Gifted and … wired to learn!
Gifted students look quite different from each other but they share a common personality trait—a deep internal drive and inquisitiveness that makes them uniquely wired to learn, lending them the potential to excel in the subjects that interest them most.
Although giftedness manifests in many unique ways, curiosity is the common driver that makes for a gifted mind. Where most children may have one or two ideas about something new they are learning, gifted children often have 10 – or maybe even 1,000! This is why its so important for them to have peers that equally love to explore new questions and ideas.
Giftedness can show up in expected ways – with early verbal abilities, strong interest in math or reading. But it can also show up in more subtle ways, such as abundant imagination, unique perceptiveness, emotional intensity, high energy, or precocious interest in puzzles, calendars, drawing and art. Some develop deep knowledge on topics of interest.
One thing is for certain: When a gifted child is nurtured and inspired, the gift blossoms into a unique genius all its own.
“It’s hard for me to squeeze in all the reading and writing I want to do every day.” -a Mack-Boulder student In addition to a vigorous IB curriculum, Mackintosh Academy-Boulder has a strong dedication to nurturing and supporting avid readers and writers. The school has double-downed on the importance of developing a love of reading […]
“It’s hard for me to squeeze in all the reading and writing I want to do every day.” -a Mack-Boulder student
In addition to a vigorous IB curriculum, Mackintosh Academy-Boulder has a strong dedication to nurturing and supporting avid readers and writers. The school has double-downed on the importance of developing a love of reading and writing by expanding the library from a small collection started by loving volunteers to the new permanent space that boasts a carefully curated collection of 6,000+ books. Mack-Boulder has also committed to training all of the teachers in the younger grades in the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading as well as sending teachers in the upper grades to The Center for Teaching & Learning in Maine to be trained in Nancie Atwell’s reading and writing workshop approach.
In addition to the opportunity and support to develop as readers and writers in the classroom, Mack students also have a host of enrichment opportunities. Faculty have offered Friday Explorations options throughout the year to encourage students of all ages to engage as readers and writers: Camp Read-a-Lot, Land of Mack-Believe, 90-Second Newbery Film, Mock Newbery Committee, Book Bloggers-in-Training, and so on. The school has invested in bringing in award-winning authors to help educate and inspire the students—in the past two years we’ve hosted T.A. Barron, Deborah Wiles, Laurie Halse Anderson, Jeffery Bennett, and Steve Sheinkin is visiting this April. 8th grade student, Sarah, loves writing so much, she’s signed on to be the Boulder editor of the combined Littleton and Boulder literary magazine, Mack Storybook. “The purpose is for students to get a look into publishing without all of the criticism and competitive atmosphere that comes with it. It’s a way to show your writing without being afraid of negative comments. It will also provide the opportunity for the two campuses to collaborate on something,” said Sarah.
Teachers also model the love of reading by immersing themselves in literature for young people so that they can participate in the “community of readers” feeling amongst students. Several teachers are working on writing of their own—such as sixth grade teacher Jim Parker who started a blog—and this can be inspiring and encouraging to students.
The various “rewards” from this school-wide commitment to reading and writing are abundant. To name just a few: there are third graders who routinely check out four to five books with each visit to the library; students in all grades “book talk” their favorite recent-reads and pass along interest in books; a fourth grader is writing a novel; two eighth graders, Grace and Ella, submitted their work to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards this year (330,000 works were submitted nationwide by students in 7th-12th grades) and both received Honorable Mentions. Most important of all, there is a culture of “reading and writing are cool,” and students who develop into life-long readers who can articulate their thoughts/ideas and express them effectively in writing will be able to meet their futures ready for anything.
Submissions for Mack Storybook due March 22. Give submissions to your teacher or email to email@example.com.
The Scholastic Book Fair begins next week:
8am-4:30pm-Tuesday the 21st & Wednesday the 22nd
8am-6pm- Thursday, March 23rd
9am-3pm- Friday, March 24th
By Kristi Holmes Espineira, Mackintosh Academy Littleton Director of Advancement
Gifted girls seem to be everywhere in popular culture recently. From the brilliant African-American women mathematicians and computer programmers in the film “Hidden Figures,” to the expert linguist who cracks the key to communicating with aliens in “Arrival,” to the highly gifted young girl struggling to feed her intellectual capacities in “Gifted,” audiences are fascinated by the challenges and triumphs of exceptional women and girls. But what about the brilliant girls in our everyday lives, who often elude the spotlight as they navigate growing up gifted and female?
Parents of gifted children know the challenges that come along with the blessing of high ability. Gifted girls face their own set of challenges. They may not receive the gifted programming they need; research shows that the number of girls enrolled in gifted programs begins to dip around age 12. Also, girls may begin to “mask” their abilities in the classroom as they grow older, bowing to social pressure to downplay their intellect. Perhaps it’s not surprising that, despite gains in some nontraditional fields, girls and women continue to be underrepresented in many STEM professions and in business and political leadership.
So how do you know if you’re nurturing your gifted daughter to her full potential? What can you do to make sure she retains her vibrant spark and love of learning throughout her life? How can you encourage her to claim her space and let her true abilities shine?
Bring girls out of the background. Sometimes gifted girls need our keen attention and advocacy to guide them into the spotlight. Diane Dunne, Mackintosh Academy Littleton Head of School says, “Gifted girls can truly be ‘hidden figures.’ They may not speak up or act out when they are not being intellectually fed or their gifts are not being nurtured. As educators and parents, we need to keep an eye on our girls to make sure they are getting what they need to develop to their full potential in and out of the classroom.” Ask your daughter about her experience in school and listen for signs that she is bored or uncomfortable. It’s her right to fully participate in her education! Encourage her to speak up and advocate for herself. If her teachers or school are not responsive, you may need to step in and advocate for greater challenges or opportunities in the classroom.
Encourage a growth mindset. According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, growth mindset is the belief that talents and abilities are not simply innate or unchangeable but can be developed through dedication and hard work. In gifted girls, you might nurture a growth mindset by encouraging them to work hard in areas for which they may not feel they have a natural affinity or ability. Assure them that hard work and dedication lead to great results; they do not automatically have to be good at something to give it a try. Encourage risk-taking and learning from failure, and try to fight the perfectionism that sometimes overwhelms gifted girls. Lula Guilbert, Mackintosh Academy Littleton 3/4 teacher and the mother of a gifted girl says, “Encouraging a growth mindset in girls helps them become intrinsically motivated rather than looking outside themselves for validation. If our gifted girls learn to compete with themselves to be and do their best, they are set up for success later in life.”
Help girls “find their tribe.” The social realm can be challenging for any girl, but gifted girls may find the challenges to be amplified. Some girls may mask their intellectual abilities or “dumb down” to fit in with girls their age. Others may gravitate to older girls or even adults for friendships. If classmates or neighbors are not a good social match for your daughter, you may want to search out girls with common interests. Friends can be found on sports teams, in community groups like scouting, or in after-school activities that center around your daughter’s interests. Is she into computers? Try a programming class for kids. An avid reader? Libraries often offer book clubs for girls.
Advocate and be a supporter for equity and inclusion in schools. Are girls underrepresented in your school’s gifted program? Find out why, and how you can help. Are girls being subtly steered away from certain activities or coursework? Speak up and let the administration know. Do you have expertise in fields where girls are underrepresented or need extra encouragement? Perhaps you can lead an after-school club or speak to girls about your field.
Look for the educational “best fit” for your daughter. Your local public school may be the best place for your gifted daughter – or maybe not. She may be “fine” – but is she truly thriving? Perhaps a different neighborhood school with a strong gifted program or extracurricular activities in her area of passion would be a better fit. Maybe there is a charter or independent school that provides a more individualized, challenging program or has a greater awareness of how to nurture gifted girls? Mackintosh Academy Littleton Admissions Director Beth Steklac has observed a trend among families looking for schools for their gifted children: “Sometimes girls may not be as vocal as boys in their need for a different school environment. Sometimes girls don’t even know what it would feel like to be ‘fed’ intellectually – but once they have a taste of what’s possible, there’s no holding them back.”
Show girls what’s possible. Be on the lookout for positive female mentors and role models for gifted girls. Yes, there’s been a burst of gifted girls in the popular media lately, but there are also “everyday heroes” in our own communities – gifted women who have successfully navigated life’s challenges and are happy to connect with young girls. It might be as simple as asking a bright woman you know to lunch with you and your daughter to share her stories and experiences.
One thing we know for sure: gifted girls need our full support — intellectually, emotionally and socially – to ensure that they develop into the strong, mature, confident young women who will help solve real-world problems and meet the challenges of the 21st century head-on. Let’s be part of a movement that nurtures gifted girls to reach their full potential!
By Beth Steklac, Director of Admissions and Assistant Head of School
Our middle years students won’t look back on their years at Mackintosh Academy as a time when they were lost in a crowd, overwhelmed by cliques or tuned out or bored in class. At Mack, our middle schoolers are supported by a warm, caring community of teachers and students who make sure that each student can learn more about their unique selves, explore new ideas and challenges, and contribute their skills to tackling real-world problems.
The Mackintosh Middle Years IB program engages our students on every level and provides not only academic rigor, but a nurturing environment that gives students the confident foundation they need to move successfully into high school. Our students move into rigorous programs throughout the metro area and report back that they felt well-prepared and ready to succeed in high school.
Our middle school program transcends the simply academic, providing rich opportunities for hands-on, real-world learning. Here is a snapshot of the many aspects of our Littleton MYP program that set our students up for success in high school and beyond:
Greenhouse: Middle school students took the lead in filling our greenhouse to the brim with vegetables and greens. With the assistance of a local horticulturalist, the greenhouse has been transformed into an active garden supplying produce to the community most Fridays. The students were instrumental in receiving a nearly $5,000 grant from the Colorado Garden Foundation to install a hydroponic system that will increase yield and offer new opportunities for scientific exploration.
Community Project: From training service dogs to spreading peace through art, from vegetarian cookbooks to community gardens, our eighth-grade students undertook personal community service projects and presented their learning to the Mackintosh community.
World Affairs Challenge: Building on classroom experiences, each year students prepare for the World Affairs Challenge that takes place in early March at Regis University. This challenge, “dedicated to developing tomorrow’s global leaders,” has become a significant middle school experience. This year, students looked at problems and solutions in building “Smart Cities.” Our two teams examined natural disasters and alert/response systems and looking at recent flooding in Bangladesh and funding/relief systems. One team took third place in the competition.
Eradicating Infectious Disease: Each year, the MYP does a three-subject unit. This year, students are examining the spread of infectious diseases and their possible eradication. This unit combines mathematics (modeling of exponential growth) science (pathology and vaccinations) and Language Arts (persuasive writing) to provide a fully immersive experience in a real-world problem.
Shakespeare: Following Mackintosh tradition, our middle school students once again wowed us with a stunning stage performance. This year the students performed As You Like It. With an in-depth study of the text during Language and Literature classes and inquiry into their individual characters, the students easily shared a complex story with even our youngest students, who were on the edge of their seats for a full hour and a half.
The United States Civil War and Transcendentalism: The International Baccalaureate program allows deep exploration into the hows and whys of our world and world events. The unique opportunity to combine disciplines like Humanities and Language Arts opens the door to interesting connections. This year the Middle School students explored the curious juxtaposition of the rise in transcendentalism and the build-up to the Civil War.
Leadership: The Leadership Council has continued to provide a platform for middle school students to develop leadership skills. This year, our Leadership Council has organized several school assemblies, run a successful school spirit week, and initiated several service projects. For the first time ever, we ran a full-fledged election choosing a student body President and Vice-President. This process involved all students in middle school – some as candidates, others as campaign supporters. The candidates had their own web pages and published platforms and were interviewed by members of the local press in a real-life press conference. Many candidates ran on environmental or social platforms. The successful President and Vice President are now working diligently to fulfil their campaign promises.
Paper Pets: During this year’s Genetics unit in science, students participated in an exciting paper pet simulation. Each of the pets started out with homozygous traits and through mating and random distribution of mutations we watched our pets evolve over several generations. Watch out for “spotted-nose malady!”
Service: This year will culminate with our Middle School bi-annual service experience, a week-long trip to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Students will work hard in various support projects including skirting trailers, building bunk beds and creating community gardens. In the evenings, they will meet with village elders from the Lakota tribe to learn more about native culture and modern day challenges on the reservation. In preparation for the trip students are exploring the theme, “When you speak, we listen.” They are researching the current state of indigenous populations around the globe. Throughout the year, middle school students also have the opportunity to work with their year-long buddies in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, and to visit a local preschool for arts outreach, inspiring our youngest community of learners.