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Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.'s Blog Posts

The Impact of Natural Disasters on Gifted Students and How They Can Help

Gifted children have a tendency toward intensities in many areas—academic, physical, and emotional. The emotional sensitivities usually coupled with moral intensities become very apparent during times of crisis and disaster. The recent barrage of the effects of hurricanes Harvey and Irma spotlight our awareness of the intensities that gifted children can experience. They are often deeply affected by the ravaging effects of natural disasters on such a large number of people. They may become depressed, nervous, anxious, or fearful when hearing disaster news and when viewing photos showing the devastation. As parents and educators we are often caught unawares of the intensity of children’s responses and unsure of the best courses of action to take to relieve their stress.

In my experience, engaging and empowering students to participate in solving the resulting problems following such disasters has proven to be effective on many levels. Engagement in problem solving processes directs the student’s energies in positive directions, provides a sense of control and satisfaction, and also helps the victims of the disaster, which is the ultimate goal. The actions taken can be small or large—either will calm the student and will help the needy parties.

There are many things you can do to help your child or student feel useful and empowered in such situations:

  1. Of course, the most apparent is to help raise money for any of the many organizations helping the vast number of people affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, or whatever causes they care about. These organizations are easily found on the Internet.
  2. They can participate in drives to collect clothing and supplies for those in emergency situations, such as in the hurricane relief efforts.
  3. For most children, concern about animals is paramount, so they might support efforts to save and relocate animals and pets displaced by hurricanes.

At our Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG) programs, we have offered several classes in the past regarding preparing for and preventing disasters, as a way to help students cope with the possibilities that disasters portend. These classes were not very well subscribed as I think it is difficult for young people to think of being prepared for something that at the time exists in the abstract.

A couple of other ways that students can deal with helping others, being prepared mentally and emotionally for future disasters are:

  1. Start a non-profit organization based around a cause or concern that the student may have. That way they are continuously working on making the world a better place and have a structure ready that can be used for emergency situations as well.
  2. Participate in programs of Future Problem Solving (FPS), and, particularly, Community Problem Solving (CmPS). CmPS encourages them to tackle a real problem in their community and learn the processes of creative problem solving that can be applied in any issue of concern. FPS encourages them to think about potential problems of the future, learning a creative problem solving process, the importance of teamwork, and awareness of how things may be different in their futures lives. These strategies help students cope with the unknown and help them bring confidence into their daily lives. (see

You doubtless have other suggestions of ways that you have helped gifted students pair their deeply emotional feelings with addressing the outcomes rendered through disasters. We’d love to hear from you and share your ideas with others.

All the best,

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

Creative and Deep Thinking Through Social Networks

Creative and Deep Thinking Through Social Networks | National Society for the Gifted and TalentedA recent article by Peter Csermely talks about the importance of conceptual and social networks in developing aspects of creativity. Creative thinking requires both flexible and established thought, as creative processes require divergent and convergent thinking, acquisition of new information as well as use of available knowledge, and a cyclical process of enumerating challenges and creating solutions to those challenges. Social networking can support all those processes.

Csermely notes that the time needed for the deep thinking that is necessary for success and creative exploration is becoming more elusive in our fast-paced, social media bytes society. This problem may be partially ameliorated by engaging in social networks with people from multiple cultures and perspectives. Considering new viewpoints and contexts may lead to original thought. This intensity of thought is heightened if the network is composed of other talented and creative people. Engaging in interesting social networks also helps to feed the thirst for new information, stimuli, points of view, and ideas that highly talented people have. (more…)

5 Ways Gifted Students Can Improve Public Speaking Skills

5 Ways Gifted Students Can Improve Public Speaking Skills | National Society for the Gifted and TalentedLeadership is attached to many goals that we have for gifted and talented students. We want these students to have the confidence and skills necessary to influence others toward the goal of the greater good, to lead intellectual developments within their fields of study, and/or to lead themselves into self –fulfilling roles and endeavors. We often find leadership courses in gifted programs where students study the characteristics of leadership, research past and present examples of effective leaders, and problem solve real and authentic scenarios where good leadership is required. These are all fantastic activities for gifted students to experience. (more…)

4 Ways Gifted Students Can Be More Inventive this Summer

4 Ways Gifted Students Can Be More Inventive this Summer | National Society for the Gifted and TalentedAre you an inventive person? If not, wouldn’t you like to be? If you’re a full time student, summer is a great season to think in ways you don’t have time to think during the rest of the year.  You may have increased relaxation time and you may be in situations that are different from what you do the rest of the year, exposing you to new challenges or prompting new ideas.

Maybe you are at the beach and want to come up with new, efficient, and inexpensive ways to desalinate salt water. Maybe you want to find a way to cool things, like drinks or clothes or surfaces, in ways that don’t involve ice, refrigeration, or air conditioning. Maybe you desire more efficient insulation than what you’re currently experiencing. Or maybe you see a lot of plastic waste outdoors and want to think of additional types of biodegradable packaging. Maybe you also find you need some help in thinking through your problems and ideas.

Here are 4 tips we often use in working with gifted students to help them be successful in thinking inventively. (more…)

Summer Camps: Benefits Beyond the Obvious

Summer Camps: Benefits Beyond the Obvious | National Society for the Gifted and TalentedHere at NSGT and SIG, we often discuss the benefits of academic summer programs, referring to the major benefits of increased academic depth, personal independence, development of meaningful relationships, and so forth. These are all fantastic benefits, and of particular significance to gifted, creative, and academically talented youth, as such programs can fill many gaps in the students’ overall education.

It’s also interesting and valuable to note all the additional benefits of summer youth camps, in a more general sense. A recent study commissioned by the American Camp Association, Northeast Region, alerts us to an expanded view of those benefits. Particular attention in their listed results is given to economic benefits associated with employment and the capital contributions placed into the economy through camp operations. However, for those of us who work with gifted students, it is those noted benefits associated with nurturing our future generation that are of most relevance and interest to us here at NSGT. Findings taken from the Executive Summary of the 2017 Economic Contribution of Youth Camping in the Northeast included these three areas: (more…)

4 Benefits of Introducing the Arts to Your Gifted Child

4 Benefits of Introducing the Arts to Your Gifted Child | National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)We are pleased to offer this guest blog from Oak Crest Academy in California, a JK-12 school for gifted students.

Providing a well-rounded educational program for the gifted and talented is important because they have the tendency to delve deeply into only one or two subjects if left to their own choices. This is why quality private schools for gifted learners include enrichment courses that focus on teaching elements of the creative arts to students during school and throughout the summer. Since these classes are designed to spark creativity, they offer benefits that enhance a gifted learner’s rigorous academic schedule by expanding upon what they learn in their traditional courses. (more…)

Teaching Gifted Youth about Persistent Problems with Plastics Pollution

Teaching Environmentalism: Persistent Problems with Plastics Pollution | National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)The recent news story about the devastating amount of plastics that have washed up onto Henderson Island in a remote area of the Pacific Ocean is shocking to see. However, this problem provides great opportunity for parents and educators to engage their gifted and creative students in being a part of the solutions of such crippling examples of human-inflicted damage to our planet.

We know that gifted and talented students desire curriculum that is authentic or real and that they have the abilities to engage in sophisticated problem solving, analysis, and ingenuity. The Henderson Island problem is one that these students should be aware of and should have opportunity to pursue, whether just on the level of this one significant example, or through interests that this example might generate.

Here are some potential questions that students could pursue to stimulate their thinking about Henderson Island as well as similar problems around the world. (more…)

Make your Space a Makerspace: 4 Things to Consider for Gifted Students

 Make your Space a Makerspace: 4 Things to Consider for Gifted StudentsI often have opportunity to visit schools all over our country. One trend that I have noticed over the past few years is that they all seem to have a designated makerspace for tinkering. This trend is wonderful to see for us here at NSGT as makerspaces provide a terrific outlet for the needs and skills of gifted, talented, and creative students.

The concept of a makerspace can mean different things to different people and can range from a place that contains highly sophisticated and expensive equipment (3-d printers, laser cutters, tools) to a gathering of simple, low-tech, and available materials (LEGOS, arts and crafts materials, wood scraps).

The common thread of all makerspaces is that they provide a physical place where people can gather together to make things, think creatively, and explore, using a variety of materials and supplies.   (more…)

The Rise of Homeschooling Gifted Students

The Rise of Homeschooling Gifted Students | National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)At Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG), our summer programs, we are finding that more and more families with whom we interact are either engaging in or contemplating homeschooling options. This development is understandable for gifted children due to several trends. First, funding for gifted education is tenuous at best. Gifted programs are usually first on the chopping block, if existent at all, and are afforded no real protections at local, state, or federal levels. Second, programs that do exist are often inadequate, either by virtue of being part-time or by not having the resources to provide the complexity, depth, and rigor of the widely varying needs and abilities of gifted students. Additionally, I believe that parents today are better informed about gifted education and the characteristics of their gifted children, than when I first started out in this field, so that there is an increased awareness of what their needs are and of what they are not receiving in school. Finally, I believe the ubiquitous existence of technology everywhere has made it much easier than ever to provide an education from home that is, at the very least, competitive with the education a gifted child can get in a school setting. (more…)

5 Ways to Close the Gender Gap in STEM Fields

5 Ways to Close the Gender Gap in STEM Fields | National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)We offer a many STEM-related courses in our SIG programs. I’m always happy when I visit these classes in the summer and see a good percentage of young women in them and also disappointed when I see no girls or very few in them. Our world is increasingly technological and computerized, creating a need for all people to be knowledgeable and many to be innovative in STEM areas. While the gender gap in engineering fields is slowly decreasing, there is still a concerning disparity in the number of women in engineering fields, as compared to men. Considering that February contains National Engineers Week, now is an appropriate time to take another look at this issue, particularly with our concern for young girls with talent and skills not participating in STEM areas to the extent we would like to see. (more…)