Friday, April 06, 2012

Use these 3 mechanisms to identify your child's gift

Just read this news today :

Aryaman Neelakantan, a Grade 3 student at Bangalore, won global rank 1 at 14th International Science Olympiad. The article in Times of India quotes that "his fascinations change over time.Initially it was dinosours, later it shifted to fossils, insects and bugs, and then to Rocks". At the grade of 3, he says he wants to become a Geologist !

These olympiads are taken by over 3000 schools. These olympiads conducted by Science Olympiad Foundation are for different subjects such as science, maths and language, and even IT knowledge. These tests are very good means to enhance your child's knowledge in these areas, starting from Grade 1 to Grade 12.

If the child likes a specific subject, he is more inclined to study that subject. But the curriculum of a traditional school does not allow the child to study 'ahead', and to know more about something that interests her. In Montessori method, as a child is placed in mixed age group of three years, a child can learn deeply about a subject from his seniors, if he is interested. In IB curriculum ( offered through International Schools), one can also take advanced tests of 'graduate level' if one is exceptional in a subject.

However, if your child is in a traditional school, these olympiads are very good for your gifted child due to three reasons. One, these Olympiads tests her proficiency visavis other similar students through which she finds that she is ' really good' in a specific subject. This itself is a good 'information' which the child uses to 'channelise' her energies. Two, by offering stiffer challenges, it grooms your child in developing her capabilities. By constantly offering challenges that are stiff enough, these olympiads therefore provide automatic motivation to a child to stretch his abilities. in our days, this function used to be performed by excellent teachers !

Besides Olympiads, some schools also offer special 'labs' in subjects like science and maths. These labs, if manned by good teachers, also offer the child the same advantages that these olympiads offer.

More importantly, these Labs and Olympiads offer your gifted child third unique advantage, the best learning environment of an informal group. It connects your child with other children who have similar interests. This 'informal social' group of 'similar interest' students is the best mechanism for your child to grow his abilities: because this group enables the child to find answers to his difficult questions, find one's solution in someone's question,  prod each other by finding difficult challenges and undertake projects that cannot be done by a single individual. Psychologists today have recognised that such informal network is a best learning crucible one can offer to a child.

We all are gifted in a specific subject or topic. We could be good in any of the streams of subjects, be it language, arts, design or science. Olympiads, labs and informal groups offer us a mechanism to explore our interests, find 'what we are good at' at an early age and even develop it.

If you understand this, you will realise that Internet today offers one of the biggest benefit to your children: an opportunity to join a virtual community of similar-interest students who could be located in any part of the world. Through internet, your child can become part of group of similar-interest students, even if the interest is as narrow as corals or butterflies or as wide as astronomy or mathematics. This was not possible in earlier days. And as you would have observed from Aryaman's case mentioned above, the interest may vary from dinosour to rock to animals. Finding such a group on internet,that is of interest to your child, is therefore a very easy way to 'identify' your child's gift and nurture it. And once he finds his interest and develops it (either through Olympiads, labs or informal groups), the next step of finding 'career-path' is as easy as Aryaman, who has found his path at Grade 3 age! 

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