Tag Archives: gifted students

Professional Development for Spring and Summer 2023

“Teachers benefit from professional development trainings that are focused, purposeful, provide examples of what the targeted expectation should look like, and allow teachers the opportunity to apply what they have learned and implement it into their instruction”

(Keely Blair P’Pool, 2021, p. 100)
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That is why professional development has been an integral part of the Belin-Blank Center since 1980, when Dr. Nicholas Colangelo, founding director of the Center, was first talking with Connie and David Belin and Jaqueline and Mike Blank about how to best support gifted and talented children.

Winter Session

Over winter break, the Center will offer EDTL:4085:0WKA Current Readings & Research in Gifted Education (December 21, 2022 – January 13, 2023), allowing “just-in-time” professional learning on topics of most interest to participants.

Spring Semester

In Spring of 2023, the Center is offering three-semester-hour extension classes (Identification, Program Models, Curriculum Concepts) and a two-semester-hour class about Administration and Policy Issues.  A variety of workshops are also available.  Check belinblank.org/courses after the Thanksgiving holiday to see everything that is available.

Summer Professional Development Options

Belin-Blank Fellowship

The Belin-Blank Center will host the 43rd Connie Belin & Jaqueline N. Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education, July 16 – 21, 2023, on campus at the University of Iowa.  One of the longest-running professional learning programs in the country, the Fellowship allows those with little background in gifted education and talent development to immerse themselves in ways to identify and understand gifted students, including those who have been traditionally underrepresented, and ways to develop students’ talents.  This is the time for parents and teachers of the gifted to find allies in their schools, urging those who have an interest and would benefit from the program to apply for the Fellowship, free of cost to participants (although participants do need to cover the cost of travel to Iowa City).  Room and board, as well as presentations from experts in the field, are all part of the Fellowship.  Teacher leaders / instructional coaches are especially welcome!  Anyone wanting to earn academic credit can enroll in CSED:5237:0WKA.  Look for application materials in mid-January (belinblank.org/fellowship)!

Online Coursework

Summer of 2023 will offer both PSQF:4123:0EXW Academic Acceleration and the CSED or EDTL:4137:0EXW Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (both three-semester-hour extension classes), as well as multiple online and asynchronous one-semester-hour courses, offered in a workshop format.  Everything available will be posted at belinblank.org/courses early in December.

Belin-Blank Chautauqua

As well as online opportunities, the Belin-Blank Chautauqua (belinblank.org/chautauqua) will take place in June 2023.  Over the two weeks from June 12 – 17 and June 19 – 24, participants will have an opportunity to participate in up to six workshops that will include two days of either face-to-face interaction on campus in Blank Honors Center or via Zoom (participants may choose the option best for them).  Those who enroll at the graduate level for all three workshops in either week—or both—receive an automatic tuition scholarship from the Belin-Blank Center for one of three classes (i.e., three workshops for the cost of two; six for the cost of four). Chautauqua offers opportunities in the Psychology, Programming, and Administrative strands, making earning the endorsement easier than ever.  Chautauqua classes differ from summer to summer, allowing those interested in the endorsement (belinblank.org/endorsement) to complete all of their work through Chautauqua over two summers.  Between online and Chautauqua opportunities, endorsement candidates can complete all of their work before the next academic year.

Get Registered for Credit

To participate in endorsement classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. For the purposes of 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. In other words, 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 (belinblank.org/educators/reg).

Advanced Coursework Opportunities Free for Iowa’s Rural Schools 

The College Board’s Advanced Placement® (AP) program allows high school students to complete college-level coursework. Additionally, success on the associated AP exams can translate into college credit. In fact, AP credit is accepted or recognized by the three public universities in Iowa, as well as many colleges and universities throughout the country. This gives students the opportunity to earn college credit at a greatly reduced cost while still in high school. However, despite these benefits, rural schools still fall behind urban and suburban schools in their AP course offerings. 

Providing the appropriate level of challenge to gifted and talented students is not always easy for rural schools. Offering AP courses requires additional resources such as teachers and training, and sometimes it is simply not possible to offer an AP course for only one or two students. The Iowa Online AP® Academy (IOAPA) provides free access to nearly 30 online advanced courses for Iowa students who would not otherwise have access to these courses in their schools. IOAPA classes include Advanced Placement® courses for high school students as well as high school-level courses for eligible middle school students. Unlike courses offered by community colleges, IOAPA’s AP courses are designed for bright high schoolers. They introduce college-level material in a way that is approachable for a high school student. IOAPA also offers AP exam scholarships to IOAPA high school students, with preference given to students from rural schools, so cost is no longer a barrier to taking an AP exam.  

The IOAPA team also publishes the Iowa AP Index, another way to provide recognition to Iowa schools. The Iowa AP Index recognizes the Top 50 Iowa accredited public and nonpublic high schools for providing Advanced Placement opportunities to Iowa’s high school students. Every public and nonpublic high school in Iowa accredited by the state Department of Education and that administered AP exams the prior year is invited to participate. The Iowa AP Index for a given high school is the ratio of AP exams taken by its students (any grade) divided by the number of its graduating seniors. This means that smaller schools still have similar opportunities to be recognized for providing their students with advanced coursework. 

The Belin-Blank Center will begin registration for spring semester IOAPA courses on November 7th. If you have any questions about your Iowa school’s eligibility for IOAPA courses, email us at ioapa@belinblank.org.  

For You at the Belin-Blank Center

Don’t miss any of the helpful information for talented students, families, and educators this semester!

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FOR EDUCATORS

FOR STUDENTS & FAMILIES

Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy Information Sessions

  • On Campus: November 3, 2022
  • Online: November 8 or December 6, 2022

Academy for Twice-Exceptionality Information Session

  • Online: 6:30 pm on November 9, 2022

Computer Science Python Fundamentals

  • Start anytime!
  • Access ends June 30, 2023

What Does the Research Say About Academic Acceleration?

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At the Belin-Blank Center, we are big fans of academic acceleration. Why? Because it is a research-based best practice. Acceleration is “…one of the cornerstones of exemplary gifted education practices, with more research supporting this intervention than any other in the literature on gifted individuals” (from the National Association for Gifted Children position statement on acceleration).

Academically, acceleration provides a better match between a student’s abilities and the curriculum. Socially, acceleration places students with academic peers who are similar both in terms of their intellectual level and in terms of their interests.

What does the research say? Acceleration benefits students both in the short-term and in the long-term.

Short-Term Benefits

In terms of academics, accelerated students are more challenged and therefore more engaged in school. Research studies have demonstrated that academically talented students who enter school early do very well compared to their older classmates and, as a group, those who enter college early perform very well academically and socially. There may be a bit of an adjustment period, but accelerated students (those who skip a grade or move ahead in a particular subject) earn good grades, demonstrate they do not have gaps in their knowledge, and continue to perform well in school in later years.

Socially, accelerated students tend to perform as well as or slightly better than their age peers. They also perform as well as or slightly better than the older students in the new grade. They fit in, which means that our concern about acceleration somehow damaging students’ social development is unfounded. As a group, they do just fine socially.

Long-Term Benefits

Acceleration has long-term beneficial effects, both academic and social. Accelerated students tend to be more ambitious, earning graduate degrees at higher rates. They hold more prestigious jobs and have a higher productivity rate. Some students say they wish they had accelerated more. They talk about “the gift of time,” meaning that they view the time saved as an opportunity to pursue an additional graduate degree, participate in diverse projects, travel, and get a head start on their careers. Longitudinal research shows us that accelerated students even have an economic advantage: They earn higher salaries than their age peers and higher salaries than the older peers with whom they graduated.

The longitudinal research on social development and academic acceleration is positive overall. Looking back, an overwhelming majority of accelerated students say acceleration was the right decision for them. They do talk about some challenges (for example, being too young to date), but the students say they would do it again, if given the opportunity. In fact, in a 2020 study (Bernstein, Lubinski, and Benbow) that followed accelerated students for 35 years, the authors state that our concerns about a negative impact of acceleration on social/emotional development are “fruitless.”

Photo by Sam Lion on Pexels.com

Dare We Say It? Not Accelerating Students Who Are Ready is Educational Malpractice

Maybe those are strong words, but with all the research supporting the decision to accelerate students who are ready, doesn’t it make sense to at least consider this option? Have courage and do your research! There is a lot of information available to help you make informed, research-based decisions in the best interests of your students.

For More Information

A Nation Empowered:

  • Volume 1 was written for the educated layperson. It includes personal stories of acceleration as well as an overview of the research.
  • Volume 2: Contains the supporting research

Acceleration Institute:

  • Website with information useful to parents, educators, administrators, and policymakers.
  • Also see the Annotated Bibliography on the Acceleration Institute website. You’ll find sections on academic effects of acceleration, long-term effects, radical acceleration, rural students, etc.
Professional Development About Acceleration:
Upcoming Webinar

The Belin-Blank Center regularly offers webinars on the Integrated Acceleration System for teachers and administrators. 
Learn more and sign up here.

Message from the Director: New Beginnings

by Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, Belin-Blank Center Director

August is synonymous with new beginnings for many of us.

Kids are heading back to school – it is my favorite time to check social media feeds to see friends post first-day-of-school pictures. On campus, we welcomed new students from across the globe, including new arrivals to our Bucksbaum Early Entrance and Twice-Exceptional Academies. Over the weekend, thousands of students met new friends, ate ice cream on the University of Iowa’s President’s lawn, and learned the Iowa fight song.

It’s a great time to be a Hawkeye!  

New beginnings are also happening at the Belin-Blank Center – I started as Director on August 1st.

I am not new to Iowa or the Center, however. I arrived in January 2004 as a postdoctoral scholar in the Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic. I later became a licensed psychologist, focusing mainly on assessment and intervention with twice-exceptional youth. In 2008, I joined the UI Counseling Psychology faculty.

There, I have had the honor of training future child psychologists, researching talent development among underrepresented groups, and serving the college, University, and Iowa community.

In the Belin-Blank Center’s 34-year history, there have been only two directors before me: Nicholas Colangelo and Susan Assouline. Both are giants in the field known internationally for their development of the Center, love for and dedication to talented youth, and commitment to creating best practices for acceleration and twice-exceptional intervention. I am honored to continue their legacy and the legacy of the Center.

I know these are big shoes to fill.

However, I join a dedicated staff and faculty who care deeply about the Center and its mission. I am certain we will continue to do great things. We seek to be the leaders in talent development for elementary through university-aged students; diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in gifted education; research and discovery for high ability and twice-exceptional youth; and collaboration and outreach both within and outside the University.

Together, we will embrace this new beginning and continue the Belin-Blank Center’s impact far into the future.

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

Don’t miss any exciting opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

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For Educators

For Students & Families

Summer Programs

Does Your Child Need More Academic Challenge at School This Fall?

Our Assessment and Counseling Clinic can help you learn more about your child and their academic needs.

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Our clinic offers individual educational assessments to help you better understand your child’s cognitive and academic strengths. These evaluations can assist with academic planning by helping determine whether your child is ready for advanced learning opportunities such as acceleration and enrichment programming. You can use the results to better advocate for your student’s advanced learning needs at school. When shared with your child’s educators, the results may inform team decisions about identification for enrichment and/or accelerated programming.

These assessments involve tests of intellectual and academic skills, including above-level skills, as well as a screening of psychosocial factors that may be relevant to academic planning decisions.

If you’re interested in learning more about educational assessments and other clinic services, visit our website. To request information about pursuing an educational assessment for your child, click here.

Welcoming a New Licensed Psychologist to the Assessment and Counseling Clinic!

We are so excited to welcome Dr. Christopher Smith to the Belin-Blank Center! Dr. Smith is joining the Assessment and Counseling Clinic as a licensed psychologist.

Dr. Smith earned his BA from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and his MA and PhD from Alliant International University in San Francisco, CA. He completed his internship at an inpatient psychiatric hospital in Augusta, Maine, and his post-doctoral fellowship working with children and adolescents at an eating disorder clinic in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He holds psychology licenses in Iowa, New York, and Massachusetts. Most recently, he worked as a licensed psychologist at ChildServe in Iowa City.

We are looking forward to having Dr. Smith on the team at the ACC! He will be involved in providing clinical assessment and counseling services to gifted and twice-exceptional students and supporting research and other clinic initiatives.

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

Sign Up for Summer!

Don’t miss any exciting opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

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For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • The Integrated Acceleration System: Making Decisions About Grade-Skipping: February 26, 2022
    • Topics in Teaching and Learning (Teaching Outside the Lines: Developing Creativity in Every Learner): February 16, 2022
    • Prog/Curr for High Ability Students: March 7, 2022
    • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: March 21, 2022, or April 18, 2022
    • Continuing Education Individual Study (Connecting to Align Gifted Programming and Services): April 25, 2022
    • Intro to Educating Gifted Students: May 16, 2022, June 13, 2022, or August 22, 2022
    • Academic Acceleration: June 6, 2022
    • Senior Honors Project: June 13, 2022
    • Conceptions of Talent Development: October 17, 2022
    • Practicum: October 24, 2022, or November 14, 2022
  • Summer Programming for Educators:

For Students & Families

Summer Programs

2022 Winners of Iowa Junior Science & Humanities Symposium

Congratulations to everyone who competed at this week’s Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)!  

These high school students are doing impressive research projects and did an excellent job communicating their findings to a panel of judges and an audience of their peers. Regional winners receive scholarships and an expense-paid trip to compete at the annual National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

2022 Winners of the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

The 2022 Iowa Regional winners are:

🏆 1st place: Amara Orth (Lewis Central High School) – “Secret Sounds of Bees: Analysis of Honey Bee Vibroacoustics Using Hidden Markov Models”

🏆 2nd place: Kiersten Knobbe (Adair-Casey Guthrie Center High School) – “Turbid or Not Turbid? That is the Question: Creating a Water Filtration and Sanitation Method for Developing Countries”

🏆 3rd place: Alina Markutsya (Ames High School) – “Biomechanical Analysis of Balance Beam Skills in Gymnastics”

🏆 4th place: Libby Knipper (Beckman Catholic High School) – “Efficacy of Antimicrobial Starch-Based Plastic Food Storage Films”

🏆 5th place: Jasmyn Hoeger (Beckman Catholic High School) – “Novel Mammalian Fibroblast Cell Culture Media Technique for Ultraviolet Cell Reduction”

Message from the Director

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

Today’s view from the Blank Honors Center is grey and bare, seemingly devoid of energy. However, activity and enthusiasm abound inside the Blank Honors Center as we prepare for the Belin-Blank Center’s many student and professional learning programs, services, and information sessions scheduled for the next several months. 

This summer, students in grades 3-11 can choose from science, technology, engineering, art, math, and writing options. Whether online or on-campus, full-day or residential, all of our programs give students access to valuable university-level resources and experts in developing talent. 

Educators can earn their TAG Endorsement through our Chautauqua program and fully online classes. Other excellent professional learning opportunities include our Belin Fellowship and AP Summer Institute.

We are also pleased to welcome two new members of the Belin-Blank Center team! Dr. Nesibe Karakis is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar in our STEM Excellence and Leadership program. Mr. Dominic Balestrieri-Fox is our new Administrative Services Coordinator. He works to support many programs across the Center, including the Iowa Online AP AcademyAP Summer Institute, and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. If you encounter either of them when you contact the Belin-Blank Center, please join us in welcoming them!

New colleagues and changing seasons are but two reminders that change is the only constant. January closed with the very sad news that our friend and colleague, University of New South Wales Professor Emerita Miraca Gross, passed away. Dr. Gross’s work had a profound impact on the field of gifted and talented education. This is especially true in academic acceleration, where her contributions are unparalleled. She will always remain an inspiration, and her impact will positively influence many generations of students, families, and professionals. 

Dr. Gross advocated for tools associated with making acceleration decisions, such as our newly developed Integrated Acceleration System.  We invite you to learn more about this tool during an upcoming online session focused on making decisions about grade-skipping, featuring Belin-Blank Center experts.  

It may still be a grey day in February, but we are staying cozy inside the Blank Honors Center, eagerly turning our eyes toward sunnier days. Whether you are a parent, educator, or student, we hope you will join us for one of the many exciting events and programs we are planning for this summer. We are excited to see you soon!

Strengths-Based Assessment to Better Understand Your Student’s Unique Needs

The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic is pleased to partner with Bridges 2e Center for Research and Professional Development to facilitate access to their Suite of Tools for our clients.

The Suite of Tools is a strengths-based, talent-focused tool that brings together several different types of assessments to help parents and educators celebrate the unique gifts of a particular student and bring their eclectic profile into better focus. The Suite of Tools (2016) was originally developed by Dr. Robin Schader and Dr. Susan Baum at the Bridges 2e Center for Research and Professional Development, and is built on the theme of C.L.U.E.S.: a process of Collecting information, Looking for connections, Uncovering patterns, Exploring options, and Seeking joyful learning.

The first assessment in the Suite of Tools is “My Learning Print,” which explores ways in which students prefer to learn, their specific interests, conditions that enhance understanding, fun hobbies, and family experiences outside of the classroom. The second assessment is called the “Quick Personality Indicator,” which asks participants to rank descriptive statements and then helps students to tally these outcomes to decipher whether they are most like a People Person, Learned Expert, Creative Problem Solver, or Practical Manager. A third tool is the Teacher Feedback form, which offers classroom educators the opportunity to reflect on the core abilities of this student. After a parent interview, each of these CLUES is brought together into a PowerPoint presentation by a seasoned educational therapist who highlights the findings of the Suite of Tools for your distinctive student, and then offers suggestions and direction for talent development opportunities that can enhance this student’s social-emotional growth and promote their intellectual potential. The Suite of Tools is especially helpful to include as an additional lens of insight along with a psychoeducational evaluation, when a learning team is crafting a 504 Plan, or for exploring options of optimal learning during an IEP Meeting.

Bridges Academy case manager Sandra Clifton, supported by her colleague Amy Clark, will be offering these services to interested Assessment and Counseling Clinic clients. For more information, please email sandra.clifton@bridges.edu.

Sandra Clifton

After earning her Masters in English Education and serving over a decade as a high school teacher, Sandra Clifton earned credentials as a professional coach and joined the RULER Team at Yale University to guide teachers in a program of Social-Emotional Learning.  She then opened her own private practice: the Clifton Corner, a safe space of learning to support overwhelmed students who struggle with issues of perfection, motivation, organization, learning differences, and self-esteem. For the past fifteen years, Sandra has worked to promote self-discovery and personal accountability to help young people transform their identity through the tools of mindfulness, creativity, leadership, and positive psychology as a Board Certified Educational Therapist.  Sandra shares a special affinity with both athletes and artists who shine with strengths outside of school–but may encounter challenges with time management, confidence, and/or academic insecurities in the classroom–often identified as gifted, sensitive, and/or twice-exceptional students. Sandra also guides parents through curriculum decisions and school transitions to create more joy in the journey of learning. She is currently working to earn her doctorate in Cognitive Diversity at Bridges Graduate School and is thrilled to be serving as an intern at the Belin-Blank Center.

Amy Clark

Amy Clark is a doctoral student at Bridges Graduate School, a solutions innovator, and a mom. She found her love of twice-exceptional education through the creation of Chestnut Ridge Academy, which she founded to serve her son by creating highly customized experiences for gifted and exceptional minds. In addition to her daily role as a tiny-school leader, she supports families on their own unique journeys. She guides parents to better understand their exceptional children and to uncover strategies for both educating and parenting differently through her company, Exceptionally Engaged. Her decades-long career in research and design at some of the world’s most creative companies has helped millions of people to feel empowered with tools that become part of their everyday lives. She continues to impact lives as an education, neurodiversity, and design consultant to those looking to discover the magic that lies at the intersection of technology and learning. 

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

Mark your calendars for upcoming opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

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For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • Current Readings and Research in Gifted Education: December 20, 2021
    • Program Models in Gifted Education: January 18, 2022
    • Identification of Students for Gifted Programs: January 18, 2022
    • Admin and Policy in Gifted Education: January 24, 2022
    • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: April 18, 2022
    • Belin Fellowship: June 19-24, 2022
    • AP Summer Institute (On Campus): June 28 – July 1, 2022
    • AP Summer Institute (Online): August 1-5, 2022

For Students & Families

Free Day Camp for 2e Students

Twice-exceptional (2e) students experience co-occurring high ability and disability that can make it difficult to access appropriate services for both their strengths and their challenges. The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic is excited to introduce several new programming options for twice-exceptional students in 2022. This post is the second in a series detailing these opportunities. Be sure to check out the other posts in the series:


This summer, the Belin-Blank Center is excited to build upon our collaboration with the Iowa Neuroscience Institute by inviting twice-exceptional (2e) high school students to the University of Iowa campus for a one-day neuroscience experience.  

2e students currently in grades 8 through 11 with an interest in neuroscience careers are invited to spend Monday, July 25, 2022, in the Carver College of Medicine interacting with University of Iowa faculty and graduate students. Participants will also get to complete a neuroscience laboratory experiment under the supervision of research staff. 

There is no cost to participate in this program, but spaces are limited. Contact the Belin-Blank Center’s Katie Schabilion, Ph.D., (katherine-schabilion@uiowa.edu) for more information on the program and the registration process. 

A Summer Research Program That Boosts Your College Applications

Do you want an in-depth insight into university-level research? Check out the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) for students in grades 10-11. Applications are open now!

SSTP is an intensive summer research program that connects high-achieving high school students with world-class faculty research mentors from the research-intensive University of Iowa. SSTP offers rare access to elite opportunities that help students realize their academic and professional goals. Students participate in classes and events that will stretch them as researchers and scholars. They have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to explore their interests, enhance their academic skills, and make meaningful friendships with intellectual peers.

Research areas include:

On-Campus

  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Biomedical Engineering 
  • Business Analytics
  • Chemistry
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Environmental Science
  • Genetics
  • Health & Human Physiology
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Internal Medicine
  • Mathematics
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Neurology
  • Neuroscience
  • Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Orthodontics
  • Pediatrics
  • Pharmacology
  • Physical Therapy and Rehab Science
  • Physics & Astronomy
  • Psychiatry
  • Psychology

Online

  • Biology
  • Business Analytics
  • Chemistry
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Environmental Science
  • Genetics
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Neurology
  • Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Orthodontics
  • Pediatrics
  • Pharmacology
  • Physical Therapy and Rehab Science
  • Physics & Astronomy
  • Religious Studies

Applying to college? This program can help your application stand out. Also, students in SSTP can earn 3 hours of university credit. 

Check out the SSTP website for more information on SSTP and the application process. Start your application today!

Important Dates for Student and Educator Programs

Mark your calendars for upcoming opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • Differentiation Instruction for Gifted: October 25 – November 12, 2021
    • Empowering Underrepresented Gifted Students: November 22 – December 14, 2021
    • Leadership in Gifted Education: NAGC Convention: November 17 – December 9, 2021
    • Practicum in Gifted/Talented Education: October 25 – December 3, 2021 and November 8 – December 3, 2021
    • Conceptions of Talent Development: October 18 – December 17, 2021

For Students & Families

STEM Research Mentorship Opportunities for Students & Teachers

We are pleased to share two fantastic opportunities for high school student researchers and their teachers!

Mentorship for High School Student STEM Researchers

JSHS is offering a virtual mentoring program for high school students involved in STEM research.

Is this mentorship for me?

Any student who starts a research project and intends to submit their research at the regional Junior Science and Humanities (JSHS) competition can participate. This resource is free for students and supported by JSHS.

How can mentors help?

  • Mentors share their expertise and advice to help guide and encourage you throughout your research.
  • Mentors can provide assistance and feedback on your original research concepts.

How will I work with my mentor?

Chronus is a virtual mentoring platform that houses the JSHS virtual mentorship program. Through Chronus, you will be able to:

  • View mentor profiles and find mentor matches based on shared interests.
  • Connect with mentors for flash (one-time consultation) or long-term mentoring (on-going mentoring) year-round.
  • Receive valuable resources that help you get the most out of your mentorships.
  • Set up virtual meetings, ask questions, and manage your mentorships online or through the Chronus app.

How do I sign up?

Visit https://virtualmentoring.jshs.org/chronus to register today or reach out at admin@JSHS.org!

Mentorship for High School STEM Teachers

For STEM teachers, the Advancing Science Research Teaching (ASRT) program is accepting applications for their free, in-person, educational outreach program. This program is designed to equip high school teachers with the knowledge, insights, and activities to increase the amount, type, and scope of science research projects for their high school students.

Is the ASRT program for me?

The ASRT program is customized to help high school teachers who provide science research opportunities within a traditional STEM classroom setting, or helping those with a small, growing research program/club, or even helping those with more established Science Research Programs/Clubs. High school teachers may apply individually or as a group.

How are participants selected?

Applicants will be evaluated by a committee from Regeneron and/or ZEISS, based on a number of different criteria including, but not limited to:

  • Their interest in increasing the number of activities that build understanding & critical thinking, technology-based skills, networking skills, presentation skills, and lifelong skills.
  • Their interest in increasing the number of high school students who carry out projects and participate in regional, state, national and international science fairs.
  • Their interest in increasing the quality/level of the projects that their high school students are involved in.
  • Their interest in increasing the types/categories of the projects that their high school students are involved in.
  • Their level of support from the school community and their administration for creating science research/STEM opportunities for high school students.

How do I apply?

Visit https://forms.gle/W3335h1vRFP6aojVA to apply by November 14, 2021. The FAQ section of the www.ASRTprogram.com website has additional information.

Computer Science for Talented Students

We are hard at work creating new computer science opportunities for academically talented students! We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been up to. In the meantime, check out these popular options. Registration is open!

Advanced Computer Science
4th – 6th grade students,
Starts November 1st

Advanced Computer Science currently has one course open for registration. Explorations in Computer Science is an introductory course based on Project STEM curriculum that empowers students to engage with computer science as a medium for creativity, communication, problem solving, and fun. Through a series of real-world scenarios, projects and challenges, students are introduced to foundational concepts that they will return to repeatedly throughout the course.


Computer Science Python Fundamentals
7th – 9th grade students
,
Self-paced; start anytime

Computer Science Python Fundamentals is an entirely self-directed learning experience to complete whenever and wherever you want. Computers are simple. They do only what you tell them. Through a series of interactive online modules, with built-in support from experienced programmers, you will learn to talk to computers using the Python programming language. You can progress through the modules at a pace that is just right for you, with access to an exclusive expert forum to have your questions answered along the way. During the course, you’ll learn more about programming, create programs of your own using Python, and have a lot of fun along the way. And, who knows, you may end up writing the next big program!

Welcome to Another Year of Invention!

Are you a teacher who works with students during the invention process? Invent Iowa will return in a virtual format on April 18, 2022. Now is a great time to make sure your budding inventors and entrepreneurs are getting started on their projects!

We are excited to announce a new platform from our colleagues at Invention Convention WorldwideInHub is a collection of professional development, curriculum resources and information about experiences and field trips. This is a free resource to learn and share with other inventive educators and students. 

If you are a student or have a student who would like to participate in Iowa’s State Invention Convention, be sure to mark your calendars for these important dates:

  • January 20, 2022: Registration opens
  • February 22, 2022: Competition materials are due
  • March 22, 2022: Students are notified of their qualification status
  • March 28, 2022: Qualifying students must commit to State Convention
  • April 18, 2022: State Invention Convention

For a helpful overview of the Invention Convention program, be sure to check out this helpful How-To Guide. Happy inventing!

Professional Learning Continues this Fall!

Photo by Max Andrey on Pexels.com

In Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery declared, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” (Anne of Green Gables is a great read for young gifted readers, as well as for you, if you haven’t read the classic!)  We look forward to collaborating with you this October and beyond!

October brings the midway point in the fall semester, but we have more offerings coming up than classes that are ending.  If you have at least one other person from your school/district interested in taking a class with you, in the spirit of a Professional Learning Community (PLC), contact us at educators@belinblank.org, and we’ll give all the members of your PLC a 50% tuition scholarship (applied to graduate tuition, so $290/hour).

For those who are interested in continuing their professional learning about gifted education (whether earning the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement or not), consider some of these options, all critical for your practice. (All credits apply to one of the strands for the endorsement.)

Workshops

For these options, the cost is tuition without any technology fees.

Programming Strand

EDTL:4153:0WKA Gifted and General Education Collaboration (1 semester hour)
October 11 – 29
Instructor: Gerald Aungst
What is more important than collaboration to ensure the best for our gifted students?

EDTL:4025:0WKA Differentiated Instruction for Gifted (1 s.h.)
October 25 – November 12
Instructor: Debra Judge
One of the foundations of gifted education, especially since all educators have a responsibility to differentiate for gifted learners (e.g., see MTSS for Advanced Learners)

EDTL:4096:0WKB Empowering Underrepresented Gifted Students (1 s.h.)
November 22 – December 14 
Instructor: Antonia Szymanski
HOT off the press, from Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, to help empower students who have been overlooked for gifted programs.

Administrative Strand

PSQF:5194:0WKB Leadership in Gifted Education:  ITAG Conference (1 or 2 s.h. )
October 21 – November 10 
Instructors: Laurie Croft & Randy Lange
Those interested in Iowa Talented and Gifted Conference credit, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  Automatic 50% tuition scholarship (applied to graduate tuition, so $290 / hour).

PSQF:5194:0WKA Leadership in Gifted Education: NAGC Convention (1 or 2 s.h)
November 17 – December 9 
Instructors: Laurie Croft & Randy Lange 
Those interested in NAGC credit, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  Automatic 50% tuition scholarship (applied to graduate tuition, so $290 / hour).

Practicum Strand

EDTL:4189:0WKA Practicum in Gifted/Talented Education (1 s.h.)
November 8 – December 3 
Instructor: Laurie Croft
Those interested in practicum, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  You can get started as soon as you enroll!

Extension Classes

The cost of these classes is tuition plus technology fees.

EDTL:4067:0EXW Conceptions of Talent Development (3 s.h.)
October 18 – December 17  
Instructor: Laurie Croft
Psychology strand (2 sh); Programming (1 s.h)
This credit applies to both the Psychology and the Programming strand, exploring issues that are important to the focus on talent development in our field.

RCE:4188:0EXW Practicum in Gifted Education (1, 2, or 3 s.h.)
October 25 – December 3
Instructor: Laurie Croft
Practicum strand
Those full-time students or those interested in more than one hour of practicum, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  You can get started as soon as you enroll!

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 instructions 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 this fall to provide the best possible programming for gifted/talented children!

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.

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 entered in 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 has recently developed the new online Integrated Acceleration 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. The grade-skipping form of acceleration has already been launched. Early entrance to kindergarten and the other forms of acceleration will be coming soon. The Integrated Acceleration System provides an interactive online system designed to help educators and families gather the needed information and weigh the necessary factors in making these decisions. To sign up to receive more information about acceleration and the new Integrated Acceleration System,  click here!

Resources

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. Above-level testing opportunities allow students to showcase their talents and help educators and others to make good suggestions about appropriate educational options for these students.

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

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.

Art and Writing Summer Programs

High school students, don’t miss your chance to join our summer art and writing programs. Hurry – classes start soon!  

Summer Art Residency
Grades 9-12

High school artists will earn college credit for doing what they love! The University of Iowa houses a nationally ranked School of Art. Our talented faculty have been teaching art online all year long, and they know how to do it right! Students will receive 2 semester hours of graded University of Iowa credit. This will appear on an official university transcript that they can add to their college applications!

Summer Writing Residency
Grades 9-12

High school students will have the unique opportunity to work with world-class writing faculty from the University of Iowa – better known as the Writing University and home to the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop and landmark Prairie Lights bookstore. Students will receive 2 semester hours of graded University of Iowa credit. This will appear on an official university transcript that they can add to their college applications!

Workshop for Young Writers 
Grades 6-8

Middle school students will meet classmates from across the country and passionate instructors from the “Writing University” to help build a writing community. Accepted students can look forward to developing their writing skills, workshopping their pieces among peers, and expanding their creative abilities.

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

Career Assessment Services at the ACC

The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic offers a range of assessment and therapy services to help high ability and twice-exceptional students access opportunities and achieve their goals. Our career assessments are a useful tool in helping an individual explore their interests, abilities, personality characteristics, and personal values to assist in exploring potential careers.

You may wish to consider our career assessment if your child is:

  • Overwhelmed by the possibilities of the next stage of life and desires guidance to narrow the options.
  • Looking for information about the suitability of different career paths based on individual factors like interests and personality factors.
  • Seeking greater self-understanding but do not have a need for a comprehensive educational or diagnostic evaluation.
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

During a career assessment at the Belin-Blank Center, a student would participate in a brief interview with our counseling staff. Afterward, the student would complete computerized and paper-and-pencil rating scales to provide information relevant in making career choices. Our psychologists would then discuss the results and their implications with the student. Following the assessment, the student and their parents are provided with a report detailing the results and our recommendations.

The cost of a career assessment is $250. Because career evaluations are not medical in nature, fees for these services cannot be submitted to insurance for reimbursement.

In addition to career assessments, available clinic services include educational evaluations (to assist with academic planning), twice-exceptional evaluations (for psychological diagnosis), and therapy with licensed psychologists or trainees.

Could a career assessment be beneficial for your child? You can request an appointment through our online intake form.

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

Photo by CDC on Pexels.com

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 offers a 3-semester-hour graduate course on academic acceleration each summer. The course will be taught entirely online over an 8-week period. Contact acceleration@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.

Article updated 11/4/22.

Need a Spring Break?

We’ve done the work AND saved you money!

Get a full year of access to three gifted kid-tested and parent-approved platforms for less than the cost of one.

Kids will have fun learning:

  • Creative Writing with Night Zookeeper
  • Math with Prodigy
  • Social Science and Humanities with BrainPOP

A New Face at the Belin-Blank Center

We are excited to welcome a new staff member!

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

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

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

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

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

Online Experiences Designed for Gifted Kids

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

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

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

Bravery: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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

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

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

Adventures in the Sky with Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart

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

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

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

Amelia Earhart 

Adventures in the Sky

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

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

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

Photo by Ömer Aydın from Pexels

Python Programming for 4th-6th Graders

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

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

How it works

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

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

-Bill Gates

Help your child become 21st century-ready

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

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

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

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

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

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

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

Online Neuroscience Class for Middle Schoolers

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

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

Getting to Know Your Brain: A Crash Course in Neuroscience

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

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

Online Math Class: Master Mathematicians Battle Round!

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

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

Master Mathematicians Battle Round

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

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

Online RBG Class

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

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

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

Bravery: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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

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

New Online Student Programs!

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

Enrichment Expeditions 
Grades 2-8 

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

Coders’ Lab
Grades 4-6 

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

Coding with Python 
Grades 7-9 

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

Enrichment Classes are Back – Online!

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

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

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

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

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

Start your expedition today at belinblank.org/enrichment!  

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.

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.