Sustaining the Gifted Child - Institute for Educational Advancement
gifted whole child

Sustaining the Gifted Child

by Zadra Rose Ibañez, Director of Operations

Since last week was Earth Week, I thought I’d share one of my favorite pictures with you:

gifted whole child

Image via Wikipedia

In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Sometimes referred to as “the three pillars of sustainability”, the goal is to achieve a balance between economic development, social development and environmental protection.  This is often referred to as the 3-E’s – Environment, Economy and Equality.  This has altered the way we do construction (i.e. LEED certified buildings,) the way we design goods and products, (Cradle-to-cradle vs. recycling or upcycling,) and the way corporations report on resources, including staff (examples include Northstar Initiatives, CSRs or Corporate Sustainability Reports, the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sustainability Guidelines, etc.,) and various other reports, indices, philosophies, codes and agreements both in America and throughout the world.\

The thought is that, in order to thrive and continue, a system must satisfy all three components.  An environmental plan that is cost-prohibitive will not be feasible. A cost-effective solution that is detrimental to people is not acceptable, and a financially sound project that benefits humans at the expense of the planet will not allow for a continued reliance on that resource.

Oftentimes we look at a part of the equation out of context. As a species, we enjoy taking things apart to see how they work and then try to put them back together again. We look at a tree leaf and tree bark and tree roots. Those pieces taken separately, while helping us understand certain aspects of a tree, do not show how a tree works as a whole, living entity. It’s like the story of the three blind men and the elephant. (You know that one, right?) The point of that story is about communication, but it also serves as a reminder that a thing is greater than the sum of its parts.

So how does this relate to gifted education?

Many educational programs and services focus on only one aspect of an individual – usually intellect. But it is difficult for an individual to achieve their intellectual potential when their needs are not being met in other areas of their lives. For instance, it is difficult to do well on a test when you just found out that your best friend is moving 1,000 miles away. Many gifted children have expressed the desire to find a peer-group of like-minded individuals to share intellectual ideas with, in order to expand on that knowledge and insight. And who hasn’t experienced feeling sick and trying to do…anything but rest?

It is essential to remember that “A child is a total entity; a combination of many characteristics. Emotions cannot be treated separately from intellectual awareness or physical development; all intertwine and influence each other” (Roeper, 1982, p. 21).

Education must also cultivate in young people spirituality, reverence for the natural environment, and a sense of social justice. Education must inspire children’s creativity, imagination, compassion, self-knowledge, social skills, and emotional health. In this way, the term holistic education simply means cultivating the whole person and helping individuals live more consciously within their communities and natural ecosystems (J. Miller, 2005).

So, perhaps, like viewing the tree as a system, greater than the sum of its parts, it’s paramount that we view each child as a system, a synergy of mind, spirit, body, emotion and relationships, to nurture a sustainable view of both the world and our place in it as growing, learning, experiential humans.

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Zadra Rose Ibañez joined the IEA team in 2005 after several years of office and finance administration in banking and pension administration. She earned her B.A. in Anthropology from Colorado State University and holds a Certificate in Global Sustainability from UCLA. She remembers how frustrating it was to be an inquisitive child and appreciates that IEA provides the solution for that frustration, giving joy and a feeling of belonging and satisfaction to otherwise thwarted children. In addition to managing the operational side of IEA, Ms. Ibañez helps support individuals in their health and wellness goals, collects fountain pens, and sings in a band.

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