Enriching the Hearts and Minds of Gifted Youth: IEA Academy

By Jen Mounday

Jen Mounday is the Program Coordinator for IEA’s Academy program. Academy provides young gifted students with challenging enrichment classes that focus on exploration and the application of knowledge.

Academy students and instructors dressed up for Halloween – Nico made his own robot costume!

I was a classroom teacher before coming to IEA to be a Program Coordinator. From my years teaching, I naturally developed a mental catalogue of gifted students and the impressions they made on me over time. My experience in the classroom left me well acquainted with the gifted child: the voracious reader, the classical music lover, the Spanish speaking whiz, the student who challenges, the one who ponders—the child who has the uncanny power to shape you through their own quest for answers and truth. The memories I have working alongside gifted and talented kids are ever in my mind’s eye as I coordinate enrichment programs for this demographic.

IEA’s Academy welcomes kindergarten through eighth grade students into classrooms of like-minded peers. As much as I grouped students homogeneously when I was a classroom teacher, I have realized that there is nothing like an Academy classroom. Observe and you will see astronomy PhDs teaching astrophysics to a group of eleven-year-olds; the students are engaged, asking questions and driving the lesson deeper. It’s the power of the Academy classroom that is meeting a need in our community—drawing highly able students beyond the mainstream classroom framework and up a bit higher.

The 2012 fall quarter for Academy included multiple levels of chemistry and neuro-energy. Students worked with molecular model kits to identify molecular make up. In Neuro-Energy II: Intro to Computer Programming, students learned the basics of Java Script to build a website. I watched in one class as a second grader stood transfixed, looking at the projector screen as the instructor demonstrated how to create digital clocks using code. The student was grinning, captivated, bouncing up and down on his heels, like he’d just seen Santa.

Our classes are unique, much like the students and the instructors themselves. Sometimes the novelty of the program is all it takes to get students excited about the classes. In Academy, there are no limits. Instructors, specialists in their field, encourage as many questions as can be asked and are willing to go off on a tangent or two to satisfy interest. Our students can come, just as they are, to talk literature, chemistry, robotics, or math and be heard, embraced, and understood. And naturally, by the end of each quarter, Academy students build relationships through a process of discovery. Over the course of grappling with content that is typically off limits to their peer group, they become a community.

We do our best to extend this community beyond the classes as well. Last week, we held Academy Family Night here at the IEA office. It was an evening for the families to get to know each other and parents to hear from our president, Elizabeth Jones, on the social and emotional needs of gifted youth. It was an evening of learning and togetherness. Parents shared their experiences of raising gifted children, found support in each other and offered their gratitude for our programs. We will continue to hold parent nights each month through May.

We know that enrichment programs like Academy are often the bright spark in the gifted child’s week. We at the Institute for Educational Advancement are happy to provide that spark for our local community and beyond.

The Winter Session of Academy will run from January 12 to March 7. The schedule and applications are available on the Academy page of our website. Enroll your child today!

What enrichment programs have you found to inspire your son or daughter? Please share with us in the comment section below.

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