement test (Woodcock Johnson-IV). Achievement test results should be calculated using grade level and above level (usually one to two years) norms. This information can then be added to the Iowa Acceleration Scale, 3rd edition, which is a tool designed to help educators and families make effective decisions regarding a grade skip. Families and educators need to work together to discuss the results of the assessment and collaboratively discuss appropriate strategies for meeting the child’s needs. The final decision must be made between the family and the school.

The Belin-Blank Center is currently developing a new online system to help schools and families make decisions about various forms of acceleration, including early entrance to kindergarten, subject accelerationearly entrance to college, grade-skipping, and acceleration with twice-exceptional students. This will all be done in an interactive online system designed to help educators and families gather the appropriate information and weigh the necessary factors in making these decisions. To sign up to receive more information about the new Integrated Acceleration System,  click here!

Resources

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.

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Stay Tuned for New Online Opportunities for Kids!

Staff members of the Belin-Blank Center are busily preparing several new online opportunities for students. At the time this newsletter was published, we weren’t quite ready to launch the registration process, but we wanted to give you a heads up! Do you have a student in elementary, middle or high school? Make sure you are on our newsletter list by signing up here, and indicate your student’s grade level. We will be sure to send you the latest news about our new online programs as soon as possible!

Acceleration During a Pandemic?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Since many students were working remotely from home this spring, parents had the unique opportunity for an up-close view of what happens in school on a regular basis. Perhaps you are one of those parents who was surprised by how quickly your child grasped new material being taught, and now you have a nagging question in the back of your mind:  “Will my child be adequately challenged by his or her school placement in the upcoming school year?”

If you suspect the answer may be “No,” the next question is what would challenge your child appropriately?  Does he or she need to skip a grade?  Move ahead in math?  One of the best tools for gathering evidence for acceleration decisions like these is above-level testing.  We’ve shared the secret of above-level testing here before; briefly, it involves administering a test designed for older students to bright young students in an effort to discover exceptional academic talent. This information helps us to understand what a student is ready to learn and if he or she is ready for the academic challenges presented by a grade skip or subject acceleration.

How do we get started? The Belin-Blank Center and many other university-based talent searches provide above-level testing. Students in 4th-6th grade take I-Excel. Even if your school isn’t currently offering group testing, your child could participate in individual testing using I-Excel. Details about this option are found here. Parents first identify a teacher who is willing to proctor the test, and begins the registration process using this form.  The Belin-Blank Center also provides ACT testing for 7th-9th graders in a group setting. Once the above-level testing is completed, families receive a detailed eight-page report from the Belin-Blank Center explaining the test results and providing additional resources useful in making acceleration decisions.

We understand that these are challenging times, so we want to add that we aren’t trying to put additional stress on families or educators. Instead, we wanted to make sure that those of you who are ready to think about these issues have the tools you need to help inform your decisions. Our goal is to support you.  

You will find much more information and links to decision-making tools and research about acceleration on the Acceleration Institute website, which is provided by the Belin-Blank Center.  The Belin-Blank Center has been a catalyst for research and programming on academic acceleration for the past 30 years. We’re currently working on a new product, the Integrated Acceleration System, which will assist educators and families in working through the process of making decisions about grade-skipping, subject acceleration, early entrance to kindergarten, and early entrance to college. Sign up here if you would like more information about the Integrated Acceleration System as it becomes available.

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.

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.

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.

Trying to Make Decisions about School Placement or Acceleration for Next Year?

We might be able to help!  Above-level testing is a useful tool for gathering data needed for decisions such as: Does my student need additional challenge in a particular subject? Is my child ready to skip a grade?

I-Excel testing will be available this summer. Bright 4th-6th graders can take the test individually or in small groups (supervised by a proctor). I-Excel is an online test, so we are able to offer testing even if schools have not yet reopened. Parents and relatives are not allowed to proctor the test, so testing cannot occur until the stay-at-home guidance is no longer in effect. Licensed educators may proctor the test.

More information can be found in these links:

Are you interested in learning more about I-Excel testing for your child or students in your school? Contact us at assessment@belinblank.org.

We at the Belin-Blank Center are happy to support parents and students in whatever ways we can. Our primary concern is the safety and health of all involved. We recommend that you follow the guidance provided by your governor and local authorities in terms of meeting with people outside your family any time in the next few months.

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.

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

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.

Belin-Blank Fellowship Program

The new year, 2020, will be the 40th year for The Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education.  This prestigious fellowship program attracts applicants from across the United States and often has at least one participant from another nation. 

The Belin-Blank Fellowship is designed for educators who are NEW to the field of gifted education and have not already had opportunities to learn as much as they want and need to know about the gifted/talented students in their schools and districts. 

Please share details about the Fellowship with colleagues and friends who have an interest in Gifted Education!

Forty years of experience have convinced the Belin-Blank Center that the most effective way to provide meaningful educational experiences to gifted students is to provide a special program for classroom teachers, school counselors and psychologists, and school administrators.  Through an immersive educational journey, educators will develop the skills to better understand and work with gifted students as well as the knowledge and skills to provide leadership for others.

Varying approaches to professional development in gifted education exist, but no program provides the incentives for educators, as well as the intensive individualized approach, offered by this fellowship program.  The Belin-Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education makes it possible for a select number of educators, nominated by their schools/districts, to participate in professional development in gifted education.

The Fellowship will take place from June 21 – 26, 2020; the application process begins by January 27 and ends on March 2, 2020

Please visit belinblank.org/fellowship for more details.  Invite those who will serve as effective allies in developing the talents of our gifted learners to apply in late January.  Contact educators@belinblank.org with questions.

Invent Iowa Winner Featured on Good Morning America!

Congratulations to 6-year-old Charles Smith (Ottumwa Community School District) for his appearance on Good Morning America! Charles is a winner of our 2019 Invent Iowa competition who went on to win 1st place in his grade level at the National Invention Convention

Charles invented the Benge Beacon, a device to help firefighters find the exits in a smoky house. See his invention in action and watch his national television debut! (Trust us, you won’t regret it.) 

Charles also won $5,000 in seed money and a mentorship opportunity with entrepreneur Chelsea Hirschhorn through the SSK Kidventor $25,000 giveaway! 🤩 (Watch the announcement here: https://gma.abc/2O3XmJW)

After all that excitement, Charles got a hero’s welcome open returning home to Ottumwa and getting back to school. Watch here: https://www.kyoutv.com/home/2019/11/11/first-grade-inventor-welcomed-home-at-eisenhower-elementary/

We are so proud of you, Charles! Keep up the GREAT work.

For information about how your student can follow in Charles’ footsteps, check out Invent Iowa!

How We’re Supporting Academic Talent in Rural Iowa

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation recently published a new report on rural education programs that develop academic talent. The report, “Small Town, Big Talent: Identifying and Supporting Academically Promising Students in Rural Areas”, highlighted the work that is being done across the state of Iowa through the STEM Excellence and Leadership program, administered by the Belin-Blank Center.

The program takes place extracurricularly in rural school districts throughout the state. Teachers identify talented middle-school students with interests in math and science, increase their aspirations, and engage them in advanced, in-depth coursework to prepare them for STEM opportunities at the highest levels.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s report makes the following recommendations for organizations and educators working with rural schools. Here’s how Iowa’s STEM Excellence and Leadership program realizes these 9 ideals. 

  1. Use quantitative testing appropriately. We believe that every child deserves to learn something new every day, including the ones that ace every test. It’s often the case that bright students are ready to learn things beyond the level of the grade they are in—but how can you tell what level would be more appropriate for a particular student? One way, called above-level testing, is to give a younger student a test that was developed for older students. In the STEM Excellence and Leadership program and at the Belin-Blank Center, we use above-level testing to uncover information about a student’s academic abilities and learning needs, helping parents and teachers discover what that student is ready to learn. Learn more.
  2. Use educator and community feedback. The STEM Excellence and Leadership program is grounded in the philosophy of place-based learning and provides support for educators to have agency in shaping their local programs around the needs and interests of their students and communities. This means that each program implements a unique curriculum that leverages local strengths, opportunities, and needs. Local districts have strong voices in their programs, which have incorporated prairie restorations, algebra, rocketry, butterfly gardens, probability, robotics, statistics, and invention conventions.
  3. Use student interviews. We gather feedback from STEM Excellence and Leadership students by visiting classrooms, conducing focus groups, and sending out surveys. Understanding how students experience our programs is key to living up to our ideals and knowing the extent to which we are truly inspiring excellence and nurturing potential.
  4. Pay special attention to underserved populations. Research shows that rural students have fewer STEM educational opportunities, are less likely to attend a four-year college, and less likely to major in STEM than their urban and suburban peers. We believe talent is not bound by zip code and neither should be opportunities for advanced STEM learning.
  5. Expose promising rural students to people and opportunities outside their home communities and connect talented students with older, near-peer role models cultivating a robust peer community. Students who participate in the STEM Excellence and Leadership program come together in the spring to attend a Student Research Conference at the University of Iowa. There, they learn about research conducted by undergraduate students from rural Iowa communities and hear presentations from Iowa high school students conducting original research. Scholarships sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation are also available to support STEM Excellence and Leadership students in attending Belin-Blank Center summer programs, where they spend their days taking a deep dive into a topic of their choice with like-minded peers. Through these summer programs, students have access to valuable university-level resources and experts. They also live in a residence hall with their classmates and get a taste of life as university students. 
  6. When possible, provide consistent engagement throughout the year. STEM Excellence and Leadership is a year-long program with a fall and spring session. With programming before school, after school, on the weekends, and during the summer, STEM Excellence and Leadership programs create bountiful STEM opportunities for rural students throughout the year.
  7. Encourage professional development in schools. A hallmark of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program is that communities of teachers from a variety of disciplines come together to learn about the identification of STEM talent, the needs of gifted learners, and principles of math and science education. Summer professional development programs create communities that understand and support the development advanced STEM learning ecosystems within and across districts.
  8. Provide acceleration and enrichment opportunities. Through administering the STEM Excellence and Leadership program, we are able to support educators across the state in creating STEM ecosystems that provide acceleration and enrichment opportunities for rural students.

We would like to acknowledge the support of the Jack Kent Cook Foundation for a Rural Talent Initiative grant and a Talent Development Award that have supported the implementation of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program and the Student Research Conference. Additionally, a National Science Foundation Advancing Informal STEM Learning grant supports current STEM Excellence and Leadership programming and research and rural STEM talent development.

Winter Break Opportunity for Professionals and Parents

The fall semester has flown by, and it’s almost 2020!  Happy holidays and we hope you are looking forward to exciting opportunities in the new year.  Goethe has a quote that seems so appropriate for a new year:  Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Wishing is not enough; we must do.

Over the short winter break (December 30 – January 17, 2020), educators and/or parents can take advantage of one of our most useful classes entitled Current Readings and Research in Gifted Education (EDTL:4085:0WKA)!

As the title suggests, this is your opportunity to read that book you’ve heard about (or at least several chapters of that book, since a one-semester-hour class requires only about 150 – 175 pages of readings).  NAGC has awarded three 2019 book awards:

Scholar
Talent Development as a Framework for Gifted Education: Implications for Best Practices and Applications in Schools (Prufrock Academic Press) by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Rena F. Subotnik, and Frank C. Worrell

Practitioner
A Teacher’s Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning (Free Spirit Publishing) by Dina Brulles and Karen L. Brown

Parent/Caregiver
Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World (Workman Publishing) by Deborah Reber

If you attended a state conference or the national convention, you might have heard about other materials that would help you better advocate for or meet the needs of your own advanced learner(s).

You can also read research-based articles for this credit; we give you the tips you need to find your own journal articles (and while you are enrolled for credit, you have full access to all the online materials in the University of Iowa libraries!).  We can also help you find the most useful materials on a topic of importance to you (e.g., how to support twice-exceptional learners, or what articles would be most helpful to you for that upcoming professional development session you’re providing at your school later in January).

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.  All will help you better understand important issues in the field.  Billy Wilder, journalist, screenwriter, and filmmaker, is given credit for saying, “Hindsight is always 20 : 20.”  Let’s plan ahead for 2020, identifying and implementing best practices for gifted children.

Will We See You in Albuquerque?

Our staff is gearing up to head to the National Association for Gifted Children Annual Convention from November 7-10 in Albuquerque, New Mexico!

If you will be attending too, be sure to check out our presentations and stop by our booth in the exhibit hall to say hello! Here’s where you can find us:

We hope to see you there!

This I Believe: Abby Wilcox

This is another example of an assignment completed for the Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education class, based on “This I Believe,” an organization that builds on essays published by National Public Radio, and the thoughts captured during a radio show in the 1950s hosted by Edward R. Morrow.  From their Website:  Each day, Americans gathered by their radios to hear compelling essays from the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, and Harry Truman as well as corporate leaders, cab drivers, scientists, and secretaries—anyone able to distill into a few minutes the guiding principles by which they lived. These essayists’ words brought comfort and inspiration to a country worried about the Cold War, McCarthyism, and racial division.

In reviving This I Believe, executive producer Dan Gediman said, “The goal is not to persuade Americans to agree on the same beliefs. Rather, the hope is to encourage people to begin the much more difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own.”

To read the other posts in this series, see below:
This I Believe: Nicole Behrend
This I Believe: Marcelina Bixler


This I Believe
by Abby Wilcox
Math Teacher in Ankeny, IA and completing the University of Iowa College of Education MA in Teaching, Leadership, & Cultural Competency

I believe all students deserve to feel like they are cared for and respected while they are learning to their highest potential. Students deserve to come to school each day knowing the people in the school believe they are capable of succeeding in academics and in life, in general. I believe educators should show up to work every day with a fire ignited inside them for their plan to help make the world a better place by educating the future within their classrooms. Growing up, my dad was my principal from K-6th grade. For this reason, I don’t think anything will ever feel more significant to me as an educator than striving to make students feel like school is a second home to them where they are cared for and appreciated.

Education is the foundation for future success, and it is important for educators to provide the best curriculum for the students who enter their buildings. Parents and guardians trust educators to provide what it best for their children, and we need to do that by being flexible and attentive to the needs of the individual students in our classrooms.

Although the needs of the gifted are tremendous, my hope is to continue to push students within the classroom so that all individuals believe they are gifted and capable of reaching goals they never imagined possible. The passion for education and learning is something educators and high-ability students should be proud of sharing with others around them. It is important to take this passion and energy and turn it into motivation for challenging tasks to create resilient, life-long learners. I definitely want all students to continue to feel like they are capable learners, but I also want to challenge my high-ability students. I want them to reach the point where parts of school are challenging to them now because they shouldn’t have to wait until later in their academic careers to face academic challenges. They need to be prepared for success beyond high school by facing challenges head on with the support of teachers. School shouldn’t be wasted time. It should be challenging and spark new ideas every single day. A child should never end a day of school feeling like they didn’t learn anything.

It can sometimes be hard or feel overwhelming for teachers to meet the needs of everyone in their classrooms, but it is important for teachers to lean on each other for support and build a foundation of educators who strive to empower. There will always be controversial topics about what is the right or wrong thing to do or teach students who are talented and gifted, but teachers need to trust in the abilities of their students and always support them as they grow and develop into world changers.

My role as a teacher of all students, including those labeled gifted and those not, will be to spread my passion and desire to be a lifelong learner onto others in the hopes that my excitement lights a spark within them to go and change the world someday.

Professional Learning Continues

Neil Gaiman, listed as one of the top ten living post-modern writers, is quoted as saying, “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”

Professional learning is one of the things that educators are always doing, independently, with their professional learning communities, and with the Belin-Blank Center!  We invite you to join us through the gifted-teachers listserv (belinblank.org/listserv), through our Facebook account (facebook.com/belinblank), through our blog (belinblank.wordpress.com), and through our professional development opportunities coming up (belinblank.org/educators/courses).  The varied classes we plan throughout the year provide you with tools to better support the needs of gifted and talented learners. 

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; all of these are online and asynchronous. Some Spring classes have not been added to the schedule yet (courses with no instructor listed are facilitated by Dr. Laurie Croft):

  • Topics: Competitions for Elementary and Secondary Gifted Students (EDTL:4096:0WKB – 1 semester hour), final fall class, November 12 – December 4. (Dr. Jenelle Miller)
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education (EDTL:4022:0WKA – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from March 23 – May 15.
  • 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)
  • 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 format.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus on one topic over three weeks.

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

Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org.