TEDx is Coming to Northwestern!

Northwestern University will be hosting their first-ever inclusive TEDx event featuring students, faculty and alumni on one stage for a full day of talks on April 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the McCormick Tribune Center Forum. The talks will be streamed live and also be posted online afterwards at TED.

TEDx NorthwesternU 2014 will focus on “how our increasingly complex world is driven by new collaboration and interdisciplinary thinking.” One of the presenters, Stephen Dowling, has been an instructor and Academic Coordinator for the CTD Summer Program. He is presenting “Teachers: Let’s Cross Paths More Often.” We asked Dowling to share a preview of his talk and reflect on his own role as an educator and administrator:

Forty years ago during a lecture at Harvard University, the American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein said, “the best way to know a thing is in the context of another thing.” Far be it from me to disagree with Lenny, but I’m not sure he could have anticipated a moment when it’s the only way. Knowledge doesn’t exist in neatly divided topics anymore: it’s tossed in a massive, digital pile, and left for us to comb through in our own time, in our own way. This generation of K-12 students will be most effected by the new, digital reality of information; they can go online, play “six wikis of Shakespeare,” and find themselves immersed in the particulars of Mediterranean climates. From drama to science in six mouse clicks! They need guidance as they learn to navigate this brave new world, and I believe interdisciplinary education will play a key role moving forward. Simply put, our students will be best served when disciplines cross paths in the classroom as they do in the world.

I’ll be speaking on this topic during the upcoming TEDxNorthwestern conference on April 12th, and my work at CTD as an instructor and administrator has informed my thinking. Time and again, I have seen CTD instructors jump over disciplinary boundaries to reach a struggling student: trouble with music theory? Think of it geometrically. Struggling with covalent bonds? It’s just a tightly choreographed dance. Some CTD courses are specifically interdisciplinary—Leapfrog’s “Rule the World,” or Apogee’s “Open for Business” —but so many others embrace interdisciplinary thinking beneath the surface. Spark’s “Survivor Math,” for example, blends tough math and science topics in games of island living and Robinson Crusoe derring-do. For gifted students, especially, this is critically important—it sparks their already vibrant imaginations into overdrive and provides windows into further possibilities for exploration. Let’s embrace the messiness of digital information and teach our children to see things as they might be, not just as they are.

Dowling’s session will raise an important question that we challenge you to weigh in on here: how should the way we access knowledge in the 21st century inform curricula and teaching?

Read more about this special event at www.tedxnorthwesternu.com. Free livestream tickets are available at www.eventbrite.com/e/tedxnorthwesternu-2014-crossing-paths-tickets-10567448523.

College Applications – Focus on the Factors You Can Control

By Cassandra Geiger & Jenise Holloway

ctd blog 1About 250 colleges and universities in the United States are deemed “selective.” About 50 colleges have acceptance rates of 30% or less; a few creep into single-digit admittance. These institutions claim higher graduation rates, world-renowned faculty, top facilities and resources, and large endowments.

Students and their families applying for admission to colleges and universities, regardless of the institution, often find the process overwhelming, anxiety provoking and sometimes confusing. The stress increases when applying to “selective” schools, where gaining admission may seem impossible.

The key to keeping a healthy and constructive perspective on the selective admissions process is understanding which factors you, as a student or parent, can control or influence and to what degree. Early identification and acknowledgement of these factors can reduce uncertainty and stress.

Factors within student/parent control

  • The classes you take in high school.
  • The quality of your work on assignments and projects.
  • How you spend your time, whether it’s a job, community service, sports, clubs, etc. Avoid the temptation to add “resume stuff” — take classes for the intellectual challenge and engage in activities for the genuine interest.
  • The research you do to develop your list of colleges and when you do that research. Your chance of success improves when you have the right information early in the process.
  • The timeliness of your applications; Submit all required material – applications and other supporting documents — on or before the due dates.
  • The quality of your application and essays. The earlier you start the process, the more time you have for “quality control.”
  • The number of applications you submit. A well-thought-out and researched list of colleges that includes reach schools, strong possibilities, and “safeties,” can reduce the panicked tendency to apply to as many schools as possible.
  • Your presence on social media and the information you make available for viewing.
  • Perspectives about the process and openness. Keeping an open mind and adopting a long-term view will go a long way toward reducing your stress.

Factors student/parent can influence

  • The attitudes and behaviors you display that distinguish yourself as a learner, not just a student.
  • The alignment between your professed interest and actions. Admission officers will notice if you say your dream is to be a medical doctor, but you are not enrolled in any higher level math and sciences classes. Similar observations will be noted if you profess your dedication to community service, yet have not participated in any activities that support your claim.
  • Your willingness to envision a future at various colleges and universities not just your first choice, the most prestigious or the one your friend likes.  This also requires moving beyond biases and preconceived notions of a college or experience derived from a visit. While bad weather, an unenthusiastic tour guide, or an extremely charismatic admissions rep can leave a lasting impression, none should be the sole factor in deciding whether a college is a good match for you..
  • The impression a student makes on admissions personnel regarding an applicant’s autonomy and independence. If only the student’s parents are asking questions, calling, and completing application tasks, it leaves doubts about whether a student has the capacity for independent long-term engagement.

Factors beyond student/parent control

  • The institutional priorities and needs of colleges. They change from year to year.
  • Size of the institution and the number of acceptances offered.
  • The number of applicants and the talent level (Rank, GPA, extra curricular activities, or other accomplishments) of the students you are competing against.
  • The content contained in your recommendation.
  • The admission representative(s) who read your application.

During the entire process, it’s helpful to remind yourself that multiple factors contribute to a denial or acceptance. Rarely is there one factor at the root of an admissions decision. So focus on the aspects of the process that you can control and make them the best you can. Good luck!

cassandra-profileCassandra Geiger directs the Northwestern Academy, a joint initiative under the Good Neighbor, Great University Program to identify and prepare academically talented, low-income youth from Chicago Public Schools for successful matriculation to selective colleges and universities. She previously worked with the Schuler Scholar Program as a college counselor.

Jenise-Holloway-webJenise Holloway is CTD’s Project EXCITE Advisor. She has spent more than 10 years working with students and their families through early college awareness initiatives, college admissions and retention.

Challenging Exceptionally Bright Children in Early Childhood Classrooms

by Ann Gadzikowski, Early Childhood Coordinator, Center for Talent Development

I recently had the pleasure of presenting a seminar for parents at Lake Forest Country Day School on the topic of “Challenging Exceptionally Bright Children in Early Childhood Classrooms.” I presented ideas from my book by the same name, published in 2013 by Redleaf Press, and while the intended audience for the book is teachers, I’ve found that parents are often very interested to hear about what they can be doing at home to support their children’s learning and development. The seminar included two big “take aways” for parents: The importance of play and benefit of making mistakes.

Leapfrog student playing with blocks

The Importance of Play

Young children with keen interests, intense curiosity, and advanced cognitive abilities are more likely to demonstrate the complexity of what they know through open-ended play experiences than through traditional academic methods, such as reading and writing or reciting math facts and times tables. Construction play using wooden blocks, for example, is a very rich and creative experience that helps introduce children to math and science concepts related to geometry, fractions, and physics. Opportunities for planning, problem solving, and negotiating are available whenever children play together, but this is especially true when children are working together to build something. Communication during block play can include statements of leadership (“Let’s build a fort!”), questions (“Where should be put the look-out tower?”), assertions (“The gate is too small. Let’s make it wider.”) and even humor (“Look, I built a toilet!”).  Developing and honing communication skills are another benefit of children’s block play.

Parents can encourage block play by purchasing a decent set of wooden blocks (natural wood in uniform sizes) and by providing the time and space to play with blocks. Girls, especially, often need encouragement from parents and teachers to dive in and experiment with construction toys in order to resist stereotypic misconceptions that blocks are just for boys. Many successful scientists and architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, have traced their passion for experimentation and design to their early experiences with blocks and construction toys.

The Benefits of Making Mistakes

You may have heard the phrase, “We learn more from our mistakes than our successes.” Easier said than done. Exceptionally bright young children can be perfectionists who are determined to get it “right” every time. Letting loose and experimenting with new materials and ideas can be a challenge. For example, in CTD’s Leapfrog course, Rocket Science, the children who learn the most are often the ones who build rockets that fail on the first launch. They must carefully examine the workings of the rocket model and develop a plan for correction. This process helps students explore and deepen their understanding of how the rockets work. Students who are successful launching their rockets on the first try, however, might not be motivated to take a second look at the details and characteristics of rocket construction. The students who repair and rework their rockets seems to leave the course with more knowledge and a greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Leapfrog teachers celebrate these kinds of failures as wonderful opportunities for advanced learning.

Parents can play a role in encouraging children to literally “mess around” as they play and learn. Parents can provide their children with open-ended materials such as clay, wire, and cardboard to construct inventions and models. A full recycling bin can be an excellent source of inspiration. A great example of this pro-mistakes attitude can be found in the picture book, Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. In this book, little Rosie builds a cheese-copter that crashes after hovering just a few moments in the air. Rosie is discouraged, but her aunt proclaims, “Your brilliant first flop was a raging success! Come on, let’s get busy and on to the next!” Parents can support children’s learning but praising their efforts and explorations, even when they fail. Especially when they fail.

Ann Gadzikowski is the Early Childhood Coordinator for CTD’s Summer Program. She earned her master’s degree from the Erikson Institute for the Advanced Study of Child Development in Chicago. If you’re interest in reading her book, please contact Redleaf Press.

TEST is a Four-Letter Word

By Juliet Frate, NUMATS Coordinator, Center for Talent Development


Has testing become a(n) (un)necessary evil in your gifted child’s life?  If so, you are not alone.  Parents and educators alike often express dismay at the number of tests that have become part of the day-to-day school experience in this era of data-driven accountability.

We know high-stakes, state-specific, summative assessments engendered a rash of locally developed, subject-specific, formative assessments to avoid surprises at the end of the year.  Administrators and teachers then began to feel the pressure to “teach to the test” to ensure job security.  Parents, too, realized that test scores can impact the opportunities available to their high-achieving children . . . as well as the real estate value of their homes!  (Read Testing Miss Malarkey for a humorous take on testing today.)

The problem, though, is not assessment itself, but rather the who, what, when, where, why, and how of assessment as currently legislated and utilized.  So let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Assessment, when used efficiently and effectively, provides the feedback needed to inform and support all planning, teaching, and learning.  In reality, assessment can play a pivotal role in the process gifted learners use to construct meaning and gain the knowledge, skills, and conceptual understanding needed to reach full potential.

The American Psychological Association’s Joint Committee on Testing Practices (2004) tells us, “Test users should select tests that meet the intended purpose and that are appropriate for the intended test takers.”  So let’s advocate for policies that specify

  • Assessment practices – How will the data be collected (e.g., multiple-choice questions, open-ended response)?  How will the collected data be evaluated (e.g., checklist, rubric)?
  • Assessment purpose – Does the assessment provide evidence OF (summative), FOR (formative), and/or AS (reflection) learning?  How will this evidence be used?
  • Assessment recording and reporting – How will the results of assessments be documented and communicated?

And let’s remember that one assessment, one snapshot in time, cannot tell the whole story.  (Take a look at Zoom to see how one picture can be misleading!)  Rather we need a photo album approach . . . especially for gifted students.  We currently advocate for accelerated placements, enrichment opportunities, and differentiated instruction.  But in this era of data and accountability, we must also advocate for differentiated assessment. 

Julie Frate is the coordinator of Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search (NUMATS). If you are interested in including above-grade-level testing in your child’s portfolio of differentiated assessments, visit http://www.ctd.northwestern.edu/numats/register.

One Key to Long-Term Career Satisfaction: An Interdisciplinary Career

Northwestern University's 3D wall“What you want for anybody, but especially for gifted students, is a career direction they can sink their teeth into and one that will keep them motivated for the long-term,” says Paula Kosin, Career Vision career consultant and frequent presenter at CTD conferences.

How is that possible, though, when many gifted students have interests all over the map?

“When we work with students that have multiple interests,” says Kosin, “they often have a number of aptitude strengths as well. They may be high in creativity and spatial abilities, high in math and high in problem-solving abilities, too. How do you engage all of these strengths in the context of a job and inspiring career? The challenge then is in finding or creating a role that enables them to use as many of these strengths as much as possible.”

To provide gifted individuals with adequate challenges, Kosin recommends career roles that offer interdisciplinary opportunities, both in subject matter and in using their entire range of aptitude strengths.

“You could start out as a nurse, and then add a Master’s degree in computer science, for instance, and move into the health informatics field, meshing your medical knowledge with computer database management,” explains Kosin. “Another example might be a nurse who attends law school and then, as an attorney, specializes in medical malpractice cases.”

The goal is to establish a foundation in one career, and as the individuals build competency, they are able to add on to that foundation with additional degrees, skills or experiences. This doesn’t always entail additional education; it could just mean seeking out more diverse opportunities within one field.

As an example, Kosin cites individuals who have an aptitude profile and interests that are a good fit for a science career. “They may love science and research,” says Kosin, “but if people with high idea generation abilities are stuck in a solitary lab all day, they will be crawling up the wall. They need to be interacting and talking with people.”

Paula KosinKosin’s solution for these individuals might be to “look for opportunities to teach, train and do workshops so that they’re using their full range of natural strengths. This results in greater job satisfaction, and ultimately, greater satisfaction with their lives.”

For more career development advice from Paula Kosin, consult the winter 2014 issue of Talent.

What is the point of Talent Searches?

If you’ve ever wondered, or been asked “What’s the point of Talent Search?”  (or, NUMATS in CTD’s case), check out this simply stated, helpful blog written by a parent and educator. Lynn Elizabeth Marlowe, an advocate for gifted and 2E students and homeschooling consultant, answered this question in a recent blog post:

1. They offer out of level testing.

2. They can lead to cool camps and online courses.

3. The test results can help the child take higher level coursework during the school year.

4. For homeschoolers, these out of level tests can offer a way to gauge what level the student should be working at and can also serve as the end of year assessment (in most states).

5. Sometimes talent searches lead to awards.

Read more here: www.lynnelizabethmarlowe.com/2014/01/28/talent-searches-what-is-the-point/

Want to register for NUMATS this year? Spring testing dates are still available! http://www.ctd.northwestern.edu/numats/program/dates/

Vote Now! What Will Be Top Careers In the Future?

What do you think will be the “hot” careers in 10 years?  Paula Kosin will address this subject in the winter issue of CTD’s newsletter Talent. Kosin, career consultant at Career Vision, first talked about careers of the future to CTD students during an extremely popular presentation at our Summer Conference earlier this year. She has since compressed the research she had conducted for that talk into a blog posting. Kosin lists (with explanations) the following areas as those that will be in demand in 2020: Medical, Education, Neuroscience and Mind Control, Genetics, Biometrics, Hydroponics and skyscraper farming, Green, Nanotechnology, Space, Digital Media.

We’re eager to hear your thoughts and will publish the results at a future date.

Is it Too Early to Think Career?

By Juliet Frate, NUMATS Coordinator, Center for Talent Development


As the parent of a gifted child, you want your child to develop his or her talents and reach full potential.  So you pay close attention to academic development because you know your child has the ability to earn top grades and scores . . . and potentially to earn a scholarship for a highly selective college or university.  You also pay close attention to personal and social development because you know that how your child thinks, feels, and acts can impact academic success . . . and you don’t want anything holding her back.

But do you ever think specifically about career development?  “Of course!” you say, “That’s why I help my child identify career goals and make sure he takes the courses he will need to make that happen.”  Well, that is career decision-making, often considered one of the latter stages of career development.  Career development, like academic, personal and social development, begins early and takes place over time.

The various career development theories address the ages and stages in which specific tasks or milestones take place.  Generally these involve career awareness, exploration, decision-making, and establishment, with accomplishment of the previous stage being a prerequisite for success moving forward.  And in that the competencies of career awareness and exploration are closely connected to the development of self-awareness, self-concept, and self-knowledge, these competencies clearly play a role prior to the secondary and postsecondary years of education; i.e., prior to career decision-making.

If you want your gifted child to develop his or her talents and reach full potential, consider a stronger focus on career development beginning now! Here are some online resources you can consult to get started:

And stay tuned for our next blog post, on Careers of the Future!

Juliet Frate is coordinator for Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search. She has worked as an educator and researcher for over 30 years.

New GLL Earth Science & Earth and the Environment Sequence Offers Online and Lab-Based Learning

By Anne Stevens, Creative Studies Coordinator, Center for Talent Development


Did you know we have only mapped a tiny fraction of the world’s oceans? Or that you can analyze data online from the oceans to the sun as a citizen scientist? Earth science is an exciting frontier of science, and laboratories around the world are opening their data sets to the public.

Every year CTD’s online program, Gifted LearningLinks (GLL), revises and updates its curriculum to reflect student and faculty interests. This year, we have added an Earth Science course to our Core Curriculum, and Earth and the Environment to our Honors Elective offerings.

This course series is part of our larger effort at CTD to integrate and sequence student experiences in our programs, creating program pathways that allow for acceleration and a depth of experience that meets the needs of gifted students.

In addition to sequencing content, this course series makes use of the blended learning model. Research has shown that the blended model, pairing the best elements of online with face-to-face learning, is a rich and differentiation-friendly learning structure.

In our Core course, students will work in the four areas of earth science: astronomy, geology, hydrology, and meteorology/climatology. The course instructor is emphasizing the relative infancy of the earth science field, and the significance of the role that earth scientists will play in future study and policy around energy and climate change. Students will be exploring data from the Hubble Deep Field data set, as well as working with real-time plate tectonics data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

In our Honors Elective course, students may move on to study how the earth’s interior is explored using seismic waves, the history of the earth and global tectonics, mountain building, earthquakes and volcanism, and biogeochemical cycles of the earth.

CTD’s optional two-course sequence will culminate in a weekend intensive in a lab on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Students in grades 6 through 8 can sign up for Earth Science during the Winter session, then register for Earth and the Environment in March, and attend the weekend intensive if they wish in May or early June (date TBD). The optional weekend program at Northwestern will tour select Earth Sciences labs on campus and participate in hands-on activities and discussion with guest speakers.

CTD’s Summer and Saturday programs, hosted on Northwestern’s campus, give students a glimpse of college academic life. This special opportunity provides our online students with that same experience, allowing implementation of their newfound knowledge and research experience in Earth Science. 

Anne Stevens is the coordinator of Creative Studies at the Center for Talent Development and teaches in the Saturday Enrichment ProgramGifted LearningLinks and Summer Program

Scholarship Opportunities

by Tammie Stewart, Community Outreach Coordinator, Center for Talent Development


As the Center for Talent Development community outreach coordinator, I connect with parents and educators and introduce them to opportunities that can be academically enriching and life changing. I’d like to highlight a few scholarships, fellowships and awards that may be of interest to high-achieving students:

Scholarship Description Time frame
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Supports high-achieving high school seniors with financial need who seek to attend the nation’s top colleges and universities Applications are due November 5!
Thiel Fellowship Awarded to 20 entrepreneurs under 20 years old Apply now through December 31
Davidson Fellows Awards $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 to extraordinary young people (18 and under) who have completed a significant piece of work Application opens in November 2013
Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Provided by the Institute for Educational Advancement; Scholars receive a four-year high school scholarship that covers day student tuition or an approved alternative educational program Application open mid-November 2013 to early May 2014
Google Science Fair Online competition open to students ages 13-18 around the globe Application reopens in January 2014
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholars Program Gives high-achieving students with financial need the guidance and resources necessary for them to excel during high school, college, and beyond; students apply in grade 7 Application open mid-January to late March 2014
NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing Young women in high school can apply; National award-winners are selected from across the country and the Wisconsin Affiliate Award are selected from within Wisconsin Look out for application information in fall 2014

If you are the parent or teacher of an academically gifted child from a family experiencing financial need, I’d like to call your attention to the Jack Kent Cooke Programs (JKC). Every year, exceptional scholarships are given to more than 50 high-achieving students who will enter grade 8 in the next school year, and for those awarded scholarships the benefits are truly life-changing. This year, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation introduced a College Scholarship, a scholarship for top high school seniors with demonstrated unmet financial need interested in attending the nation’s best colleges and universities. Students awarded receive up to $30,000 per year to attend a four-year undergraduate institution and have the opportunity to network with the larger JKCF Scholar community. Feel free to contact me directly for guidance and additional information on the JKC scholarship program.

Please share additional opportunities you may know of for young scholars in the comments section. I hope these opportunities will provide motivated students with options that will lead to a bright future.

Tammie Stewart is Community Outreach Manager at the Center for Talent Development. For additional counsel on the Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program, e-mail her at tammie-stewart@northwestern.edu or call 847/491-7127.

Identifying, Nurturing, and Celebrating Exceptional Talent

Students at the NUMATS Award CeremonyIdentify. Nurture. Celebrate! These words encapsulate how Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search (NUMATS) helps families and educators of high ability students recognize and develop their exceptional talents. On Saturday September 7, Center for Talent Development hosted hundreds of students and their family members at the annual NUMATS Award Ceremony in Evanston, Illinois.

In addition to the students who were honored for high scores on the ACT®, SAT® and EXPLORE® tests taken through NUMATS, four teachers were chosen by top students to receive certificates reflecting their impact on gifted students’ achievements. Peruse the photo album from our recent awards ceremony for a glimpse of how NUMATS celebrates bright students. This inspirational event brings families to Northwestern’s prestigious, beautiful campus for a day of recognition that includes awarding of certificates and medals, presentations by accomplished young people and scholars, and scholarship awards.

But the awards ceremony is only one small component of NUMATS. So, how did the students in these photos get to this point?

Identify: The process starts with accurate assessment of students’ achievement through NUMATS’ above-grade-level testing. Grade-level tests, including state exams and popular computer-adaptive tests typically used in schools, can’t measure the full extent of high-achieving students’ knowledge, so NUMATS uses a different approach.For over 30 years, NUMATS has utilized the EXPLORE®, ACT® and SAT® tests to remove the “ceiling effect” of grade-level tests. Students in grades 3 through 6 take the EXPLORE test, typically administered in grade 8 for high school placement. Students in grades 7 though 9 take the ACT or SAT – the same tests given to high school students preparing for college entrance.

Nurture: Using the test data, the next step is to provide guidance and learning opportunities. A wealth of resources is available through an individualized NUMATS Toolbox. Families receive

  • Scores and interpretive resources that help them understand and use the data;
  • A statistical summary to identify how their children are achieving compared to other bright students across the Midwest;
  • Personalized recommendations for planning course sequences through high school;
  • An educational programs guide, providing information on summer, online, and weekend opportunities throughout the U.S.;
  • Articles, webinars and other parenting resources.

And, as a program of Center for Talent Development (CTD), NUMATS connects families to a premier talent development center offering programs and services that help exceptional students discover their unique voice, explore opportunities, cultivate a love of learning and become bold, creative achievers.

Participating in consecutive years provides a record of academic growth, enabling educators and families to work as a team to help students thrive.

Celebrate: NUMATS focuses on strengths and recognizes exceptional academic ability. As the award ceremony photos illustrate, NUMATS provides ways to recognize students’ abilities in the same way other talents, such as athletic or artistic, are commonly celebrated.

If you want to become a member of the NUMATS community, or know a student who could benefit, contact NUMATS today.

Complete our web form to connect with a NUMATS staff member. Or you can

Visit    www.ctd.northwestern.edu/numats

Call     847/491-3782 ext. 3

E-mail numats@ctd.northwestern.edu

Principles of Aspiration

Mindshift recently published an article titled “How to Help Kids Find Their Aspirations.” More than mere whimsy, aspiration is characterized as the ability to set goals combined with the inspiration to reach those goals. In order to reach the “aspiration state,” founder of the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations, Russ Quaglia, suggests three guiding principles: self-worth, engagement, and purpose.

Read the full article here!

What are some ways parents and educators can help students find their aspirations?

Best School Year Ever

CTD Susan Corwith

by Susan Corwith, PhD, Associate Director, Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University

Schools should be exciting, engaging places for all students, and parents play an important role in setting the stage for success.

The new school year is a perfect time to do some “homework” of your own to gain approaches and strategies to make this the best school year possible for your gifted child.

The resources identified below are easy to read and focus on three keys to success: establishing trust, engaging in effective advocacy and defining achievement.

Establishing Trust

Establishing positive, trusting relationships with your child’s teachers will have a significant impact on what you are able to accomplish and the success your child will experience in school. The following article from Dr. Christy McGee in Parenting for High Potential offers simple, straightforward advice to starting the year off right. http://www.nagc.org/uploadedFiles/PHP/PHP_Back_Issues/NAGC%20PHP%20Jan2013.pdf

Engaging in Effective Advocacy

Making sure your child has access to appropriately challenging programs and services typically requires ongoing communication with your school. From identifying specific needs to deciding what is reasonable to ask for, effective advocacy is key. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, Director of the Carnegie Mellon Institute for Talented Elementary and Secondary Students, offers valuable and easy-to-use tips in Working with Your Child’s School found on the Davidson Institute Website: http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10558.aspx

Defining Achievement

Achievement is more than just grades. It includes building a good foundation for advanced education and learning how to study, persist and strive for excellence. Parents should talk with their children and with educators about what it means to achieve. And, parents need to think about the messages they give to their children both directly and inadvertently. Learn more about defining achievement from Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Director of CTD, in a recent Parenting for High Potential article: http://www.nagc.org/uploadedFiles/PHP/PHP_Back_Issues/NAGC_PHP_Oct%202011.pdf

Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (2010). “Tips for Parents: Advocacy – Working with Your Child’s School.” Retrieved fromhttp://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10558.aspx.

McGee, C.D. (January 2013). “Building Trust at School.” Parenting for High Potential, 2 (4), 18-19.

Olszewski-Kubilius, P. (October 2011). “Playing the School Game.” Parenting for High Potential, 1 (2), 2-3.

Interesting Book Review

The New York Times recently reviewed Amanda Ripley’s book “Smartest Kids in the World.”  We thought parents and teachers would find both the review and the book interesting.


Ripley highlights the impact of teachers and non-cognitive factors in learning, including intrinsic motivation and drive for success. Through the experiences of American student “field agents” she explores learning in three countries. The NYT review expounds on some comparisons to the education system in our country.


“Rather than ‘trying to reverse engineer a high-performance teaching culture through dazzlingly complex performance evaluations and value-added data analysis,’ as we do, they ensure high-quality teaching from the beginning, allowing only top students to enroll in teacher-training programs, which are themselves far more demanding than such programs in America. A virtuous cycle is thus initiated: better-prepared, better-trained teachers can be given more autonomy, leading to more satisfied teachers who are also more likely to stay on.”


“In Korea, the hamster wheel created as many problems as it solved.” It was relentless and excessive, yes, but it also felt more honest. Kids in hamster-wheel countries knew what it felt like to grapple with complex ideas and think outside their comfort zone; they understood the value of persistence. They knew what it felt like to fail, work harder and do better. They were prepared for the modern world.”

Read the full review here.

What are your thoughts about the differences brought up in this review?  

Ask Paula — Fall 2013

OK.Paula“Ask Paula” is your opportunity to seek advice and find answers about parenting and education.  Here, our gifted expert and CTD Director, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, offers her insights.

Q: How can I prevent my child from being discouraged by a class he doesn’t do well in because he hasn’t been exposed to the information?

Helping a child deal with a less then welcome outcome to participation in a challenging class is one of the most important things we can do as parents–and the sooner the better!!! We are all life-long learners, and being in a situation where the learning is challenging for any reason, is one we all face many times in our lives. The key is developing the mindset to face the challenge and recover from a less than optimal result rather than shy away from such experiences in the future. Carol Dweck, in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, talks about a growth versus fixed mindset regarding intelligence. A growth mindset includes the belief that intelligence is malleable and can grow.

A fixed mindset rests on the belief that you are born with a certain amount of intelligence that is unchangeable. Students with a growth mindset focus more on learning and improvement than grades and outcomes, are more willing to take on academically and intellectually demanding tasks, are motivated and energized by challenge rather than demoralized by it, and are more likely to respond with increased effort to “failure” or set backs. As parents, we want to promote a growth mindset in our children so that they are not discouraged by less than stellar performance. According to Dweck, the kinds of feedback and praise we give children can affect their mindsets. Praise focused on effort and individual improvement and that rewards risk-taking (e.g. taking a course in something you are not sure you will like or will be good at) are conducive to developing growth mindsets, while praise focused on comparisons to other students or grades are not. Parents can also share their own experiences with learning something new or falling short of expected levels of performance and achievement and model ways to handle events that do not “go our way.”

Parents can also help students understand that at some point, one has to make choices about those subjects or activities to invest time and energy in and those that are less important. Not everything that interests a child can be pursued at the same level of intensity and engagement. Parents can directly communicate their expectations, including that less than outstanding performance is perfectly acceptable in areas that are not a top priority or interest or areas that are new.

Do you have your own question for Paula? Let us know in the comments section below, or on Facebook, and watch this space next quarter for Paula’s replies!

New Research Supports Above-Level Testing and Gifted Programming

The current issue of CTD’s Talent Newsletter features a piece on above-grade-level testing, exploring how “Above-grade-level testing is not just an accurate assessment of current ability; it’s a valid predictor of future professional achievement and creative output.” David Lubinski, Vanderbilt University professor, expounds on recent findings from research he and colleagues conducted.


Lubinski’s study focused on profoundly gifted individuals. Participants had been identified at age 12 through above-level testing procedures, such as those used by Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search (NUMATS). NUMATS allows gifted students to take tests including EXPLORE, ACT and SAT at earlier grade levels than they are designed to be administered. Taking tests developed for older students eliminates the “ceiling factor” thus providing a more accurate measure of ability than that gained from standard grade-level achievement tests.

Researchers tracked the study participants for nearly three decades. Results showed that the students’ relative strengths at age 12 were predictive of the area in which they excelled 35 years later and the above-grade-level test scores were indeed early indicators of professional achievement. By age 38, participants had worked for an impressive array of high caliber organizations and had distinguished themselves time and again with patents obtained, creative works produced, and awards received.

Read the CTD interview with Lubinski here.

As presented in this issue of Talent the results of above-grade-level testing offered through NUMATS accurately assess current ability, and are a valid predictor of future professional achievement and creative output. Annual participation in NUMATS offers parents and educators an effective means of tracking academic growth from year to year. Online registration for fall tests is open now.

Games in the Classroom

An article published on Mindshift called “Can Digital Games Boost Students’ Test Scores?” discusses the skills acquired through digital learning games and their increased use in schools. And game-based schools such as Quest to Learn, a new model for educational institutions in recent years, are showing encouraging test scores. What effects do these games have on students?

According to the article, by using a game, a student may increase their learning by a measurable percentage. Parents can sometimes be skeptical of the role of technology, and games in particular, but here is some initial research on the potential of digital games when it comes to students’ cognitive and non-cognitive development.

What are your thoughts about games in education?  Do you find them to be helpful, distracting, or supportive for students?

Rainy Day Activity: Ancient Egyptian Game

by Jessica Pertler

The ancient Egyptians are known for being great creators of such wonders as the pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx as well as many wonderful temples and tombs. But did you know that it is also believed that they created the first board game? The Egyptians developed the game of Senet as far back as 3500 BC. Game boards and pieces have been found in Egyptian tombs, but no written record of how to play the game has been found, despite the fact that the Egyptians did have a system for writing. The following instructions tell you how to create your own Senet board and give you one set of directions for how to play the game. Several other sets of directions exist online and in books, but all seem to have the same goal in mind: get all of your pawns off the board as quickly as you can. Students learn the fundamentals of board games while honing their counting and probability skills. Work on analyzing strategy games while playing a game that’s still fun over 5,500 years later!


  • Piece of cardboard measuring 24” x 10”
  • Ruler or yardstick
  • Pencil
  • Permanent marker
  • 4 craft sticks
  • Colored markers
  • 10 game pawns (5 each of two colors or shapes)

You can use anything you can find in your home for game pawns: buttons, checkers, coins, Legos, etc. I chose two colors of glass gems.



  1. Using a ruler or yardstick and pencil draw five rows of twelve squares each 2” x 2” on the piece of cardboard. Untitled
  2. Using the permanent marker trace over all of the pencil lines except those in the outside squares. After you finish tracing erase the pencil marks around the edge leaving a border around the 30 x 10 square game board. Untitled
  3. Starting in the upper left corner number the squares 1 to 30 in an “S” pattern. Draw the House of Rebirth in square 15, House of Happiness in square 26, House of Water in square 27, House of Three Truths in square 28, and the House of Re-Atoum in square 29.Untitled Untitled
  4. Color one side of each of the craft sticks with the colored markers. You may make them any color or design you like. Untitled
  5. You may wish to color or decorate your board to make it more attractive or easier to see the different spaces. Untitled
  6. You are ready to play!

Game Directions

  1. Setup your board so that the pawns alternate colors to fill the top row. Untitled
  2. Two players may play this game. Each player controls all five of one color of pawns.
  3. Toss the sticks to decide which player will go first. The player with the greater number of uncolored sticks will go first.
  4. Toss the sticks. If you have one uncolored stick showing move one place, two places for two uncolored sticks, three places for three uncolored sticks, and five places for four uncolored sticks. If you have no uncolored sticks showing you lose a turn. You may only move one pawn per turn.
  5. You cannot land on a space occupied by one of your pawns so you will need to move another one of your pawns.
  6. If you land on a space occupied by your opponent’s pawn you switch places with that pawn, unless your opponent’s pawn is directly next to another one of his/her pawns. If you have three or four uncolored sticks showing you may jump over two of your opponent’s touching pawns, but you may never jump over three touching pawns.
  7. If none of your pawns can move forward the necessary amount of spaces you must move backward.
  8. If none of your pawns can move forward or backward you lose a turn.
  9. These squares are safe squares or danger squares:

Safe SquareNo pawn may be moved off of a safe square for any reason.  Therefore, a pawn on a safe square may never be switched with another pawn. Also, once you are on a safe square, you do not need to move backwards even if you cannot move forward, you simply pass your turn.

Danger SquareA penalty is associated with a danger square.

  • 15: House of Rebirth – This is a safe square. If you land on House of Water move your pawn back to this square.
  • 26: House of Happiness – This is a safe square. All pawns must land on this square, and must do so with an exact toss of the sticks.
  • 27: House of Water – This is a danger square. If you land on House of Water you must move your pawn back to House of Rebirth. If there is already a pawn on House of Rebirth you must go back to the beginning. To get to this square you must toss exactly a one from House of Happiness.
  • 28: House of Three Truths – This is a safe square. You must toss exactly a two to get off this square.
  • 29: The House of Re-Atoum – This is a safe square. You must toss exactly a one to get off this square.

10.  If you land on square 30, you may toss any number to get off the board.

11.  The winner is the first player to get all of his/her pawns off the board.


Even young students should be able to construct the game board, but may need some assistance measuring out the squares and drawing the symbols. Older students could be challenged to create a three-dimensional game board using wood or additional cardboard. Depending on the artistic skill of the child, the decoration of the game board can be more or less complex. For the game play, it will go quicker and be simpler with the use of fewer pawns. I suggest no less than three pawns be used by each player and no more than seven. Older students can be challenged to think of their own rules for playing Senet. Also, older students can be challenged with discussion questions such as the following: What lasting impact did the ancient Egyptians have on civilization? People today have noted that Senet shares similarities with other board games such as Backgammon and Chutes and Ladders.  What other games do you know that are similar to Senet? Can you find other facets of our lives that can be tied back to the ancient Egyptians?

Additional Resources and Links

The Children’s University of Manchester – Ancient Egypt

Pyramids!  50 Hands-On Activities to Experience Ancient Egypt by Avery Hart and Paul Mantell

Jessica Pertler is an instructor for CTD’s Summer Leapfrog program. Since 2011 she has taught such courses as “Gods and Goddesses” and “Treasure Maps.” This summer, Pertler is teaching “Survivor: Ancient Egypt.”

Six Steps Toward Better Parenting of Gifted Children

By Audra Nelson, Parent

Audra with her kids

Author Audra Nelson and family

As a parent of three bright, high-energy kids, I spend most of my days feeling tired. Grateful and happy, but tired. There are simply not enough hours in the day. For this reason, I have a love/hate relationship with parenting advice. The advice often sounds great, but just thinking about how to implement it can wear me out.

The Center for Talent Development’s recent Opportunities for the Future Conference was chock-full of fantastic parenting advice. Strangely, though, I left feeling energized. Maybe because it’s summer, and the days truly are longer. Or maybe because the advice seemed too important NOT to implement. Either way, I’m excited to act on the following six ideas shared by keynote speakers Drs. Del Siegle and D. Betsy McCoach.

1. Talk about how talent develops. Don’t let giftedness be the elephant in the room with your kids. Too often, gifted students believe every challenging task is a test of their giftedness, and they live in fear that people will find out they aren’t as smart as everyone thinks they are. Remind children that they have a role to play. It’s not about being gifted; it’s about using your gifts and developing your talent, achieving and learning more each day.

2. Teach kids that mistakes make us smarter. Too often, children buy into the belief that smart kids do well without working hard. We need kids to realize that working hard makes you smart! As you stretch yourself and overcome challenges, you create new pathways in your brain. Every mistake leads you closer to success. As parents, we can help kids build their brains by providing them with enrichment opportunities such as those offered by CTD’s Saturday Enrichment Program or Gifted LearningLinks.

3. Avoid -EST words. As adults, we know it’s rarely, if ever, true that we are the best, brightest, fastest or any other -est. At some point, our kids will learn this lesson, too. If they grow up thinking they are the -EST, the reality will come as a shocker. As parents, we can help build kids’ confidence and give them a realistic view of the world by avoiding “-est” words and exposing them to other kids of equal or greater ability. The earlier that students “swim in a bigger pool of talent,” the easier it is for them to develop a mindset centered on learning and growth rather than a performance mindset in which ability is a fixed entity.

4. Give specific, developmental compliments. John Hattie did a meta-analysis of the education research to find out what makes the most impact on a child’s education, and this was it: individual feedback. The next time my daughter asks if I like her drawing, I’m going to stop and really look at it. And instead of saying, “That’s the best portrait you’ve ever drawn,” I will take note of something specific. Maybe I will say, “I really like the realistic colors you’ve chosen,” or “You spent a long time working on that. You must be learning to pay attention to detail.” I will make the time to respond to her in a way that will influence her learning, not just allow me to get back to my agenda.


All family members find topics of interest at the Opportunities for the Future Conference.

5. Document and recognize growth. Showing kids how much they’ve learned year to year gives them a visual of growth and an understanding that growth is not fixed, but malleable. When my son moans and groans about handwriting practice, I can encourage him by showing him the improvement he made from preschool to kindergarten.

6. Advocate, advocate, advocate for gifted education. Research suggests that in a typical 180-day public school year, gifted kids spend nearly 75 days on unnecessary repetition, approximately 80 days on content previously mastered and only 25 days on new material. The research on gifted students’ growth over the course of a year is equally dismal. Gifted kids seem to be learning more during the summer, away from school, than they are learning during the academic year in school. In a system that evaluates teachers on achievement, rather than individual growth, teachers have every incentive to pull up low-achievers and, sadly, to let high achievers be. Gifted education needs parent advocates. Let’s get started today!    

If you attended the conference this past weekend, what were your takeaways? If you didn’t, what do you think of the ideas above?

CTD sponsors the Opportunities for the Future conference every year. The event offers a wide variety of sessions and workshops for gifted students and their parents.

Rainy Day Activity: Science with Dr. Seuss

by Stephanie Possehl

One of my favorite courses to teach for CTD’s Saturday Enrichment Program is “Young Author’s Club.” It is beyond difficult to pick my favorite children’s authors, however, Dr. Seuss books hold a special place in my heart. Here is a fun story with a cool science experiment that you can do at home!  For this Rainy Day Activity, students will combine reading with a bit of science in making this Dr. Seussian substance!

Bartholomew and the Oobleck was written in 1949 by Dr. Seuss. The book follows the adventures of a small boy named Bartholomew. He must rescue his kingdom (the Kingdom of Didd) from a sticky, icky substance called “oobleck.” Oobleck was capable of gumming up an entire kingdom, but it’s also something fun you can make at home! While it’s not quite “gummy,” or edible for that matter, it does have interesting properties of both liquid and solid. It can look and feel like a liquid or jelly, but when you squeeze it in your hand, it will seem like a solid.  So…what is matter and how does it behave?

It normally takes around 10-15 minutes to make this science project.


First, mix 1 part water with 1.5 to 2 parts cornstarch. You may wish to start with one cup of water and one and a half cups of cornstarch, then work in more cornstarch slowly. This can make the oobleck more solid. It will take about 10-12 minutes of mixing to get the oobleck the right consistency. If you really want to make some silly oobleck, try mixing in different drops of food coloring…this is a wonderful color experiment!  Here’s a great question for a family discussion, “how can our senses help us figure out what happens when we mix together certain materials?”

Here’s another recipe for oobleck:


  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ cup of white school glue
  • ½ cup of liquid Borax


  1. Pour ½ cup of water in a large mixing bowl. You can add green food coloring, here, too!
  2. Add ½ cup of white school glue to the water and stir until it is all mixed up.
  3. In another bowl, mix about a ½ cup of water and a ½ cup of the Borax and stir again until it’s all mixed up.
  4. Slowly pour the water and Borax mixture into the glue and water mixture. You will want to stir this until it forms one big, gummy, slippery glob of oobleck!

Both recipes will create interesting textures. It might be fun to make both and then determine how the ooblecks compare to each other. You can put the oobleck into molded shapes (think cookie cutters, muffin tins) but watch the mixture turn back into a glob as soon as you remove it!  An interesting question for young scientists might be, “How does studying the attributes or properties of objects help us to understand them, organize them based on solid/liquid/gas, and answer questions about them?”

If you still can’t get enough of Dr. Seuss, log into his website at http://www.seussville.com and really explore! Between the games, activities, book lists and short video clips, this website can keep you busy during a full, rainy weekend! And of course, be on the lookout for any of my “Young Author’s Club” courses through SEP when we really study Dr. Seuss as an author, artist and person!

Stephanie Possehl is currently a first grade teacher in Grayslake, IL. She has taught first grade for eleven years. Possehl received her Bachelor’s degree at Illinois State University and her Master’s degree at Roosevelt University. Interested in hands-on science, Possehl has been an assistant director and teacher for Camp Inventions through her school district over the course of her career. She has taught enrichment classes for CTD’s Summer and Saturday Enrichment Programs for five years. This summer she is teaching “Smelly Science” for the CTD Summer Leapfrog Program.