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Mighty Oaks, Monumental Possibilities

Posted by Categories: Gifted Education, Gifted Students

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. Most of us are familiar with this proverb and its implication that big things often result from small things, through patience, time, and effort. Just as the acorn contains a single seed for a potentially very large tree, small pieces of information or engaging ideas can grow into significant outcomes.Blog Photos

For gifted students, this implication is particularly powerful. People with the gifts of incredible memories, the ability to cull through vast amounts of information for a particular fact, and the ability to see what pieces of information are missing, can benefit greatly from the sowing of individual seeds. Gifted students also latch onto ideas or facts that particularly fascinate them and hold their interest over time. I encourage educators to intentionally plant seed of intrigue into their curriculum and teaching strategies. These seeds of intrigue may sprout later into areas of passion or discovery or connection for the student. Creativity often needs incubation time to develop novel ideas and insightful solutions to ideas planted over time.

There are many ways an educator can add such seeds into their classrooms:

  1. Intentionally include tangential topics to a big idea being discussed. A student may make a connection or be intrigued enough to want to pursue that additional topic in another way. For example, a meteorological study of weather might bring up the topic of how weather fluctuations may affect Earth’s rotation, which might prompt additional questions about global warming, air space travel systems, and effects on other nearby celestial bodies.
  2. When introducing a new course of study, make a list of all the potential topics students may wish to pursue on their own. Something new may catch a student’s eye that wouldn’t be part of the core content, and, even if there isn’t time currently to look into that topic, that idea may stay with the student until later when the time is right. For example, a study of first amendment rights to freedom of speech might not be as interesting when studying the US Constitution as it might become later when one’s identity is stolen.
  3. Introduce unusual units that are not normally found in the core curriculum. Such units should provide unique content that students wouldn’t normally explore and therefore might be innately intriguing for future study. I can think of one example where a student took a women’s studies course in our program and later wrote back that she had made this her major in college and would never have thought to do so prior to taking the course at SIG.
  4. Extemporaneous speeches are a great way to plant new seeds. By forcing students to draw a topic blindly, and then to peak on that topic for 30 seconds or a minute, may make them realize they know little about the topic and may want to look more deeply into it. Start with topics from the news for greatest authenticity and usefulness of content. Possible ideas might be a current political candidate, the latest product recall story, the latest nutritional study, the latest energy discovery, the current Supreme Court topic of debate, the
    latest technology invention, etc.

You can probably think of many more ways to plant seeds of intrigue into fertile minds that may grow into life-changing ideas, from individual impact to global impact. Most of all, be patient and understand that light bulbs may go on, or solutions may flourish, long after the seed was planted. You may not be around to see it, but have faith that your efforts will eventually pay forward in unexpected ways with students who have the capacity to nurture bits of information into complex thoughts.

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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