Tag Archives: Fellows

Yunasa West 2014

By Jessica Houben

IEA’s pioneering Yunasa summer camps unite highly able youngsters with experts in the social and emotional development of gifted children. Campers explore and grow the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical aspects of their lives.

Yunasa West 2014

In June, 39 campers from across the country came together for Yunasa West at Camp Shady Brook in Deckers, Colorado, for a week of intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual, and physical growth.

The week started off by introducing this year’s IEA program theme: The Common Good. As we talked about The Common Good, campers shared what the theme meant to them and how they thought it would be relevant to their camp experience. They described the Common Good as acting unselfishly, doing things for other people rather than yourself, and behaving in a way that promotes the health of the group, even if one’s own best interest is at stake. We proceeded to establish our rules as a group to prepare for the week as part of a community. Each camper exemplified The Common Good in their actions towards others at camp, respecting one another and making efforts to ascertain that everyone felt accepted.

See more highlights from Yunasa West 2014!

Keeping Young

By Jim Delisle

When I first began working with gifted kids in 1978, I had no idea that I’d still be doing so 36 years later. Those first gifted 4th-5th graders I taught in Stafford Springs, Connecticut are now closer to their retirements than their college graduations. That should make me feel old (OK…I am old!), but thanks to a decision I made more than 20 years ago, my vitality remains. That decision?: to never be more than a week away from teaching gifted kids.

My career trajectory led me from the elementary classroom to the college lecture hall, a much easier place to teach. There are no parent phone calls to return while teaching college, and discipline problems are minimal. Still, I found something lacking in teaching my graduate students. It wasn’t that they weren’t sincere in wishing to earn their degrees, it’s just that they were all so…predictable. And if there’s one thing I learned while teaching gifted kids, it was that predictability was not a quality that many of them possessed. “Quirky” (yes, that would fit), “spontaneous” (…maybe that’s why I could never get through my intended lesson without several student-led detours) and “intense” (couldn’t any of them, just once, practice the fine art of intellectual moderation?). The longer I worked with gifted kids and teens, the more I came to appreciate that the vigor they displayed while engaged in learning something new and relevant had an unexpected impact on me–their excitement became a non-prescription elixir that served as my personal fountain of youth. Thanks to gifted kids, I may look my age, yet I neither think nor act it. Thanks to gifted kids, I feel like Peter Pan.

If they’re lucky, parents of gifted kids retain this same degree of youth when they interact with their children. I mean how can you not giggle out loud when your 4-year-old daughter asks, “If butter melts yellow, and chocolate melts brown, why doesn’t snow melt white?” It’s a perfectly fine question, based on observational data your gifted kid picked up simply by being alert to the world. The answer to this question may evade you, but just the thought that someone so young has so much intellectual power and curiosity helps keep you mentally robust and alert. And how about when your 15-year-old son wants to engage you in an “oxymoron contest”, with some of his entries being “cafeteria food”, “authentic replicas”, “bigger half” and “Congressional wisdom”. Even if you can’t top these “instant classics” (another oxymoron), the banter between the two of you is bound to make you feel younger than your years.

Three and a half decades of gifted kids have introduced me to countless characters who have changed–indeed, enhanced–my life. I continue to cling to my youth today by doing part-time teaching of highly gifted 9th graders who are enrolled in college and by serving as a “Fellow” at IEA’s camp Yunasa every July, working with gifted 10-14 year olds at a YMCA camp in Michigan. Yeah, my soon-to-be-ancient bones ache when the alarm rings at 5:15 a.m. so I can get to school on time, and sleeping on a plastic-covered camp bed does little to enhance my burgeoning arthritis, yet underneath these physical discomforts remains one of the best feelings in the world: a continuing connection to gifted kids who keep my spirit alive and well.

Seek your own eternal youth: surround yourself with as many gifted kids as you can find.

Delisle_Jim_RGBAbout Jim Delisle:

Jim Delisle serves on the Board of Directors of IEA and interacts with gifted kids frequently. His upcoming book, Dumbing Down America: The War on Our Nation’s Most Capable Youth, will be published in August, 2014.

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Yunasa 2013!

By Jessica Houben

IEA’s pioneering Yunasa summer camps unite highly able youngsters with experts in the social and emotional development of gifted children. Campers explore and grow the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical aspects of their lives.

“Know Thyself” was at the core of all of IEA’s programs this year, and particularly for Yunasa, as this theme tied into each activity throughout the week. Yunasa is the Lakota word for “balance”, and finding balance within as a means of gaining self-knowledge is the focus of camp. From July 21-28 at Camp Copneconic in Fenton, Michigan, campers explored themselves more deeply and learned integration strategies for the five domains of self: social, emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual. For many returning campers, Yunasa is a place where they rejoin their family each year, building their existing connections and extending themselves to make new ones. What was most unique about camp this year was the number of new campers who were accepted into the Yunasa family with open arms.

Call in the Directions

Call in the Directions

Check out more highlights from camp!

The Many Faces of Gifted: Matthew

Interview by Carole Rosner

Every gifted person has a unique story. The following story is part of a series of posts depicting the many faces of gifted by highlighting gifted children and adults we have found through IEA programs. IEA’s pioneering Yunasa summer camp – mentioned in this story – unites highly able children and experts in the social and emotional development of gifted children and provides an opportunity for campers to explore and grow the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social and physical aspects of their lives.


Yunasa Camper

Matthew lives on the island of Java in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. He is 13 years old, is home schooled and has traveled to Camp Copneconic in Fenton, Michigan, for the last two summers to attend Yunasa.

How did Matthew hear about Yunasa?
Matthew first learned about Yunasa through his mentor. “Mark Lediard has been my mentor for three years now, beginning from the age where I was withdrawn from formal schooling. He and I now meet regularly to discuss opportunities for my enrichment and intellectual expansion, including out-of-country learning and meetings with learned professionals. It was through Mark’s collaboration with a homeschooling curriculum adviser named Kathi Kearney that I learned of Yunasa, and I was quick to jump at the prospect.”

But why Yunasa?
“Indonesia, despite being diverse both culturally and biologically, does not have the inherent essence that Yunasa offers. Although the country does have camps, most are relatively generic when compared to Yunasa; mostly they fall within the categories of academic, ecological, or religious. It can be said that the reason for my participation was to experience these new spiritual aspects that no other camp could seem to offer.”

What has he gained from attending Yunasa?
“Words alone cannot describe the effects Yunasa have had on me; intellectually, socially, physically, and spiritually. I have met people with radically varying perspectives, others with opinions very akin to my own, and those still who have enhanced me and the way I see myself by their personalities and experiences. Here, I found an arena to discuss and debate the theories I hold so dear, and to marvel at the ambitions of others who were driven by that same desire to cultivate humanity.”

What does Matthew like about Yunasa?
“The experience of Yunasa was terrifically structured, and my greatest thanks go to the IEA staff for organizing and providing such a seamless daily schedule. The topics and contributions of the Senior Fellows were invaluable in expanding my intellectual and emotional repertoire and are inspiring to reflect on, especially when considering their many possibilities.”

What part of Yunasa has had the greatest effect on Matthew?
“Although I meditate in my daily life, the concept of psychosynthesis itself intrigued me, and I quickly found out why. In the process, I experienced undoubtedly profound visions of the unified continuum of time; often, I would leave the session pondering my beliefs and what it meant to be there. Frankly, I cannot wait to experience pychosynthesis again next year and see what I may experience.”

What similarities does he find between himself and the other campers?
“I find that in a myriad of ways, we share similar perspectives, interests, and ways of comprehending reality. I can say that I have never felt more assimilated into a community than Yunasa’s gestalt, especially when considering I have lived in a foreign society for all my life. In this way, Yunasa is a sanctuary, a home for me. Even before I arrived, I had an innate knowing of the events to come, as it is an undeniable fact that Yunasa has that powerful quality of making one feel completely and utterly at ease with his surroundings, his peers, and most importantly, his inner beliefs.”

Does Matthew keep in touch with other campers throughout the year?
“As a matter of fact, I regularly keep in touch with my closer friends via email and online sources. They inform me on a constant basis about their current activities and circumstances, and it has happened more than once that we have asked each other for aid on issues that cannot be resolved by only a single perspective. It is an honor to know and communicate with these individuals, and I consider them to be important in my development.”

What does he do in his free time, and where does he see himself in the future?
“Being in the cultural fusion that is Indonesia, I am exposed to a wide variety of people, perspectives, and religions on a daily basis, even within my own household. The most enjoyable pastime is observing how all of these fundamentally different groups cooperate and interact in a common environment, even though many share dividing opinions and views.”

He also enjoys reading and writing, “mainly due to the unbounded creativity that they grant me in shaping myself as an individual. I greatly appreciate the intellectual diversity I gain from books and that I can create with writing. I believe that the greatest gift that is bestowed upon the world is the written word, and the knowledge that stems thereof.”

Like many gifted children, Matthew draws connections between different intellectual and spiritual subjects to make more sense of the world and wants to contribute positively to the world around him. “From a young age, I have expressed an intuitive knowing in the existence of an unseen organizational structure above the chaos of reality, and with it, a pressing need to aid humanity in grasping the concept of realms far beyond their understanding. Over time, this ambition progressed to an interest in the fields of theoretical physics and the philosophy of consciousness, namely Ontology. For as long as this aspiration has stood, I have dedicated my life to the unification of science and spirituality, the empirical and abstract. My purpose, I believe, is to aid humankind in reading what Einstein once termed as ‘The Mind of God.’”

Do you or your children want to share your experiences of being gifted? Please leave us a comment below or email us at IEAgifted@educationaladvancement.org!

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Yunasa 2012!

By Jen Mounday

IEA’s pioneering Yunasa and Yunasa West summer camps unite highly able youngsters and experts in the social and emotional development of gifted children. Campers explore and grow the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical aspects of their lives.

Yunasa 2012 Campers

2012 saw another memorable year of Yunasa in Flint, Michigan. Campers arrived on Sunday, July 22, at Camp Copneconic with great anticipation for the week to come and left mid-morning on July 29 elated from a week of flourishing at camp. Yunasa is more than your average summer camp—it’s a week-long exploration of one’s intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical self. The week was a success on all levels, as campers took away valuable life lessons, deeper bonds with peers, and unforgettable memories.

A high ropes course, offered as one of the many camper options, tested campers’ physical and risk taking abilities.

A camper tests her limits on the high ropes course

A camper tests her balance on the high ropes course

Psychosynthesis sessions were led by our Fellows, experts in the growth and development of gifted youth, each morning. Campers practiced guided visualization and relaxation techniques. Many campers said that Psychosynthesis was their favorite part of the day.


IEA Senior Fellow Patricia Gatto-Walden leads a small group of campers in a Psychosynthesis session

The Emerging Leaders (ELs) hosted a camp-wide talent show, including a comedy routine, musical performances, and a choreographed dance.

Talent Show

Campers perform at a talent show hosted by the ELs

One camp session was an ongoing Rube Goldberg project, where campers used various materials to construct a complex machine that, in the end, would perform a simple task. After much deliberation, campers opted to make a device that would put a hat on someone’s head.

Rube Goldberg machine

Campers work to construct a Rube Goldberg machine that will place a hat on someone’s head

The Counselors in Training (CITs) put on the annual Yunasa Olympics. Physically and mentally challenging, the events included in the Olympics vary from year to year. A game of Quidditch was the highlight this year!

Quidditch match

Campers play a game of Quidditch during the Yunasa Olympics

Bubble making stations were set up outside the conference center and available throughout the entire week. Campers enjoyed the option during down-time in the midst of an eventful camp schedule.

A camper makes bubbles in between camp sessions

A camper makes large bubbles in between camp sessions

During the week, campers become a part of the Yunasa family. Many campers describe Yunasa as a time of true friendship and togetherness.

Campers walk through Yunasa summer camp for the gifted

Campers walk from activity to activity arm in arm, showcasing the feeling of a Yunasa family

Throughout the week, campers were encouraged by staff and their peers. Many campers felt “at home” and inspired to be their authentic selves. There were multiple unique opportunities for personal growth. With physical activities such as horseback riding, water sports, zip lining, and ropes courses, campers were challenged to develop confidence in their athletic abilities. With the support of the Fellows and IEA staff, they also grew emotionally with one another and in self-awareness. Campers called on their spiritual abilities to connect with the world around them through activities such as Spirit Journey and Call in the Directions. Intellectually, campers enjoyed sharing with one another in an environment of acceptance and mutual understanding. Our hope is for these campers to return home with cherished Yunasa memories to share and hold onto until we meet again next year.

Campers hanging out

Thank you to Nicholas Farrell for taking these photos at camp!

For more photos from Yunasa, click on the button below. Also, be sure to check out the article about Yunasa in The Flint Journal!

What was your child’s favorite part of Yunasa this year? Please share with us in the comment section below.

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Yunasa West 2012!

IEA’s pioneering Yunasa and Yunasa West summer camps unite highly able youngsters and experts in the social and emotional development of gifted children. Campers explore and grow the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical aspects of their lives. 2012 was the inaugural year for Yunasa West, which took place June 10-17 in Sedalia, Colorado.

Yunasa West campers

There was a lot of excitement and some uncertainty going into Yunasa West – how would our beloved Yunasa camp work in the Rocky Mountains instead of on the shore of a Midwestern lake? Would the altitude prove challenging for our campers? Though there were a number of questions going into Yunasa West, coming out of it there is only affirmation.

The week was a rousing success. Our campers were challenged intellectually and supported emotionally. They engaged in social, creative, and fun activities throughout each day and had formed a true “Yunasa family” by the end of the week.

Low Ropes Course

Low ropes worked as a team building exercise where campers had to communicate and lead each other across the ropes to reach a final destination.


Druidawn, a creative writing and role playing summer camp, captivated all the campers with the task of creating mythological worlds and the characters that reside there. Campers enjoyed the challenge of coming up with original settings and creatures!

Zombie Princesses

On Friday, the girls initiated a zombie princess party that was a huge success!

Gaga Ball

“Gaga ball” was a huge hit for campers. A few of them played every day of camp.


During one of Dan’s workshops, campers were taught to make a labyrinth with rocks they collected from around camp. By the end of the week, the labyrinth was complete—a 30 by 30 foot wonder in which campers, Fellows, staff, and visitors could walk through meditatively.

Calling in the Directions

Each day of camp began with a “Call in the Directions.” On the final day of camp, we did this at the labyrinth and set an intention for the campers as they parted ways. It was a special time of reflection.

Terry Bradley came up to camp for a day to have students make a craft that represented the stressors in their lives and what strategies they use to deal with the stress. Terry also offered a chat in which she told about her life. She was greatly received and appreciated by the campers.

Campers thoroughly enjoyed singing silly campfire songs. Open mic night was another time of laughs, applause and appreciation for one another. One of the campers told an original mystery story that gave everyone goose bumps.

Our gratitude ceremony, part of our closing activities, was almost 45 minutes of the campers spontaneously sharing their memories of joy and fun and gratitude over the week. It felt like a culmination of the week – everyone celebrating their memories and experiences together, with many, many campers pledging to return for future years. It was a pleasure and an honor to see a community develop among these unique, thoughtful, shining-eyed campers as the week unfolded!

Although 2012 marks the first year of Yunasa West, the camp still captured and relied on the deep-rooted traditions and values of the Yunasa family. Campers were encouraged by staff, counselors, and Fellows to explore the five aspects of Self: body, mind, spirit, heart, and social self.

Many of the campers immediately felt comfortable with each other and were even surprised by the level of comfort they experienced with one another. It was an absolute joy to watch these kids as they made new friends, participated in camp activities and games, connected with the Fellows, and shared honest conversation with each other.

The level of intelligence, maturity, and emotional depth among the campers was inspiring. Our hope is for these campers to return home feeling encouraged, accepted, alive to themselves and the possibilities, and maybe a little exhausted from all the fun!

Also, be sure to check out the photos from camp!

What were your kids’ favorite parts of Yunasa West? Please share with us in the comment section below!

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Breathing in I Calm My Body: Intensities in the Gifted

Caroline loves to read — not as a pastime, but as part of her lifeline to the world. She once told me that when she was forced to stop reading in class, it was like her lungs were collapsing, and it was difficult for her to breathe. This seven-year-old has been described as extremely intense and sensitive. The loss of something that comforts her and intellectually feeds her manifests itself in a physical reaction.

Children who feel things with great intensity experience the world in a different way. Gifted young people are often more aware, stimulated, and affected by their surroundings. Emotional or physical reactions to events can last longer than expected and are often replayed in the child’s mind.

Intensities can be characterized by:

  • Extreme feelings: positive or negative feelings; complex emotions; connection with the feelings of others; grand laughter and tears
  • Physical reaction to emotion: stomachaches and headaches; blushing; rise in body temperature
  • Strong affective memory: re-living or re-feeling things long after the triggering event; nightmares; elaborate daydreams connected to actual events

Psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski studied the mental health of gifted youth and adults. He described the areas of heightened stimulation observed in gifted individuals as “overexcitabilites.” The five areas of overexcitabilites are:

  1. Psychomotor: extreme physical activity and movement; rapid talk; pacing; use of hand gestures
  2. Sensual: perceptiveness of sensory experiences; unusual awareness and enjoyment of sensation
  3. Imaginational: clear visualizations; metaphorical speech; dreaming; magical thinking
  4. Intellectual: need to question or analyze; delight in the abstract and theoretical; puzzle and problem solving
  5. Emotional: intensity of feeling and relationships; natural empathy and compassion; susceptibility to depression, anxiety, or loneliness

Dr. Michael Piechowski, who studied alongside Dabroswski, has dedicated much of his life to researching the emotional and spiritual aspects of gifted children. In his book Mellow Out,’ They Say. If Only I Could: Intensities and Sensitivities of the Young and Bright, he stresses the need to “give voice to the emotional life of bright young people, to show how their intensities and sensitivities make them more alive, more creative, and more in love with the world and its wonders.”

Piechowski, along with other gifted experts, teaches gifted children a variety of techniques for coping with their overexcitabilities. For Caroline, this required her teachers, parents, and siblings to understand and embrace her overexcitabilities. At the same time, Caroline learned exercises to calm her senses and help her focus.

Guided imagery and meditation are excellent tools for those like Caroline learning to master their sensitivities. A good place to start is with a simple exercise. Have your child close his or her eyes, breathe deeply, and say with the breath,

“Breathing in I calm my body,
Breathing out, I smile.”

Learning to use the mind to control the body through exercises like this — along with overall awareness and understanding — is an important step in mastering intensities.

For more strategies, see our post 15 Strategies for Managing Your Gifted Child’s Intensities.

Does your child experience any of these overexcitabilities? What coping techniques have worked for you? Please share with us in the comment section below!

We are excited to share this post as part of the New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour. Gifted children worldwide share many unique characteristics, including intensities. It is important for those who are in the lives of these gifted individuals to better understand these characteristics in order to help nurture and support their intellectual, social, spiritual, emotional, and physical growth.

#NZGAW Blog Tour

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“Keeping Track of the Who”

On March 5, 2012, IEA Senior Fellow, Newberry Honor Award winning author, and renowned gifted expert Stephanie Tolan spoke to a group of parents in South Pasadena, California, as a part of our Gifted Child Parent Support Group series. This post offers some highlights from Stephanie’s talk.

Fighting for Gifted

In America, it is okay to be a gifted athlete. But in terms of intelligence, academics, and creativity, many believe that every child is gifted. “You don’t look around a whole class full of kids and say every one of those kids could be Michael Jordan . . . but there is this concept in the world that every child is a gifted child. It’s like saying every child is tall.”

“All human beings have gifts of some kind,” Stephanie acknowledged. “But that’s not like saying every child is gifted because gifted is by definition outside the norm.”

“Those who deal with highly to profoundly gifted kids – kids along the far right edge of the bell curve – those of us who deal with those kids know that giftedness is innate to the person. We know that no kid who is not gifted is going to be able to leap ahead at the rate that these kids just naturally move.”

Theoretical Curve of Distribution of Intelligence

Theoretical Curve of Distribution of Intelligence (via http://expressiveepicurean.wordpress.com)
The highly and profoundly gifted kids Stephanie mentions lie on the far right edge of this bell curve.

While many organizations choose to focus on talent development (which is equated with achievement), there are many kids who are gifted but do not achieve. Therefore, it is important to IEA that we focus on giftedness.

Stephanie’s Advice for Keeping Track of the Who

When parents define their kids by their differences, they are focusing on the “what.” What their child is good at. What their child does differently. Stephanie urges parents, however, to remember the “who” – the being-ness of the individual child.

  • “Help [your kids] see themselves first as a who and then a who who does stuff.”
  • Embrace who your kids are, including remembering that what makes them happy is important.
  • Allow your kids to explore their options. Let them decide what is important to them and what they like. “Multipotentiality is part of the package.” Your kids don’t have to be stuck on one track forever. Encourage them to learn what they love through exploration.
  • “Part of your child’s job is to play.” Just because your kids have a gift doesn’t make play and down time any less important.
  • Let your kids have an interest of their own, something you don’t coach them in, like the music they prefer or the games they play. “It was important that [my son] had something I didn’t have.”
  • Remember that this is a balancing act.
  • So often as parents of gifted kids we are concerned with achievement of potential or of specific goals, but don’t forget the child’s happiness along the way.
  • What you are paying attention to grows. Focus on the good things!

Stephanie Tolan is author of the Newbery Honor Award-winning novel Surviving the Applewhites. She is a well-known lecturer and advocate for highly gifted young people. She has also written Listen!, Flight of the Raven, Welcome to the Ark, and Ordinary Miracles and is co-author of Guiding the Gifted Child. As an IEA Senior Fellow, Stephanie and the other Fellows facilitate Yunasa each year. Stephanie will also be at the new Yunasa West camp this year.

IEA hosts free monthly Gifted Child Parent Support Group Meetings throughout the school year in the Pasadena, CA, area.  These meetings often feature a special guest speaker and cover a variety of topics. If you are interested in receiving more information about these meetings as they are announced, sign up for our email list and include your Los Angeles area zip code.

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