Gifted children and Global Awareness

There are often discrepancies in various areas of development for gifted children. Frequently, teamed with the advanced cognitive ability, gifted children have traits that include global awareness, sensitivity to complex issues, and a tendency to worry about injustice and dangers that often are beyond a child’s control. Global awareness is the understanding of concepts that impact the world

Gifted children are often greatly affected by worldly issues and are able to easily make a cause-effect connection with consequences related to human actions. Teaching these children to be “civic-minded” and finding ways that they can make a difference directly addresses this issue! By allowing gifted students the ability to attack a real-world problem which concerns them, we empower these children to realize that they can and will make a difference. A helpful framework for providing opportunities to target real-world issues was developed by Renzulli (1976). The Enrichment Triad Model suggests three types of enrichment teaching and learning:

Type I enrichment consists of exploratory activities on a variety of topics.
Type II enrichment includes training in “how-to” skills students need to pursue their questions or areas of concern about the topics chosen during Type I enrichment.
Type III enrichment activities are first hand investigations of real problems (Renzulli & de Wet, in press – A research base detailing the effectiveness of the Enrichment Triad Model as well as the Schoolwide Enrichment Model is available at http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/sem/semresearch.html).

Based on a gifted child’s tendency to worry about injustice, problems in a school setting could easily occur. While the trite answer, “because I told you so” will work with many school-aged students as a way to show respect an authority figure it is often not good enough for a gifted student. When a student feels that an injustice has occurred, the fact that the teacher “said so” just doesn’t make it right. Often the consequence, whatever that may be in that particular classroom, will not be enough to squelch the argument from the gifted student.

The still developing social skills of the gifted child also may play into the escalation of the problem in the classroom. In one personal incident, my son’s teacher was explaining to the class about the budget cuts and shortage of money for supplies. At one point, the teacher even asked each student to bring in a ream of paper. Shortly after these very discussions, the teacher handed out a two-inch packet of worksheets to go along with their study of The Giver. The packet of worksheets was about three times as thick as the novel. Without thinking, my son, Drew, blurts out, “Glad you killed the rainforest!” He was asked to leave the class, make a call to me, and ended up in the assistant principal’s office. Off the record in a private conversation with me, the assistant principal agreed with Drew’s assessment of the situation and said he actually found the comment funny. The teacher did not agreed and did not find any humor in the situation.

Looking at things from a different perspective can be challenging for our gifted population. However, utilizing these times as teachable moments whether it is targeting injustice or social responsibilities is always worth our effort. I am not sure “because I said so” should ever be good enough for any of us!

By Kristie Brown – Kristie currently teaches a Gifted Program in two elementary schools. She is also the mother of two ‘gifted’ children.

Reference: Ecological Stewardship and Gifted children, Mchardy, R.; Blanchard, P.; and deWet, CF. http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/EJ860949.pdf

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