By Matt Myers
Matt is a summer intern at IEA. He had the privilege of meeting some of the Summer Academy students and taking them to the park for lunch each day. This is his reflection on his time with these kids.
I had never met a gifted child before interning at IEA this summer. My job would be to help around the office and take the Academy kids to lunch. What is a gifted child, though? What do they look like? I somehow had an image of miniature college professors in khakis, casual sweaters, and dirty new balance running shoes (this is what most of my professors at The Johns Hopkins University wear). Perhaps one or two of them would even have a stylish goatee that they would twirl in their finger as they discussed the motive hunting surrounding the motiveless malignity of Iago from William Shakespeare’s Othello. “Indeed the play suggests some over-determined motivations from Iago—a lover jealous of Othello’s involvement with Desdemona, an ambitious military officer, or perhaps a subtly racist Venetian?”
I would nod my head, making a mental note to read up that night on my Othello notes from last semester.
Contrary to my crazy imagining, the kids were not like this at all. On the surface they just look like, well, kids! They wore shorts, t-shirts, and tennis shoes, much like any ten-year-old would. They gobbled down turkey sandwiches, Doritos, and snack packs. When they were done eating, they enjoyed playing soccer or cards, joking around the whole time, without a care in the world.
And, of course, they were smart. I learned that ladybugs primarily eat aphids, which is why they are good to have in gardens. I learned that there are species of fungi, which I won’t even attempt to try to spell the names of, species that can grow to the size of a basketball over night! This all came as I dealt cards to the five youngsters, who would remind me that for a game of six players each got eight cards with four left over.
This is what I’ve learned about gifted kids: they are smart like I expected them to be, but they also like, need, and want everything a normal kid likes, needs, and wants. When I take them to the park for lunch, the world of the smart meets the world of kid. They have great conversations with each other cover topics from Sponge Bob to the properties of neurons. They stretch their muscles, kick soccer balls, chase squirrels and beetles, and lie out in the grass. They are masters of play, just like any other kid. This element of the gifted child isn’t exclusive to lunch in the park either. They bring this same exciting energy into the classroom; every time I take a peek to check in on their learning, they each have the same big smile that accompanies their youthful eagerness to live life to its fullest.
I am grateful that I have been able to be a part of these special children’s lives. Even though my interaction with them primarily involves taking them to lunch, I think that part of the day is a curiously special part of their development, a time that perpetuates their youth and energy. Most often it’s the down time that has driven them toward their promising futures in the first place. This is why I’ve so enjoyed lunch in the park with the Academy kids and helping IEA in any way that I can. Also, chasing squirrels in the park never gets old!
As you learn about gifted children, what have you found most surprising? Please share in the comment section below.