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USQ helps gifted children find their place


For Karalee youngster Lily Thomas few things are more satisfying than solving a challenging maths equation. It might not be what you would expect an eight-year-old to be most interested in but Lily is no ordinary kid.

She is one of 150 children invited to a two-day camp for gifted kids at USQ Springfield.

“I like the trickier questions because when you do them you get more experience. It’s fun when you solve a problem because then you know more,” she said.

Lily also has a passion for art.

“I like that you get to use your imagination. I like imaging and drawing things you wouldn’t usually draw.”

The camp brought together some of the south-east’s brightest young minds and challenged them with classes on cellular respiration, muscle structure and function, surface tension, probability and the history of space exploration, archaeology and surrealism.

Each participant was given the opportunity to choose their focus area.

Lily chose surface tension and because of her ability to understand was moved up from a class for students in years three and below to one for children in years four to seven.

USQ lecturer from the School of Linguistics, Adult and Special Education Mark Oliver said the camp offered gifted children a chance to grow their passion.

“The classes here are probably pitched three to four years above what they are used to at school and we see this remarkable rise to that from these kids who just soak it up,” he said.

What to do if you think your child is gifted

Dr Mirella Olivier from BRAINways recommends:

“In a nutshell, challenge them. Offer them opportunities to be challenged for a number of reasons. Gifted students love to learn and to challenge themselves. They always seek new opportunities for learning, they are curious. The other reason is it presents an opportunity for them to get to know their ability, to get to know how far they can push and gain confidence as a result. It also builds resilience because if they are only offered tasks that they are mastering easily then that’s not giving them that opportunity to build those skills, to respond to difficult situations and to problem solve.”

“The purpose (of the camp) is really to provide enrichment opportunities beyond curriculum areas because the curriculum is quite locked but as we know once we all leave school we do things we didn’t study at school.

“So we try to expose kids, bright kids, to those things early because we know it helps them with motivation, it helps them discover their interest areas and it helps them develop that deep interest in an area, and that’s really what we want to see.

“We want to track our brightest into all fields, not just maths and science. We need brilliant lawyers, we need people who are passionate about social justice, human services.

“We start it early to try and help them develop their sense of self, their identity and to know that it’s alright to be smart and it’s alright to have a quirky passion.

“It does also have all of those benefits of possibly relieving perfectionism, depression and anxiety, all of those nasty sides of high intelligence that sometimes can affect kids and teenagers.”

USQ runs the camp in partnership with BRAINways Education – an independent organisation which works with gifted children.

Dr Mirella Olivier from BRAINways said it was not uncommon for gifted children to continue their accelerated learning after the camp.

“What we love about it is beyond the two days, beyond what’s happening here, the kids will have the opportunity to continue the project (they are working on at camp) at home and then submit their work for assessment and feedback,” she said.

“The main idea is to get them to pursue their interest and passion, not to leave it at the end of the two days but to really encourage them to carry it on.”

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