If there is a child in your class or group that works much faster than the others, is highly imaginative and intellectually sharp (and occasionally argues with you), as well as sensitive beyond their years, it might be that you are teaching an academically gifted child.
Hestia Foundation can help your school or kindergarten to design a tailored program for developing gifted children’s potential. How? Our consultants will make a detailed needs and values assessment of your school or kindergarten and will help you design your own tailored program, consisting of three key components:
What is academic talent?
Roughly 10% of children in every society (regardless of gender, age and socio-economic status) have potential for extraordinary achievement in one or several scientific areas. Potential that, if not developed, is wasted. These children have specific educational needs and at the same time, they are often subject to a long list of myths. According to the National Statistical Institute, in 2017/2018 there are over 220 000 children in kindergartens and over 700 000 students in primary and secondary schools (NSI, 2018). This means that over 90 000 Bulgarian children and young people possess academic potential, which needs to be fulfilled. Unless we do so, valuable human capital will be lost forever.
Identifying academically talented children
Regardless of their age, academically talented children have specific cognitive and emotional characteristics. They learn to speak earlier and have richer vocabularies, compared to their peers. They process information faster, have better memory and grasp complex ideas easily. Their emotions are intense and they often look immature in the eyes of others. They take other people’s perspectives effortlessly and have a highly developed sense of justice. When it comes to learning, academically gifted children demonstrate insatiable curiosity and strong intrinsic motivation. All this is evident through their behavior at school on a daily basis – they often criticize others, ask complex questions and uncover inconsistencies in theories and ideas. The process of identifying them is focused precisely on these characteristics. It encompasses analytical and emotional characteristics, as well as motivation for learning, assessed through specialized tests, in addition to teacher and parent observations.
Activities for promoting academic talent
Innate cognitive capabilities in themselves are not enough for a child’s potential to develop into academic talent. What is needed are challenges, support and active engagement with an environment, suited to the specific needs and interests of the child. This can be achieved both through in-class activities (differentiated instructions and tasks, individual projects) and extracurricular activities (custom courses in natural and/or social sciences), which offer sufficient depth in material presentation, intra-/ or interdisciplinary links and inductive teaching methodologies. An important step in creating a program for working with academically gifted children is the development of study skills such as systemic thinking, planning and consistency. This includes the formation of the so-called meta-cognitive skills – the child’s awareness of their strengths and weaknesses in relation to studying, as well as the ability to apply different strategies, checking and evaluating their effectiveness and if needed, to change their approach towards the problem they are working on.
Assigning intellectually challenging tasks, relevant to their capabilities and interests, motivates talented children, as they can “apply” their abilities, satisfy their innate curiosity and feel effective. In addition, communicating with other children with similar interests makes them happier and more fulfilled.
We in Hestia Foundation believe that working with schools and kindergartens towards identifying and stimulating academic talent, is the first and most important step in the early investment in our children’s future. Undoubtedly, this helps not only their personal development, but also the intellectual development of our society as a whole