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Nurturing Three-Story Intellects

Posted by Categories: Gifted Students

How to Help Nurture Three-Story People | National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)There is a useful quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes that can be helpful in thinking about our goals in nurturing gifted children. Quoted here, I’ve substituted people for men in his original writing.

One-story intellects, two-story intellects, three-story intellects with skylights. All fact-collectors, who have no aim beyond their facts, are one-story people. Two-story people compare, reason, generalize, using the labors of the fact-collectors as well as their own. Three-story people idealize, imagine, predict; their best illumination comes from above, through the skylight.

— Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Poet at the Breakfast Table (1883)

It certainly takes all three levels of people in making the world go round. We need people who can gather information; we need people who can use information, and we need people who can imagine and create ideas, with or without the first two levels of information. This third level reflects our goals for gifted, talented, and creative students. We want them to be three-story people who have no roofs on their buildings—no boundaries to their thinking and imagining. We want them to be able to look deep within to explore the questions, passions, and desires that will drive them through fulfilling lives. Only in this way will they become all that they are meant to be.

How do you make three-story people? To start, ask open-ended, challenging questions; provide resources and direction when students express a new interest, and encourage mental risk taking with the safety of knowing there are no right or wrong ideas.

How else have you created three-story people? Share your strategies with us and keep climbing up to the third floor!

All the best,

Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
CEO, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

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