Out of School Activities for a Gifted Learner

Out of School Activities for a Gifted Learner
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Gifted learners have insatiable appetites for knowledge and self-expression. They want to learn and explore and grow and express their own individualism. They want to achieve, excel and find new challenges to meet. They are driven to be the best they can be.

A school for the gifted and talented provides the best opportunities for these students to identify and develop their talents. But what happens at when school ends? What happens at home, on the weekend, and during the summer months?

There are a host of other opportunities available to gifted learners outside of school. Parents can take advantage of these by directing their gifted children toward those activities best suited to their children’s strengths and interests.

The problem with finding the right activities and gifted programs is that there is no systematic method for doing so. Parents are really on their own to come up with a custom plan for their children. Taking your children to libraries can only help so much.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of opportunities to explore, due to the increasing awareness of the need for resources for the gifted and talented.

At Home Activities

Many parents, when faced with the problem of how to help their gifted children keep growing and learning, look for outside activities and sources. They don’t realize that they can really start by simply talking with their children.

Giftedness is genetic, and so parents are also intelligent and can share their own viewpoints, opinions and experiences with their curious children who want to know about this mysterious place called “work.”

What parents do at work is of great interest to gifted children. So that’s a good place to start discussions. That can be followed by all sorts of discussions and activities. Parents can provide reading materials, play cards or table games with their children, share maps and explore new places, provide opportunities for creative writing or art projects.

Parents can help build cars, airplanes, boats, make a robot, or build one of many elaborate Lego structures.  There are many games that have been developed for gifted and talented children. They can be categorized as strategy games, thinking games, and creative games.

Strategy games

Some games challenge players to think ahead and evaluate possible outcomes. Many of these strategy games have become popular over the years.

  • Othello: This game is easy to learn but it is always challenging. It uses double-sided discs that flip to opposite colors to force strategic changes.
  • Abalone: This is a game of pushing marbles and is good for younger children.
  • Labyrinth: This game is a traditional maze with a fantasy twist using mythical characters to stimulate imagination as well as logical thinking.
  • Quarto:  A game with pieces that have multiple attributes and requires deductive reasoning.
  • Blokus: Strategic thinking is important in this game of blocks, and it helps if the players have good spatial reasoning.

Thinking Games

  • Riddle Cube the Game:  It helps to have good thinking skills in this game of shaping cubes to match game cards in a timed competition.
  • IQ Twist: Another thinking game, this one asks players to fit different shapes together. It has multiple levels and simple to complex challenges.
  • No Stress Chess: Chess is a very challenging intellectual game and can be played for a lifetime. But for children starting out, it can be a daunting challenge. This version of the classic game uses illustrated cards and a 2-sided board where the game can be learned without the stress that will come later with the “real game” of chess.
  • Qwirkle: This is a great thinking game that is similar to Scrabble but is played without the letters. It can be played by non-readers and those with reading difficulties. The game has received many awards.

Creative games

Internet resources

Most gifted children are fortunate to live in a home with a computer and internet access. The internet provides a world of opportunities for students to explore their areas of interest, and there are many sites that are designed just for them.

  • The Grey Labyrinth offers puzzles and brain challenges.
  • KB Konnected Kids provides interactive challenges to classroom subjects.
  • PBS Kids offers resources connecting subject areas with educational TV programs.
  • Tramline provides opportunities for online field trips.
  • Owl & Mouse offers geography lessons and offers a section on medieval history.

Gifted children love technology, and the internet is a great tool to open their minds.

After School ActivitiesSchool for the gifted and talented | Oak Crest Academy

Many schools offer after-school activities, extracurricular classes, organizations and clubs, intramural sports, and field trips. The child’s learning doesn’t have to end with school.

Field trips are a great way to develop special interests in a given field. For example, the Mass Audubon organization offers many enjoyable and educational programs that bring children to wildlife sanctuaries and closer to the fascinating world of nature.

These programs and field trips are coordinated with the Massachusetts Department of Education and align with curriculum standards. There are field trips like these all over the country.

Gifted Programs at Universities

There are institutions of advanced learning that provide special courses and programs for gifted students who are still in secondary schools. Stanford University has an Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY) that offers self-paced, computer-based instruction accessible CD Roms or the Internet.

There are programs like this nationwide. Johns Hopkins UniversityDuke University, and Northwestern University offer independent study programs for gifted and talented students.

The Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) is a web community and school that offer virtual classroom learning in the area of mathematics. The goal of AoPS is to teach students how to solve problems that they are unfamiliar with and have never seen before.

Summer Programs

Summertime is a time of relaxation and enjoyment for most school-age children. Enjoyment can mean exploring a gifted child’s area of interest in some kind of summer program that fosters that interest.

There are summer programs and summer camps throughout the country that cater to almost any area of specialization. For example:

  • Alabama – Space Camp provides camp options for children of all ages who might be interested in subjects like space exploration, aviation or aerodynamics.
  • California – Stanford Youth Orchestra provides academic workshops in composition, music theory, musicology and technology.
  • Colorado – Crow Canyon Archeological Center allows students to work alongside professional archaeologists and learn excavation techniques to uncover real artifacts.

There are public and private organizations that provide traveling programs across the country. These organizations bring portable classrooms and learning environments to schools, private events and nature centers.

One example is the Sky Connection’s EduTarium programs which are based on a portable planetarium and allow students to study the Earth from a different

The school for the gifted and talented offers the basis for developing your child’s special gifts. But the learning opportunities don’t stop there. There is a lot more to take in after 3PM, on weekends and during the summer. Just look around.

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