The Genius of Genius Day
By Louise Hindle, IEA Program Manager
Saturday, March 12th bore witness to our 6th Genius Day, a day of deep learning on the life and legacy of none other than Albert Einstein. In case you didn’t know, our Genius Days are days of investigation into the life and impact of someone who may be deemed a “genius.” These days are always met with immense enthusiasm: our teachers clamor to share their expertise, sign-ups are rapid, and once over, our young learners leave desperate to know the date of the next Genius Day. This part of our programming is clearly sparking interest and excitement – so it’s worth pausing for a moment and considering why Genius Days are great for gifted kids.
In no particular order, here are my thoughts:
- Gifted kids get the opportunity to come, from near and far, and be with others who share their interests
Saturday’s delegates came from as far away as Long Beach and as near as San Marino. Most importantly, they came so they could spend the day exploring Einstein’s legacy through science, math and, perhaps surprisingly, creative writing. They engaged in a fabulous gravity well experiment in order to investigate general relativity, they voyaged through time dilation and aspects of special relativity during a math challenge game, and they re-imagined Einstein’s perspectives on the world and education, by reading and responding to letters written to him or by him. All of this was achieved in a safe environment amongst others who share a common desire to learn and a unique enthusiasm for Einstein.
2. Gifted kids get the chance to learn with and from experts; asking questions which might otherwise go unanswered, or worse, not asked
Genius Day is not just an exercise in finding engaging teaching and learning activities, but an exercise in finding those with the cavernous expertise to truly meet the intellectual needs of our students. Last Saturday, we were honored to be led by our long-standing Astronomy teacher, Dr. Tony Travouillon, who is known for his work on the Thirty Meter Telescope (as well as his ability to bake macarons!). Co-teaching on that day was Dr. Jeff Rich, currently a post-doctoral research associate at the Carnegie Observatory in Pasadena. Tony and Jeff stand in a long line of friends, teachers, researchers, and experts who have given their time and minds to previous Genius Days – from Caltech to members of the Independent Shakespeare Company. Collectively, these teachers inspire our children and address ALL of their questions with patience, respect, and oftentimes, awe!
3. Gifted kids get to work in paradise!
All days have been hosted at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino: paradise indeed. The location is not just paradise because of the inspirational beauty of the setting, but because of its riches in manuscripts, collections, and exhibits – riches we are fortunate to enjoy access to. Curators graciously donate their time beforehand to meet with the teachers and enlighten us on what aspects of the collection might relate to our named “genius.” For Einstein, we sourced some incredible digital images of Einstein’s visit to Mt. Wilson and then on the day itself enjoyed a visit to the award-winning Beautiful Science exhibit. Who wouldn’t be inspired to be engaged in paradise? Perhaps attendees imagined a future life as a scholar, feeding the mind through adulthood.
4. Gifted kids get what they need most – intellectual nourishment
A Genius Day is not just about showing up on the day and having the mind fed, but having expectations shaped BEFORE you even get there. All students are sent a reading pack to devour – intellectually speaking! – before the day itself. The pack outlines key terms and concepts and offers a biography. It also offers challenging readings by and about the genius from sources not always readily accessible! Pre-reading for Einstein included a newspaper article from a 1919 British newspaper, a copy of his report card revealing his achievements in Chemistry needed some attention (!), a copy of a telegram serving as a rallying cry to leading scientists in light of anxieties surrounding the atomic bomb, as well as current, breaking news on the man himself within the context of LIGO!
5. Gifted kids get to participate, not just receive
All children are involved throughout the day. Learning activities are designed, purposefully, for a range of learning styles. There is a deliberate design for student participation and an expectation that we don’t just interrogate the science and the math, but also the very notion of “genius” – historically, socially and culturally. We strive for dialogue and we do our best to ensure all voices are heard, from the past through to those magical moments in the classroom.
And so, we say “Happy Birthday” to Albert Einstein and bathe in the warm glow of holding a Genius Day about him just as news of a whole new astronomy breaks, courtesy of gravitational waves. We also say “thank you” to our community who attend and enjoy these unique days of deep learning.
We think our Genius Days are “genius.” As one of our families said, for their child, attending Genius Day is “like being in another world with kids that he can really talk to about the things that really interest him. We cannot express enough our gratitude for what you have created in IEA; where our son lights up, like nowhere else. Another world indeed.”
We sincerely hope to have you join our world and make it your child’s world, next time at Genius Day.
Interested in Genius Day? You may also enjoy IEA’s Academy, which offers after-school and weekend enrichment courses for gifted children grades K-8th. Applications are now available for the spring term! Learn more and apply on the academy website.
A British import, Louise Hindle graduated from the University of Manchester with a B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature and Language, completed her post-graduate teacher training at The University of Cambridge, and has recently completed her dissertation in Educational Leadership and Innovation with the University of Warwick. Louise has 20 years of experience in education as a high school literature teacher, lead teacher, administrator, adviser, and consultant. She is also the parent of three fun and active school-aged children. She loves working at IEA because she is constantly learning and reflecting in order to meet the varied and complex needs of these children, who she finds to be confident and vulnerable in equal measure but always ready to learn and thirsty for more. In her free time, she likes to read with her children, hike, walk, and jog with her badly behaved dog.
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