Monday, September 21, 2015

Gifted Exchange turns 10!

Believe it or not, this blog turns 10 years old this week (on the 23rd, exactly). If it were a kid, it would be a 4th grader -- or perhaps an accelerated 5th or 6th grader.

My own interest in gifted education came from my experiences in school. I wound up writing about the topic for USA Today, and then Jan and Bob Davidson hired me to help write their book, Genius Denied. I learned a lot in the process.

Years later, my interest in this topic has broadened to raising my own children -- kids who ask questions for which I have no answers, and who must sometimes be distracted in church by asking them to calculate how many seconds are in a week (that occupied a reasonable amount of time with no calculator).

The folks at the Davidson Institute helped pull some examples of the most-read posts over the past 10 years. All of these topics are still ripe for discussion, and I hope to start new posts related to these topics over the next few months. In the meantime, have fun perusing the archives!

Sept. 29, 2011: The Case Against Delaying Kindergarten

Dec. 3, 2007: Gifted Kids, Bad Behavior

Sept. 26, 2005: The Magic of Boarding Schools

Jan. 11, 2006: The Life and Death of a Prodigy (The New Yorker)

June 13, 2012: Summer reading time

August 3, 2010: Take a test, skip a grade?

September 20, 2009: Gifted Children and Sleep

June 15, 2009: Should Gifted Kids Know their IQ Scores?

September 2, 2008: Are 20% of high school drop-outs gifted?

December 22, 2011: Are Legos for girls?

June 20, 2008: Did NCLB hurt gifted students?

July 25, 2010: Time: The Case Against Summer Vacation?

June 24, 2010: How do you talk about your gifted kid?

June 4, 2009: Why do gifted kids drop out of college?

March 26, 2009: The Importance of Preschool

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Intel and the Intel Science Talent Search

Years ago, I had a gig with Scientific American writing a weekly column for the website called "Where are they now?" This recurring feature looked at past finalists in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, later called the Intel Science Talent Search. It was a fun gig for me. Armed with a list of names of finalists since the 1940s, I'd Google them and see who I could find. Some people were easy to find (e.g. Ray Kurzweil) -- others were more obscure. I'd write about their high school projects, and their current careers. I was so taken with some of the stories that I later went back to several people (including Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann) to interview them for the career section of 168 Hours. I attended the finalists event in Washington DC once, where Colin Powell was the guest speaker (that was kind of cool).

Anyway, from a PR perspective, it always seemed like a pretty good deal for Intel. Every one of the 40 finalists would be featured prominently in their local print and broadcast media. Many major national outlets (like the New York Times) did close-to-annual features as well. From a recruiting perspective, it probably didn't hurt to have 40 of the top young scientists have a very fond, perhaps even evangelical view of the company. All this for the price of the scholarships and administration -- a small chunk of change to a Fortune 500 company.

So I was somewhat surprised to learn that Intel has decided to stop sponsoring the contest. According to this story in the New York Times, they're continuing for the next year or so, and then will be stepping back. No particular reason was given for why it's no longer seen as the right move for the philanthropic side of the company.

It's possible some other corporation will step up (the Times article speculated about Google). I hope someone will. While there are other contests out there (for instance, the Davidson Fellowships!) it's never a bad thing to have young scientists rewarded. The existence of prizes and prestige encourages high schools to step up their scientific game, and give kids a chance to do independent research. Indeed, a number of high schools have established research programs precisely to get kids to become finalists in Intel and other programs such as the Davidson Fellows. Here's hoping this is a good thing that will continue.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The skill of performance

My 5-year-old starts "real" kindergarten later this week. Long-time blog readers know that our district is perfectly fine with letting you hold back your child for a year, but his late September birthday means getting around the Sept 1 cut-off involves jumping through a lot of hoops. We chose not to push it. He's a pretty relaxed kid, and indeed, we have friends who just made the cut-off who've decided to repeat kindergarten, partly because so many kids are red-shirted. If you turn 5 in late August, you are literally a year and a half younger than many kids in the class.

He did a full-day kindergarten program at his pre-school last year and is now in "real" kindergarten for half day. The other half he'll attend a kindergarten enrichment program. I think it will be a good fit. He's been on the cusp of reading for a long time. I'm pretty sure he can do it, but doesn't want to. I'm hoping the peer pressure will push that over the edge.

But one thing I was interested to see he's developed recently is some fairly serious skills at performing under pressure. Both my boys tried out for swim teams this summer. The 8-year-old's is a real team, but the 5-year-old's development team try-out was no less nerve-wracking, at least for me. What I didn't realize going in is that it's not just about whether you can swim -- that at least is fairly straightforward (he can do a passable crawl and backstroke). What the coaches were looking for is whether your kid, as a 5-year-old, can leave you, take instruction from a coach he just met, and jump into the pool in front of everyone and do what he's told.

I watched as my 5-year-old calmly listened for his name, went to the edge of the pool, and jumped in when the coach said to jump. Then he swam just as he'd learned in front of everyone. No nerves. He told me afterward he felt very confident about the whole thing. "Of course I can swim, Mommy!"

In life, I think this ability to perform under pressure is an important skill. I'm doing a lot of public speaking these days, which involves similar thinking. You need to be able to get up in front of any crew and talk in a relaxed, engaging manner. It is not in any way natural for me, but if my 5-year-old is already able to just roll with it, he'll do fine.