SIG eNewsletter: The Gifted Student

September 2014

In this issue:

From the President's Desk

A letter from Barbara Swicord, President of SIG:

“Here we go again,” you might be saying at this time of year, if you are a student, teacher, or parent. If the student is gifted or academically talented, that “Here we go again” feeling might be a combination of trepidation, reluctance, defensiveness or resignation. How many times does a gifted student start the school year worried about fitting in, depressed to face a narrowly structured curriculum, sadly anticipating constant curriculum review until January, and expecting to be misunderstood or simply ignored? A gifted student may be emerging from a summer of being able to pursue intellectual questions of interest on exciting summer programs, or just from personal open-ended discovery, to face educational systems that are established to handle large groups rather than individuals. This time of year can take some adjustment for our students to be able to thrive, enjoy, or simply cope with school.

So what can we all do about that? So much seems out of our control. To start with, we can continue to do the things we always do. We can work as a team, sharing information about ourselves if we are students, sharing information about our children if we are parents, and communicating with students and parents about our methods of differentiation if we are teachers. Setting the right expectations and tone for a successful year are critical in creating an environment where students will be challenged, accepted, encouraged, and respected for their differences, unique qualities, and goals. Making those student goals clear to the teachers from the beginning will create awareness for the teachers and a clear sense of responsibility and direction for the students. Kevin, our Academic Director, speaks more to this point in his article later in the newsletter.

Another thing that I think is helpful to do is to look at situations with a fresh eye. I recall doing an activity many years ago where each of us in a group was given an orange with which to become personally acquainted. Now, most oranges look more or less the same, and these oranges were no exception. After we spent some time getting to know our oranges, they were taken from us and we were later asked to find “our” orange. Amazingly, if we had taken the time to get to know our orange, it wasn’t that difficult to find it again. Perhaps there was a tiny flaw in the skin, or a slight color variation. Perhaps its size was a bit bigger or a little smaller than most of the others. Perhaps one was softer or harder to the touch, or had a unique look about the stem area. It simply took a little time and focus to be able to discern differences among items that, at first glance, looked identical.

What can we take from this analogy to help us have a great start in the school year? Well, to start with, we can all take a fresh look at things we assume we know well. Students, can you look more deeply into your school subjects to see what about each field of study most intrigues or interests you and set some personal objectives from there? Teachers, can you look individually at your new students, without making assumptions based on past experiences, be open to what you see fresh and different in them, and plan accordingly? Parents, can you take a new look at your children, forget the beginning of past school years, ask them what they hope to learn about this year and support them however you can in those goals? Appreciation – for possibilities imagined within given educational constraints, for efforts made by all parties to create constructive learning environments, and for differences that all parties bring to the table in building an amazing future for all – can go a long way in making for a successful school year!

Speaking of appreciation, I would not want this month to get away from me without thanking everyone involved for another successful SIG summer season. I loved watching many of our students in action at several of our sites. I loved meeting so many caring, involved parents, and I continue to be awed by the dedication and talent of our summer staff. All of what we are able to accomplish in the summer is made possible by our fantastic year-round Stamford staff, who don’t get much rest during the summer! All these people continue to inspire and humble me with their energy and awesomeness.

Speaking of “Here we go again!” our 2015 catalogs are ready, and we are excited to start the summer preparation process all over again. Of course, we spread the joy throughout the year with our online courses for ages 7-12, but it’s not too early to start planning where students would like to spend three wonderful weeks learning next summer! 

Have a fresh school year! We look forward to seeing many of you in 2015!

Barbara Swicord
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted

Kicking It Back with Kevin!

Wow! What a summer! It was such a wonderful experience to see our bright, eager, inspiring students take part in a wide variety of enriching experiences at our sites over the past few months. Thank you so much for your continued support in helping make what we, and our dedicated faculties and staff, do possible!

Over the past few weeks, we have been ensuring that the learning doesn’t stop when the summer does. While our campus-based sites have closed for the summer, a new season of gifted learning is afoot as our fall SIG online courses are set to commence September 24. We have a range of magnificent courses planned for your children, with our continued emphasis on STEM at the forefront. In addition to several of our returning favorite courses, including our advanced math-based exploration of probability in What’s the Chance? and our multicultural, geographic journey across the globe in Magic Carpet Expeditions, we have added Nuclear Physics and Nanotechnology to our SIG online schedule, as well as Web Game Design and our personal treatment of life science with The Biology of Me.

As fall approaches, it is of course time to think about the new school year, and from our vantage point, what some of the best practices are in terms of ensuring a successful school year for gifted students. As a result, I thought I would offer a few suggestions for our parents and students regarding the important practice of setting goals for a new year of learning.

Here at SIG we place a premium on students setting their own learning goals. We firmly believe that this practice helps children and young adults develop a sense of personal responsibility for their learning, and we embody this philosophy in our programs by guiding our students to set individual learning objectives that allow them to plan their academic explorations in areas that truly interest and engage them.

While perhaps there are not always opportunities during the regular school year for students to chart their course of learning to the degree we offer in our summer programs, we encourage our students and families to work within the structure of their school curriculum to set similar personal learning goals. We find that this activity increases motivation and engagement, helps students develop as self-directed individuals, and enables them to better recognize the personal benefits of their efforts.

For some gifted children and young adults, it can be extremely difficult to attain self-created goals without proper guidance. While they are often extraordinarily capable of reaching goals, at times gifted individuals can create lofty and unrealistic goals, particularly when it comes to timelines. For example, young children might aspire to become a doctor by the time they reach their early adulthood, but not yet fully comprehend the role higher education, apprenticeship, experience, and other concerns play in making this goal a reality. Sometimes children expect to reach goals that require a lifetime of preparation in the span of a day, a week, a month, or some other unrealistic length of time.

Some may be skilled at setting goals within realistic timeframes, but don't understand how to reach them. Gifted students, for whom learning and other activities may have come more easily than for other students, might believe that they can attain their aspirations without a reasonable plan as to how to get there. In some instances, individuals of this sort can become discouraged about their learning and grow disinterested.

To help them set appropriate goals, work with your children to create specific, personal goals that have (perhaps ambitious, but realistic) deadlines. It is crucial to help them determine if their goals are short- or long-term, and to include deadlines that reflect this understanding. Perhaps a student might have a long-term goal of learning everything about the universe, but might start with a two-week goal of becoming familiar with the planets, moons, Sun, and other elements of our solar system before expanding outward. Help them divide long-term goals into a series of short-term components, enabling them to learn in-depth and enjoy their progress along the way. The practice of backward-mapping, or envisioning the final outcome of a goal and then recording the steps needed to reach it, is often a valuable technique in determining and delineating necessary, incremental steps.

Make sure to have your children write their goals down. This process not only requires them to be clear about their goals, but involves a degree of commitment that may not develop when goals are communicated only verbally. Keeping a record (even if it is in the form of a small note written by the child to him or herself) serves as a reminder of the inspiration that led them to arrive at the goal in the first place. This record can be particularly valuable when elements of attaining the goal are not found to be as fun or interesting as the final goal is assumed to be. Helping them write down the reasons why they want to reach their goal can also provide valuable inspiration in times that aren’t as pleasant as other moments might be.

Perhaps most important of all, make sure that the goals are personal. You may need to help make a goal more specific, develop a deadline, or help a child plan the steps needed to reach the goals, but your child should do most of the necessary envisioning and recording to truly take ownership of her or his goal.

Until next time,

Kevin Wickersham
Academic Director
Summer Institute for the Gifted

25 Great Things That Happened This SIG Summer!

  1. The students at SIG Stuart enjoyed a presentation on astronomy by Aram Friedman, President of Ansible Technology. He brought his digital dome and showed students the latest pictures of the solar system.

  2. Students  who enrolled in The Art of Making a Short Film this summer wrote, produced, directed, edited, and acted in wonderfully creative, artistic, and engaging films in the genres of comedy, documentary, horror, drama, abstract, mockumentary, and musical. Their work was viewed at the academic showcase the last week of camp. The students at UC Berkeley also interviewed an HBO producer via skype.

  3. Students in the Biopsychology course dissected sheep’s brains to study the anatomy and structure of the brain. They were then able to label the different parts and build their own models based on what they had dissected.

  4. Students in the course Get Theatrical! at SIG Stuart performed an abridged, modern version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for family and friends on the final day of the program. The performance included costumes and sets designed by SIG Stuart students!

  5. Students at SIG Princeton participated in a three-week-long Harry Potter-style SIG Cup challenge and earned points for their respective house through various activities, competitions, and random acts of kindness. At the end of camp, Jon Fuller’s house was declared the winner, having earned the most points of any house!

  6. As a Sunday activity, students at SIG University of Chicago and UC Berkeley created their own music videos for Pharrell’s song “Happy,” showcasing their dancing skills and how HAPPY they were to be at SIG!

  7. At one day program, there was a young student who shared his passion for environmental science and the complex project he is working on, using drift cards. The camp embraced his endeavors/passion, and many adults in the program not only supported his learning but contributed to his cause. (See article below.)

  8. Students in Crime Scene Investigation and Bioengineering at the SIG UC Berkeley campus were able to perform DNA analysis using real electrophoresis equipment.

  9. At the UCLA campus, the class Under the Sea: Diving into Marine Science was taught by a PADI certified Professional Wreck Diver. They explored the deep ocean photography and even dissected a squid.

  10. At SIG Sierra Canyon, the entire program had an aviation demonstration from a fellow associate who brought in remote controlled helicopters for an aerial show.

  11. Students in the Storm Chasers course at Boston University Academy built a simulated tornado and a hurricane to better understand the damaging effects of severe weather.

  12. Students in the What’s Your Point? class explored body language and nonverbal communication used in other countries and compared their findings with the communication styles used in America to better understand how people around the world communicate with each other. 

  13. Students in the class Future City Design at Amherst worked on sketching prototypes of modern cities that would be able to withstand natural disasters, ensure healthy living conditions, provide clean energy, and protect habitat and wildlife.

  14. Students in the class Fun with Newtonian Physics at Amherst College were given the opportunity to create their own roller coaster using a computer simulator. This interactive example demonstrated the interplay of kinetic and potential energies.

  15. Students in the class Animal Intelligence at Your Service at Boston University Academy got to observe the behavior of a service dog that visited the class.  Students learned to recognize submissive, assertive and dominant behavior in dogs and the specific signs of each behavior type.

  16. Students in Yale’s Cradles of Creativity course explored the creative minds of inventors, businesses and artists, visited Yale’s many museums, and were inspired to create their very own installation art pieces.

  17. Students in Rippowam Cisqua’s Spying: Secrets, Surveillance and Science course solved Civil War mysteries as spies in mock interrogations.

  18. Several students at Yale conducted live in-person observations of the citizens of New Haven, CT, in various public spaces in order to gain insight into various theories of the roots of human behavior.

  19. A student at SIG Harvard created his own photography apprenticeship course and spent his class time working with a counselor, taking incredible photos of cityscapes all over Boston.

  20.  Ape to Zoology students participated in training mammals (rats) to respond to a sound to receive treats.

  21. Fun with Newtonian Physics students learned a new use for marshmallow.  They used marshmallow projectiles to understand how force equals mass times acceleration and the trajectory of angles.

  22. Students in ELL classes were supported in learning a new language by singing ABBA songs.

  23. Engineering in Action students built solar cars and raced them on the quad in a class competition at UC Berkeley.

  24. Technology: Complex Problems students created individual solar air conditioners from household objects of scrub pads and plastic food containers.

  25. Chemistry: The Essential Element students perfected their understanding of combustibles material through the creation of 4th of July "fireworks."

Campus Spotlight: University of Miami

The University of Miami, located in Coral Gables, Florida, is a private research university with more than 15,000 students from around the world. The University of Miami is a vibrant and diverse academic community focused on teaching and learning and the discovery of new knowledge. The world-famous climate and numerous other attractions make South Florida  a unique place to experience, whether it’s the beaches of South Beach, cultural venues such as Lowe Art Museum on campus or the Perez Art Museum Miami on the shores of Biscayne Bay, or visiting the shops and restaurants along Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile or nearby CocoWalk in Coconut Grove. Enthusiasts of sports, arts and the subtropical environment will all find something intriguing in close proximity to the campus.

Fun Facts!

  • University of Miami ranked No. 47 in the U.S. News & World Reports “Best National Universities” listings for 2014.
  • Over 1,430 degree undergraduates participate in the Honors Program. UM has 52 academic honor societies, including Phi Beta Kappa.
  • 2015 is our first year at the University of Miami. A SIG Day program is also available for students ages 5 through 8.

SIG offers many options for students who wish to attend this program:

  • Residential Program for students ages 9-17
    Students choosing this option will participate in the full curriculum of SIG including a 4-period academic day, evening programs, Saturday Get-Away Days and Sunday Activity Days. Students live on campus in dormitories.

  • Day Commuter Program for students ages 9-17 (8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.)
    Commuter students participate in the full 4-period academic day, lunch and recreation period. They do not participate in any weekend or evening activities. Commuter students must be dropped off at 8:30 a.m. and picked up at 5:30 p.m.

  • Extended Commuter Program for students ages 9-17 (8:30 a.m. - 9:15 p.m.)
    Extended commuter students will participate in the full 4-period academic day, lunch, recreation period, dinner and all evening activities, as well as Saturday Get-Away Day trips. Extended commuters do not reside on campus or take part in Sunday activities.

  • Day Program for students ages 5-8
    There is also a day program for students ages 5 through 8 which includes a full 4-period academic day.

More information about this program will be available on the SIG website in October. Please check back!

6-Year-Old SIG Student Releases Drift Cards!

Alek was a SIG Day student this past summer. He is involved in an extensive environmental project to study the impact of potential oil spills along an oil tanker route. He is doing a drift card study, in which he will release drift cards made of biodegradable nontoxic materials into the water in order to understand the trajectory of water currents in that area.

Here is what he shared with his followers:

Hi drift card fans,

The drift cards have been released! Saturday at 5:46 p.m. I released 200 drift cards into the water! The cards disappeared quickly from the area. They were carried by the outgoing tide. It was amazing to see how close together all the rocks are. There are 3 or maybe more groups of rocks and some of them are submerged. And some were peeking out of water just a little bit.  I could not see the shoals at all. Those rocks were under water all the way. You have to be very careful not to run into all these rocks in this part of the oil tanker route. This must be very difficult for a huge oil tanker to do.

I will release the second batch of 200 cards on September 20 or on another day if there is bad weather. I will keep you posted on where the cards go and when they are reported. Please be on the lookout for the drift cards! I will track the cards reported for 4 months. You can read my hypotheses on the QUESTIONS, RESEARCH & HYPOTHESES page of the website.

Here are some videos and pictures! I also updated the website with new pictures and videos.

Watch Video 1 | Watch Video 2

Alek, chief scientist

P.S. I also saw many jellies. (I learned jellies are not fish because they don't have gills. So we don't call them jellyfish, just jellies.)

We also heard from Alek's mother, who wrote a lovely note to us about his experience on the SIG program:

I am not sure I can adequately express my gratitude for the experience Alek had at SIG. I was overjoyed to hear his excitement each day when I picked him up. Each and every day, he had some fantastic description of what he learned, discovered, or experienced. One day, he exclaimed, "We counted protons today, it was so awesome!" And every other day, there was some similar story of delight in learning at SIG.

Thank you to both Alek and his mom for being part of the SIG family! We hope to see Alek again soon!

Puzzle Corner

What number should replace the question mark?


Submit your answer online at The first student who submits the correct answer will receive recognition in the next issue of The Gifted Student!


Last Month's Puzzle

Replace each set of dashes with an 8-letter word. The same 8 letters must be used for both words.

The _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ showed the zoo’s visitors the best way to _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ the animals.

A: Trainers and restrain

Congratulations to Tiffany from Akron, OH, for being the first to respond with the correct answer to last month's puzzle!

Connect with SIG on Social Media!

Social media is a driving force in many of our lives. Here at the Summer Institute for the Gifted, we see it as a great way to connect with those who are just as passionate about gifted education as we are!

We often hear from parents of alumni that SIG summers were some of the best their children ever had! If you are a SIG parent, we encourage you to pass this along to your current or former student(s) so that they can stay up-to-date on SIG happenings.

Through social media outlets, SIG provides updates on everything from gifted education resources to details about our various programs, from puzzles and learning strategies to event announcements across the country. Stay connected with us throughout the entire year by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn!

SIG on Facebook:
SIG on Twitter:
SIG on LinkedIn:

The Summer Institute for the Gifted is a program of the National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT), a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

We look forward to connecting with you!

Upcoming Conferences & Events


The Gifted, Creative, and Talented Education Conference
September 26, 2014
"Be Practical: Finding and Developing Gifts and Talents," Speakers: Karen Westberg, Karen Rogers, Kari Govig, Carol Malueg, Kirstin Moldan, Cori Paulet, and Margaret Smith;
University of St. Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival
September 27, 204
Come visit with SIG at this educational event where approximately 80 authors will be on hand to meet the public, chat about their books, and sell signed copies.
Bell Middle School, Chappaqua, New York

Arizona Association of Gifted & Talented (AAGT) Parent Institute
September 27, 2014
Concurrent student program, grades K-8
Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Arizona

Challenging the More Able: Gifted & Talented 2014 - Manchester
September 30, 2014
"Classroom and whole-school strategies to effectively stretch more able pupils, improve progress and raise aspirations," Speakers: Ceri Morgan, Ian Warwick, Senior Director, Sharlene Williams
Manchester, U.K.

TAGT Gifted Plus Parent Conference
September 27, 2014
El Paso ISD's Chapin High School, El Paso, Texas


Idaho CEC/ISPA Conference
October 1 - 4, 2014
"Change Comes Bearing Gifts"
Red Lion Downtowner, Boise, Idaho

Mississippi Association for Gifted Children (MAGC)
October 1 - 3, 2014
"Full STEAM Ahead! Transforming the Platform of Gifted Education," Keynotes: Debbie Dailey, Kenneth J. Smith, Vaughn Wilson a.k.a. Uncle Hokum
Bancorpsouth Conference Center & Arena, Tupelo, Mississippi

NAGC Webinars on Wednesdays
October 1, 2014, 12 - 1 p.m. EST "NAGC: Leadership Directions and Priorities for 2015," presentation by Tracy Cross, free online

Tennessee Association for the Gifted (TAG) Annual Conference
October 2 - 3, 2014
"Putting the Pieces Together: Identifying and Serving the Whole Gifted Child," Keynotes: Thomas Hebert and Tamra Stambaugh
Scarritt Bennett Center, Nashville, Tennessee

New Mexico Association for the Gifted Fall Institute
October 3 - 4, 2014
"Gifted Toolkit 2014," Keynotes: Ann Robinson & Lori Camallie-Caplan
Albuquerque Public Schools City Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Kansas Association for Gifted, Talented and Creative (KGTC)
October 5 - 7, 2014
"Full STEAM Ahead: Inspiring the Future," Keynotes: Brian Housand and Jim Delisle
Overland Park Marriott, Overland Park, Kansas

Challenging the More Able: Gifted & Talented 2014 - London
October 8, 2014
"Classroom and whole-school strategies to effectively stretch more able pupils, improve progress and raise aspirations," Speakers: Ian Warwick, Senior Director, Sharlene Williams, Bob Cox
London, U.K.

NAGC Webinars on Wednesdays
October 8, 2014, 12 - 1 p.m. EST
"Making Inroads for Gifted Learners: A Convention Preview," presentation by Karen Yoho, free online

Wisconsin Association for Talented & Gifted (WATG)
October 9 - 10, 2014
"Getting to the Core: Gifted Matters," Keynote Diane Heacox
Kalahari Resort and Conference Center, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Gifted Education Conference: Excelling with the Common Core
October 11, 2014
Eli Broad College of Business, East Lansing, Michigan, Michigan
Ohio Association for Gifted Children Annual Conference (OAGC)
October 12 - 14, 2014
Keynotes and Featured Speakers: Sally Krisel, Keith Polette, Robert King, Laura Magner, Oliver Schinkten, Michael Clay Thompson, Carol Strip Whitney
Hilton Columbus-Easton, Ohio

Iowa Talented and Gifted Association (ITAG)
October 13 - 14, 2014
"Reaching for the Future," Keynotes: Rick Wormili & Richard Cash
Airport Holiday Inn, Des Moines, Iowa

NAGC Webinars on Wednesdays
October 15, 2014, 12 - 1 p.m. EST
"Guiding Gifted Programming from a District Leadership Perspective," presentation by Dina Brulles and Lauri Kirsch, free for NAGC members, online

Torrance International Creativity Collaborative
October 16 – 18, 2014
Join SIG at this amazing conference to facilitate the creation of a global network of creativity researchers. Barbara Swicord, President of SIG, will be there at the Thursday reception to share our program and connect with others interested in developing creative talent.
Athens, Georgia

MEA/MFT Educators Conference
October 16 - 17, 2014
Includes a gifted education strand,
Missoula, Montana

Florida Association of the Gifted State Conference (FLAG)
October 17 - 18, 2014
SIG President, Barbara Swicord, will be presenting on “Creative Transformation Using the Torrance Tests”
Conference theme "Growing Creative Learners in Florida," Keynote: Brian HousandSheraton Suites Tampa Airport Westshore, Tampa, Florida

Missouri Conference on Gifted Education (GAM)
October 17 - 18, 2014
"Full STE2AM Ahead"
Drury University, Springfield, Missouri

Washington Association of Educators of the Talented and Gifted Conference (WAETAG)
October 17 - 18, 2014
"Gifted Learners... Beyond the Stereotypes," Keynote: Joy Lawson Davis
The Hotel Murano, Tacoma, Washington

Oregon Association for Talented and Gifted (OATAG)
October 18, 2014
"Addressing STEM and Giftedness," Keynote: Susan G. Assouline
Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon

Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented (CAGT)
October 20 - 21, 2014
"The Many Faces of Gifted," Keynotes: Dan Siegel, Lisa Van Gemert, Kai Kloepfer, Rosina Gallagher and Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez
Marriott Denver Tech Center, Denver, Colorado

NAGC Webinars on Wednesdays
October 22, 2014, 12 - 1 p.m. EST
"The Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Students," presentation by George Betts and Tracy C. Missett, free for NAGC members, online

Orange County Council for Gifted and Talented Education (OCC GATE)
October 25, 2014
"Growing Successful Students"
University of California, Irvine Student Center, Irvine, California

Connecticut Association for the Gifted (CAG), Minds in Motion
October 25, 2014
Join SIG for an exciting day of interactive workshops for every child with every interest, Kindergarten – 8th grade.
Madison, CT

NAGC Webinars on Wednesdays
October 29, 2014, 12 - 1 p.m. EST
"The Handbook of Secondary Gifted Education: New Curricular Strategies for Educators," presentation by Felicia A Ball, Branson D. Lawrence and Ken Stuart, free for NAGC members, online

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