Category Archives: Enrichment

Facts (or Truths?) in Gifted Education

It would seem that using a scored test that demonstrates statistically significant results which can be reported within a range with a confidence level of up to 95% would give us a fairly reasonable “fact” to guide us in gifted education, but the truth is never quite so simple. Gifted education has been plagued by myths and a lack of agreement on not only what it means to be gifted but how those identified as giftedness should be supported, leaving us with a couple of interesting facts and some truths that might help the uninitiated navigate some of the confusion.

FACT: Gifted in one school district does not guarantee gifted in another.

The truth is that despite the general consensus that we need to have a variety of methods to identify students who are gifted, this can add to the confusion of what is meant by giftedness. This can be frustrating for parents and students as not all school districts use the same measures and means to identify giftedness. In some jurisdictions, only an individually administered WISC V or SB-5 gain access to programming, while in others, group administered tests like the CCAT 7 are acceptable, while in others multiple measures looking at creativity and motivation also play a part. That said, even when using tests as a means to identification, some districts will only look at composite scores, while others will consider outstanding scores on individual batteries. Add to this the need for some gifted programs keep their numbers constant and you can see how many factors can influence what it means to gifted, making it somewhat of a moving target. Lakin (2018) suggests that what matters most is that the gifted program design reflects the needs of the students identified, whatever that process might be leading us to another controversy in the gifted community.

FACT: Gifted programming here is not always the same as gifted programming there. 

The truth is that in as much as school districts differ in how students are identified, how they support students can be very different as well. Dai and Chen (2013) have identified three different paradigms that can have an impact how gifted programming is designed. The first paradigm which they refer to as the gifted child paradigm suggests that “gifted children and adults are qualitatively different from the rest of the population” (p. 155) in how they think, feel, learn and dream about the future. This paradigm suggests a need for challenges, opportunities to work in areas of passion, like-minded peers and an affective curriculum. The second paradigm is the talent development paradigm where “domain excellence is seen as the goal of gifted education” and requires programming that does not focus so much on IQ testing but offering opportunities for students to self select into particular activities that over time can involve into programming that “addresses unique advancing needs of talented students” (p. 157). The third paradigm they identified was the differentiation paradigm which is a more recent perspective emerging from the inclusive education movement. In this paradigm “the differences in learning curve demonstrated by gifted learners are believed to be subject-specific and open to change rather than domain-general and permanent” (p. 157) and focus on support within school settings on an as needed basis.

FACT, TRUTH OR SOMETHING ELSE?: Understanding the facts and truths around identification practices, paradigms and program designs could alleviate some of the frustration/confusion we feel when one paradigm comes into conflict with another or when identification processes differ.

Dai and Chen suggest that “the articulation of paradigms helps us determine when we are comparing different kinds of apples (under the same paradigm) and when in fact we are comparing apples and oranges (different paradigms)” (p. 164). I believe that an understanding of the various assessment processes and paradigms helps us to consider the many ways that we can support this very heterogeneous group of students. In our district we support opportunities for acceleration, differentiation and pull-out as we continue to refine our identification processes and options for programming.

Click here or on the icon below to explore more FACTS about giftedness and gifted education.



Dai, D. and Chen F. (2013). Three paradigms of gifted education: In search of conceptual clarity in research and practice. Gifted Child Quarterly. 57(3), 151-168.

Lakin, J. M. (2018). Making the cut in gifted selection: Score combination rules and their impact on program diversity. Gifted Child Quarterly, 62(2), 210-219. doi:10.1177/0016986217752099


The Science of Summer

In my heart, I am still a farm kid. As a result, science in the summer is as much about family traditions as it is about learning and knowing the important science behind feeding your family. Much of my early scientific learning didn’t feel like science at all, it was about daily life-like eating and getting your chores done. There was a lot of “science” that happened in the summer without conscious intention that has become part of my family’s summer learning (fun).

  1. Gardening: from preparing the ground, seeding to weeding and then finally eating, there is no end to the learning in even the smallest of gardens. My garden teaches me new things every year from knowing when to plant even though spring came very early, to which plants require more “food” if you want them to produce. My family has developed a very sophisticated palate with respect to fresh food!
  2. Berry Picking: while we love having food right in our garden, finding a berry patch out in the forest is the ultimate treasure hunt. We have foraged for wild strawberries, blueberries, saskatoons, cranberries and rosehips. For some reason, these treasures taste far better than anything we can find in our garden. Recognizing leaf patterns and ideal growing conditions has made this search a little easier over the years. It doesn’t hurt to know a few “old timers”!
  3. Food Preservation: even in the city, our yard produces an amazing amount of food: raspberries, apples, saskatoons, chokecherries, tomatoes, basil, rhubarb and numerous other crops. From jamming, canning, juicing to freezing, there is so much to learn about keeping food safe and fresh tasting as you process it for future use.
  4. Farm visits: if you’re lucky like we are, grandma still lives on the farm. If not, there are many farms that you can visit. One of our favorite things to do in the summer to find and visit farm friends…especially gardeners. Each summer we find out who is growing and selling food in our region and we make a point of visiting at key times to add to the treasure chest of food in our freezer and storage room. These excursions have become family traditions!
  5. Fishing: from figuring out where to go, what kind of fish to catch, to the best time of day to fish, to what kind of lure to use, to how to cast your rod and if you’re really lucky, filleting and cooking your fish, this activity is full of all kinds of science learning. It is also a sobering look at the impact of industrialization on our lake and river ecosystems when you discover how many fish you could/should eat. If you thought the fish game at the carnival was fun, catching a fish is so much better.
  6. Canoeing: everyone needs to schedule some time to just play! Whether you are in the back or the front of the canoe, on a lake or a river, trying to get the canoe going where you want it to is a great lesson in Newton’s third law of motion.

In some ways these explorations are as much about history as it is about science: food security is and continues to be the single most influential factor in how our civilization has and will continue to evolve over time. Having parents and grandparents who experienced the war and depression and lack of access to food, knowing how to “procure” food, was impressed upon me from an early age and it is something that I continue to share with my children despite the abundance of food that is available. It has become the perfect mix of learning, fun, tradition and preparing them for the future!

For more blogs about all things science, go to Hoagies Blog Hop or click on the icon below:



Teaching All Children Like They Are Gifted

I can’t believe I missed it. Twice. I twittered Rick Wormeli (keynote at our teachers’ convention) to make sure my friends weren’t pulling my leg. “Did you really say that when all the teachers in your district received gifted training, the instruction for all students improved?” He tweeted back a one word response. “Yes!”

I had the good fortune to do my practicum in a gifted program with one of the most brilliant teachers I have ever met. That early mentorship had a profound influence on how I teach, even when I wasn’t teaching in gifted programs. I guess it’s why sometimes as the gifted specialist I struggle with the question “how do I teach this gifted student?”  Differentiated instruction, flexible pacing, room for extension and choice as well as acceleration must be embedded in our practice. To try to accommodate in that way for a single student is daunting. To do it for an entire class, strangely enough, is far simpler. But teaching gifted students is not simply about strategies. It is the gifted students themselves who have taught me the most about what it means to be an effective teacher.

One of the hallmarks of gifted students is their sensitivity. I often think of them as the frogs who because of their permeable skins, give us early signals to the toxicity in the environment. What makes their environment toxic? A lack of authenticity, caring and understanding.

1. Gifted students need passionate teachers who are experts in their disciplines. You can’t fake passion. If you’re not excited about what you’re teaching, if you can’t see the importance of it or why it is meaningful- they will know. Telling them they have to suffer through it like generations before them is not a good enough reason. While some of them will be polite and still do their best, others will call you out or simply tune out.

2. Gifted students need relationships to take the risks necessary for authentic learning.  Being in the same room for 200 days a year does not constitute a relationship.  They need to know that you care and that you see them as an individual. Many of them have tempered down their thoughts and ideas because they fear being misunderstood or standing out. If you want to see what they are capable of, you must cultivate a relationship with them. But you can’t force it. Sometimes it is just a matter of letting them know that you are there and are willing to listen when they are ready to share. I have waited months to earn the trust of students but it has always been worth the wait.

3. Gifted students need teachers who are not intimidated by people who are smarter than they are. I will never forget the math prodigy I taught years ago when he was in grade eight. He struggled with humanities because it was not his thing. His book responses and written work were adequate but not stellar. Then I asked the students to bring in a favorite book to share with me and he brought in Douglas Hofstadter’s book, Godel, Escher and Bach. I worked through the first few chapters, but from our discussions it was obvious he understood it far better than I did. Eventually we connected through poetry as he explored math in a pattern of words that left me in awe. I still keep a copy of the book on my nightstand and every once in a while I try it again. (He was also formidable at Scrabble…I didn’t have a hope and I’ve always considered myself pretty good at Scrabble.)

4. Gifted students need you to understand that they may develop asynchronously. I’ve worked with gifted kids who were completing university level courses yet still cried over getting a low mark in a different discipline area. I’ve seen students who could read Egyptian heiroglyphs throw temper tantrums if they couldn’t make their structure hold weight. I’ve known students who played with adults in professional jazz bands on weekends yet goofed off and never get anything done in class. Yet I still hear over and over that we should not accelerate students to meet their academic needs until they are socially ready when the truth is, they may never fit well into a classroom or social setting…until they find their passion or intellectual counterparts.

Passionate expertise makes differentiation easier. It allows you to see the many paths to a similar destination. Relationships are key to differentiation. How can you help students get where they need to go if you don’t know their starting point and what ignites their passion? When you don’t have all the answers, you get to model what it means to be a lifelong leaner and you give even your brightest students permission to not need to know everything. And when you understand that intellectual and social development vary from child to child you can understand the need to be flexible in how you think about students and plan for them.

Is Inclusion Working?

This past week I received an email from the Special Education Council of the ATA inviting me to participate in the Blue Ribbon Panel on Inclusive Education. They are asking for stories from teachers around the province about how inclusion is working in their schools and classrooms.

I have spent several days pondering how I could respond to that question. After all, is a pull-in program inclusive? Given the highly diverse population that I am working with, trying to find ways to support all of their needs even in a congregated setting has its challenges. Am I meeting their learning needs? The programming that I provide has been designed with the needs of gifted learners in mind, it offers considerable choice, challenges and opportunities to explore their strengths as well as addressing the social/emotional piece. Am I meeting their learning needs? I see them eight days a year and during that time I work to build relationships. I help them grow the virtues like flexibility, cooperation, self-discipline, tact, trust, trustworthiness, orderliness, courtesy, perseverance, unity and more as I guide them through creative problem solving exercises. I try to get to know them as unique individuals with something to offer. Am I meeting their learning needs? After all the work that I’ve done researching, planning and trying to get to know and respond to each learner, I have to trust that I am. But still, every year, a few students drop out of the program.

I have also had the opportunity to work with many teachers in the district in developing IPP (Individual Program Plan) goals and strategies for working with their gifted students in their classrooms. The tension between creating specific (SMART) goals and creating learning environments in which gifted students don’t feel singled out has been an interesting one to navigate for all of us. The challenge of accelerating and allowing for flexible pacing in a classroom where some students are struggling to keep up can feel daunting. The struggle to enrich in a meaningful way when students are feeling disenchanted or disengaged can feel futile. Are we meeting their learning needs? We put strategies and goals in place and trust that we are making a difference. Last week I got four high fives and two calls for help.

Beyond curricular outcomes, learning strategies and measuring outcomes, there is a much bigger question than “Is Inclusion Working?” I think it sounds something like this: “Is it possible to create an educational system that works for all students?” I could add up the numbers each year, like how many students dropped out of the pull-in program vs how many stayed in? Or how many IPP goals did we meet successfully? I could work out the percentages to prove my case one way or the other. But I sense that there are going to be a lot of variables that will change each year and cause us to re-evaluate how we are approaching inclusion, notwithstanding the number and variety of coded students who arrive on our doorstep each year.

So how do I answer the question, is inclusion working? I guess I have to look at how I have changed as a teacher. What I’ve learned from this diverse group of students who come to me with all their unique needs. What it’s made me learn about teaching, curriculum and learning. How it has changed my practice. If John Hattie is correct and that 30% of student success is based on who I am as a teacher, then that is definitely the place that I’m going to need to start.

John Hattie’s seminal work in the meta-analysis, Visible Learning, pulled together what we have learned about learning through educational research over the past few decades.  His article Teachers Make a Difference is a great read and provides some excellent food for thought as we move forward with inclusion. And the good news? We will have the opportunity to learn more from him when he visits our district this coming August.

What ‘Steve Jobs’ Tells Us About Gifted

It is often said that gifted students should read the biographies of gifted individuals to gain insight into the struggles that some of our more eminent  individuals have experienced in finding their place in the world.  After reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, I would like to add this book to the list of must read biographies. While I have had a number of people say to me, “he may have been brilliant, but he was a jerk” I think that it is worthy to explore what constitutes that evaluation of his character in light of his accomplishments, something Isaacson does very well in the book.

I have been fascinated for some time with Steve Jobs’ story, especially after watching the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley more than 13 years ago. The movie contrasted the stories of Bill Gates and Microsoft to Steve Jobs and Apple as they raced to make personal computers accessible to everyone. Even in that movie, the quirkiness of Jobs’ life story and habits would sometimes overshadow his gifts. “He may have been brilliant but…” stops us from looking a little bit further and trying to understand how the “but” might contribute to his brilliance. In reading Isaacson’s book, I was able to get a better understanding of this and reflect on how some of the gifted students that I work with can also be misunderstood.

One of the things referenced often in the book is the “reality distortion field” that seemed to surround Jobs. One of his colleagues described it as “a confounding melange of a charismatic rhetorical style, indomitable will, and eagerness to bend any face to fit the purpose at hand.” (Chapter 11) At first read the statement makes Jobs comes across as manipulative in his drive to make people do his bidding.  But as I was reading through the chapter I couldn’t help think about a colleague of mine who refers to the gifted brain as “wired differently”.  Some of my students affirm this when they refer to the loneliness, lack of understanding and alienation they can feel simply because they experience things differently. I wonder if sometimes they feel a continuous pressure to fit into what could be considered from their point of view, the reality distortion field of mainstream society.

Which brings us to wonder what made it possible for Steve Jobs to make what others might have seen as initially unrealistic, into reality. There were two things that really struck me in considering this. The first was his vision. Not only was it idealistic in his genuine desire to make computers intuitive to the point of removing all barriers for the users to be creative, but it was also holistic as he believed every single aspect no matter how large or small, contributed to the whole. So what happened if you were contracted to come up with a contribution to the project and it didn’t quite fit with the vision. Jobs would likely tell you “it sucks” without kindness or tact regardless if you were a mile or a millimeter off the mark. It was not unlike the “all or nothing” mentality I’ve seen from more than one gifted student. In the case of Steve Jobs, his attention to all aspects of production gave us some pretty innovative products. (Yes, I love my iPad!) It also makes me wonder what kind of amazing things lie the in the reality distortion fields of other gifted individuals who aren’t able to negotiate social situations well.

I could go on and on about the book and how his competitive nature didn’t seem to be about money but more about creating not only awesome “stuff” but better “stuff”. How his fascination for simplicity  was underscored by the understanding that true simplicity tends to be incredibly complex. How his very human struggle with lifestyle choices and relationships impacted his health and well-being. It was a fascinating read.

I think I am due to examine a few more biographies. There is a great post at Ingeniosus that will link you to some great biographies for gifted students. As I look through the list I see a lot of “disruptive” individuals…

What Matters Most…

As teachers we get told time and again what matters most in the classroom with respect to student learning is the educator in the classroom. In John Hattie’s seminal work “Visible Learning” he looks at over 800 research studies and ranks the results of those studies according to the influence they have on learning. If you scroll down to page 297, you can see those results here. If you look at the top 30 influences you will see that a full two thirds are attributed to teachers and teaching. It is no wonder that so much PD and research is invested finding teaching strategies that work.

In the December 2012 edition of Parenting for High Potential President of the NAGC Dr. Paula Olszewski-Kubilius writes about the importance of learning outside of school. In it she reports on a 2012 study that examined what influences performance on standardized test scores and according to this study, scores for gifted students can be greatly affected by learning that takes place out of school. She tells us that she is not surprised by this. Parents of accomplished musicians, dancers and athletes have routinely exposed these students to further training outside of school. Research conducted on high achieving scientists and mathematicians indicate that much of their learning was self-initiated outside of the school. One need only to think of the stories we’ve heard about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and how much of their learning occurred outside of the system.

So which is it then? The teacher or the home that has the biggest influence on learning? I subscribe to the theory that it is the teacher in front of the student that matters most. But I would qualify that with the idea that we are all teachers at any given moment, whether we are in a classroom with our students or in our homes with our children. What matters most would be that we are authentic in our role as teacher. What does that look like? I think Dr. Maryellen Welmer does a nice job of describing it in her blog which you can find here. In my experiences the most valuable learning experiences have come in those authentic moments, both at home and at school.

Emergent Curriculum and Curriculum as Story

Every once in a while I dream about my ideal school or teaching situation, not that I don’t love where I am and what I am doing, but my mind can’t help traveling into the world of “What if?” Ricks Centre for Gifted Children located at the University of Denver met a lot of criteria I have set out in my “what if” world. Some of the perks of working there include the ability to get your masters and/or PhD from the university for free. The 1:8 student teacher ratio is also pretty incredible. The parent involvement is wonderful and the space, right on campus, is amazing. Yes I know, private school, university setting…not possible in the public system.

But what really caught my interest was the curriculum framework that they used for providing instruction. Emergent curriculum is a way of planning learning based on the students’ (and teachers) interests and passions. The teacher then has the responsibility of finding ways to study the topics in depth. This is very different from trying to find the “hook” that will draw students into a prescribed curriculum. In simplistic terms this changes the dynamic in the classroom from “You must learn this story.” (prescribed curriculum) to “Let’s explore what has captured your interest right now and then create a story together.” (emergent curriculum).

The reason I like using story as a way to describe curriculum is the complexity of storytelling and story hearing. None of us ever hears or tells the story in the same way. Our interpretations are embedded in our experiences and to measure an individual’s understanding and interpretation of a story against another by someone with yet another interpretation seems intrinsically unfair. Add in Temple Grandin’s thoughts on “different kinds of minds” and you see the impossibility of authentic assessment. Co-author a story together however, and then consider your ability to assess understanding when everyone has had the opportunity to contribute their part to the story.

A skillful teacher can weave the prescribed story into the emergent story which is one of the reasons Ricks employs many specialists in their school: the deeper understanding we have of a particular discipline the more likely we are to find connections. If you’re starting to wonder when students will learn the basics, they’ve also scheduled in time for the structure of disciplines based on Jerome Bruner’s work in The Process of Education. Bruner believed that each of the disciplines has a basic structure and education should be about understanding how that structure works. For example Bruner suggested that “in algebra, structure is related to the fundamental concepts of commutation, distribution, and association .Emphasis on these “three fundamentals” presumably will provide the basis for understanding a wide variety of algebraic operations.”  A math specialist is more likely to understand and connect the nuances of this discipline than a generalist.

If I link Bruner’s ideas back to the metaphor of story, I might call it the language of the story. Math, science, art, English each have their own language or means of communicating their story. Understand this language and its underlying structure and you have the tools to communicate through that discipline.  Ricks Center draws  the emergent curriculum and structures of disciplines together into integrated thematic units which allow students to explore the theme through a variety of languages (disciplines). If a student has a stronger fluency in one of the languages over another, s/he still has the opportunity to contribute to the creation of the story. This to me is inclusive education.

It might seem as though this emergent curriculum model is a far cry from our experiences as teachers and parents but if we are present in our conversations with our students and children, we can address the curriculum that emerges on a daily basis. In my classroom it happens when we are in the middle of a challenge and things aren’t working or the group isn’t getting along. What discipline could help us solve the problem that we are working on? In my home it happens while we are driving in the car, cooking in the kitchen or having dinner together. What is at the heart of the questions that are emerging? What passion can we explore this weekend? We all play a part in the story of life that our children are constructing…what is it that we can add today to make it a story about them and how they understand the world? What can we contribute that will make it a story in which they experience ownership and pride? How can we link their story to the broader story (context) that we share?

We Live In A Society Focused on Deficits

One of the most thought provoking sessions I went to at NAGC was with Robert A. Schulz who works in Gifted Education and Curriculum  Studies at the University of Toledo. In his presentation he provided a bit of a retrospective on the path gifted education has taken as well as exploring the tension between the notion of giftedness and talent. He took us through some of the trends in education: the societal reconstruction of the 60’s and 70’s, a nation at risk in the 70’s and 80’s to the audit culture of the 90’s, the indigo children of the 21st century and now into a time of more doing. He summed this journey up with a quote from Donald Treffinger that “we live in a society that is focused on deficits.”

Focused on deficits. Isn’t that our job as educators? To fill in the gaps? To make sure our students are “well rounded”? To make sure everybody meets the basic “outcomes”?

Schultz then went on to discuss four things that we KNOW about learning:

1. Learning is personal.

2. Teaching is guesswork and hopefulness.

3. Being/becoming are not formulaic.

4. “Psycho-therapy” based on products instead of process is wrong-headed.

Now you see what I mean about thought provoking as I think it would be interesting to have a long conversation about any one of those items.  I can already hear all the number crunchers in my life taking a really deep breath. So I will go on to a couple of other things he brought up that have really stayed with me.

His advice to the NAGC was that the organization rethink their definition of gifted and steer it along the lines of Annemarie Roeper’s definition: “Giftedness is a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences.”  To this he added his own thought that giftedness is who you are, not what you do. As I think about that my mind goes to all of the students who feel the weight of a gifted label and the expectations that it can carry. I think about the teachers who tell me that they can’t see the giftedness. I think of the pressure that I feel to show that my program matters. Schulz summed up this disconnect in the bottom line: Education has a business model.

I bought his book “if i’m so SMART, why aren’t the answers EASY?” which he co-authored/edited with James R. Delisle. The books is subtitled Advice from Teens on Growing Up Gifted and contains a lot of lived experiences of gifted kids from their understanding of what giftedness is, to their school and family life. At the end of the book, the authors have put together a list of the Eight Great Gripes of Gifted Students (common concerns that have been communicated by gifted students over more than 20 years of research). I thought I would share them here.

1. No one explains what being “smart” or “gifted” is all about. It’s kept a big mystery.

2. School is too easy and not challenging.

3. Parents, teachers and/or friends expect me to be perfect at everything.

4. Friends who really understand me are hard to find.

5. Kids often tease me about being smart.

6. I feel overwhelmed by the number of things I can do in life.

7. I feel different and alienated from most of my classmates-I think in different ways that they do.

8. I worry about world problems and feel helpless to do anything about them.

As I read through them again I notice how few are about the school work itself. Look at the ones that emerge from the focus on deficits. Once again Schultz has directed me back to what was emerging from every session: the social/emotional aspect of giftedness must be addressed.

Creating a Space for Gifted

The part I love the most about my job is working with students. Despite having gone through a screening process and being considered a unique group of learners, when they come to visit me to work on their challenges and projects, they are as diverse a group of students you’ll find anywhere. In fact sometimes I think even more diverse as their exceptionalities often place them in completely different spheres of passion with varying degrees of intensity. When I think about my role as their “teacher” in a pull-n program, it is more about creating the space for them to explore their own “giftedness” as opposed to working toward any specific outcome.

In Renzulli’s Triad Model of giftedness that you see above, you can see the space I am talking about, it’s right there in the middle. And in that centre is also the heart of some controversy over whether the potential for giftedness (above average ability) is enough to merit involvement in gifted programming. Without task commitment and creativity can one be considered truly gifted? As I work toward carefully constructing the space where all three can flourish, I encounter all kinds of obstacles living there: unusual expectations, fear of taking risks, vulnerability, sensitivities…I try to navigate them carefully and encounter some of my own fears: Did we get anything done today?!? Am I giving them what they need?!?

On Friday night I went to talk to Cameron Tofer a local game developer ( about how to mentor some of my students who are working on developing computer games. When I asked him what program I could buy or where I should get the students started he gave me a very interesting look and said something like this: “I don’t start my day knowing how to do anything I want to do. I start my day with an idea and then I go online and find a way to make it happen.” It was a humbling moment as I wonder how often I’ve crowded that creative space with my presence and my own preconceived ideas about how to make that creativity and innovation happen.

Destination ImagiNation tells me that I cannot contribute to the solution of my teams. Sylvia Rimm and Susan Winebrenner tell me not to steal a student’s struggle. So my goal is to open the space and keep it safe. And seek out mentors who can help guide the way.

Expanding the World: Grande Prairie Style

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” – Walt Streightiff

There is an excellent article in the December 2011 Parenting for High Potential by Dr. Joan F. Smutny about the pivotal role parents play in expanding the world of young gifted children. She suggests that parents help their children discover meaningful links by coupling their at-home fascinations with forays into their communities and the resources that are there. One of the suggestions she makes is to follow-up an interest in dinosaurs with a field trip to a dinosaur exhibit…as I was reading that I couldn’t help but think there aren’t many better places for a child interested in dinosaurs to live. If you start with a trip to Centre 2000 and then head out to Pipestone Creek you’ve got plenty of ways to feed the imagination! As I continued to read her article about the “gifted programming” that already exists in the community, I thought it might be fun to give it a Grande Prairie twist for those who may not be as familiar with our amazing community.

If you haven’t visited The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie yet, be sure to put it on your list. At the grand opening a week ago, one of the officials commented that it was one of the best galleries in western Canada capable of hosting the kind of exhibitions you might only expect to see in metropolitan centers…here in Grande Prairie. An amazing gallery. The Centre for Creative Arts also has a lovely gallery and hosts regular openings. Last week my daughter and I saw the most amazing (and inspiring) wearable arts show. If you head to the museum in Muskoseepi Park you’ll also find great exhibits there (with lantern tours coming up on October 19 and 20) and the museum and gallery at Centre 2000 never disappoint.

The Grande Prairie Public Library is an amazing facility as well. If you go to the website you can find out about upcoming events like author visits and writing contests. We were in the Linda Smith story room for a book launch last week and entertained with an amazing puppet show! There are movie nights, writing clubs, travel clubs….all meeting at the library. (I help organize a songwriters circle that meets there once a month!) When you go into the library, check out all the posters on the wall. There are all kinds of events that are advertised in our community. And I haven’t even mentioned the books…an amazing collection. And if they don’t have the one you’re looking for, the Peace Library System will find it for you. Explore all the genres with your children: poetry, stories, nonfiction, humor, biographies…read together. Have fun with words.

Nature Trips
I agree with Dr. Joan F. Smutny when she says that “the natural world offers the richest and most accessible resource for young gifted children to understand more of the outdoor world.” And you don’t have to leave town to get there. Muskoseepi Park is a brilliant resource in the heart of our city. I can’t tell you how many paths our family has explored over the years. We have created our own names for places: the Dragon Forest, the Moose Forest, the Beaver Forest, the Troll Bridge all in honour of the creatures (or evidence of creatures) that we have discovered (imagined) there. There are beautiful walking trails and bird viewing spots out at Crystal Lake. If you want to make your way out-of-town the list is endless: the great walking trails in O’Brien Park. At Kleskun Hills there are the amazing formations as well as cactus, wild onions and a historical village. Saskatoon Island Park has great playgrounds and walking (or scootering trails) and birdwatching. If you head toward Peace River you can’t beat the great facility at Dunvegan Park: a visitors centre, historical buildings, amazing playground complete with a fort as well as the market garden. I could go on and on with this particular list and would still likely miss some great spots to explore. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of my favorite farms: Red Willow Gardens-Elmworth, Starbright Farms-Baytree, Bridgeview Gardens-Shaftsbury Ferry, Summers Gold-Crooked Creek, Smoky Gardens-Watino…all places you can visit and I have visited with my children so they can taste the freshest food possible. My eldest wants to be a farmer now!

Community Resources
Each season a new issue of Community Connections is published and available at places around the city: the Eastlink Centre, the library etc. In it is a plethora of opportunities for adults and children. Grande Prairie as so much to offer!

The Home Environment
Nothing feeds curiosity like a place where you can explore your passions. Dr. Smutny writes that “having a home that embraces the family’s interests-a makeshift laboratory for the scientist, an art-making place, a quiet nook for reading-enables young children to continually expand their knowledge and skill…by making choices, practicing skills that increase their competence in planning and completing projects, and achieving goals that matter to them.” As I write this blog this morning I can see out into the story making space my children have created in the next room. Sometimes I refer to it as a colossal mess, but if I look carefully there are all kinds of pockets of organization, places full of stories that are told when my children disappear into another world. It’s a place Smutny would say allows them to “discover their interests and nurtures a sense of independence and ownership of their own learning.”

If there are some absolutely “must be on your list” places, please leave them in the comment section!