Tips for Parents: Outside of School Educational Opportunities
Lupkowski-Shoplik, A.
Davidson Institute for Talent Development
2010

This Tips for Parents article is from a seminar hosted by Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, who provides advice on a number of strategies parents can take in regards to educational opportunites outside of school.

General Advice

Parents of gifted children often look for outside-of-school opportunities for their children as a way of supplementing the programs offered at school or even in place of school programs. When making decisions about sending your child to a summer program or other outside-of-school opportunity, consider the following:

  • Will your child’s school recognize the student’s work and give credit and/or placement in a higher level class?
  • Are you looking for a commuter or residential summer program?
  • What are the cost factors?
  • Can you arrange something independently, or do you need a structured program?
  • If your child needs a more advanced class, will the program allow him or her to take a class designed for older students rather than one advertised for his or her age?

Selecting a Summer Program

  1. Determine your goals. Are you looking for a program that stretches a student academically or is social or physical development the most important thing this summer?

  2. Consider basics like cost and location.

  3. Is your child ready to go away from home for a week or more? It might be best if the first sleep away camp is relatively close to home so you can make a quick trip to visit your child, if necessary. Consider sending your child to visit a relative for a long weekend first, so he or she has some experience “on his own” before going to a camp with a new group of people.

  4. Students don’t need to go to a summer camp every year. You might decide that, for now, it's most appropriate to do something near home. Volunteering to conduct a story hour at the local library, helping a church or community group with a summer camp for younger children, or other similar volunteer activities teach young people many important life lessons such as a good work ethic, people skills, and taking responsibility.

If Your Child Isn’t Going to Summer Camp

  1. Do not underestimate the power of unstructured time. Children need time to create, plan, and dream.

  2. Consider distance learning programs (such as EPGY at Stanford http://epgy.stanford.edu/ and Learning Links at Northwestern University http://www.ctd.northwestern.edu/gll/about/history/

  3. As kids get older, look into the possibility of a mentorship or shadowing experience, where the student would have the chance to work with a scientist, doctor, pharmacist, or other professional. This type of opportunity won’t cost anything and it might provide valuable lessons and experiences for the student.

  4. Take advantage of one-time events, such as those offered for the Davidson Young Scholars, participation in student conferences, or competitions. Those short events can be life-changing experiences.

Financial Aid

First, make sure you fill out the financial aid request forms for each program. Ask program personnel for help in securing financial aid. Many programs are able to help you. Don’t assume you can’t qualify for financial aid.

Check with local organizations, such as the Rotary, Kiwanis, or your township foundation. They might give partial scholarships to help talented students participate in special academic opportunities.

The residential component is what makes many summer programs expensive. Consider a commuter program, or consider having your child stay with a relative or friend to attend a commuter program in another city.

Other Opportunities

Contact local museums, zoos, planetariums, etc. They may have programs for junior tour guides or junior volunteers. The students might learn more as volunteers than they would in a paid program (and there's no cost!).

Consider looking at universities in your area, and contact departments of interest. The person answering the phone can probably direct you to a professor who might take some time with a younger student. Many departments maintain a list of graduate students who are willing to tutor younger students in their subject area. These graduate students could be great contacts to help get your child into a lab as a volunteer or they might work with your child on a science fair project.

Investigate contests and competitions. Participating in a science fair or competition gives a student the chance to work on a long-term project. Competing in math or writing contests encourages students to do their best work and introduces them to students (and adults) with similar interests. Excellent performance in a competition may open doors to other opportunities.

Resources

Science and technology resources

Camp Kennedy Space Center http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/education/camp-ksc.aspx for students in grades 2-9

Marine Science Consortium http://www.msconsortium.org Wallops Island, Virginia. “Hands-on, feet wet education”

National Computer Camp www.nccamp.com

SPARK www.brown.edu/scs/pre-college/spark/ For 7th and 8th graders

Science contests

BEST Robotics Competition www.bestinc.org/ Boosting Engineering Science and Technology

FIRST LEGO League Robotics competition: http://www.firstlegoleague.org/

The Dupont Challenge: Science Essay Competition www.thechallenge.dupont.com

Intel Science Talent Search www.societyforscience.org/sts/ Grade 12.

Science Olympiad www.soinc.org

Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology: www.siemens-foundation.org/competition

Math Resources

American Mathematics Competitions http://amc.maa.org/

The Art of Problem Solving: http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/

Math Forum http://mathforum.org/

Math League http://www.mathleague.com/

Math Olympiads for Elementary and Middle Schools www.moems.org/

MATHCOUNTS: www.mathcounts.org

Odyssey of the Mind www.odysseyofthemind.com

Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists http://www.promys.org/

Ross Mathematics Program http://www.math.ohio-state.edu/ross/

USA Math Talent Search www.usamts.org

U.S. Chess Federation www.uschess.org

Online math games

www.24game.com/t-justforkids.aspx

www.brainbashers.com

www.coolmath.com

www.puzz.com/

www.dailysudoku.co.uk/sudoku/index.shtml

Humanities Resources

Creative Kids http://www.prufrock.com/client/client_pages/prufrock_jm_createkids.cfm

Dig on Site, an archaeology magazine www.digonsite.com

Stone Soup, a magazine by young writers and artists: www.stonesoup.com

Teen ink: by teens, for teens. www.teenink.com

Writers’ Slate: poetry and prose by students in K-12: www.writingconference.com/writer%27s.htm

Humanities Contests

The America Library of Poetry Student Poetry Contests: www.libraryofpoetry.com

Knowledge Master Open: www.greatauk.com/KMO.html

The National Council of Teachers of English Student Awards: www.ncte.org/awards/student/

National Geographic Bee: www.nationalgeographic.com/geographybee/

National History Day Contest: http://nationalhistoryday.org/

Scripps National Spelling Bee: www.spellingbee.com/

The Stock Market Game: www.smgww.org/

The Word Masters Challenge: www.wordmasterschallenge.com/

City Theatre Young Playwrights contest, Pittsburgh: www.citytheatrecompany.org/education/yp/contest.html

National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA) Young Arts Program: www.nfaa.org/

Humanities Websites

Database of Award-Winning Children’s Literatures: www.dawcl.com

EyeWitness to history: www.eyewitnesstohistory.com

GeoNet: A Geography Game: www.eduplace.com/geonet

Guys Read: A Reading Site for Boys: www.guysread.com

National Geographic Kids: www.nationalgeographic.com

Summer Reading Lists: www.education-world.com/summer_reading/

U.S. 50: A Guide to the 50 states: www.theus50.com

Summer Programs

Andrew's Leap: held at Carnegie Mellon. Interact with leading computer scientists at CMU in mathematics and robotics. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~leap/

Carolina Journalism Institute http://www.sc.edu/cmcis/so/cji/index.html

Carnegie Mellon pre-college program. Take undergraduate courses while living in dorms. http://www.cmu.edu/enrollment/pre-college/

Research Science Institute: http://www.cee.org/programs/rsi

Summer programs: http://cty.jhu.edu/imagine/linka4.htm

Other Great Resources

Talent Identification Program guide. http://www.tip.duke.edu/resources/educational_opportunity_guide/

Cogito.org: an online community for academically talented youth: www.cogito.org

Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page: www.hoagiesgifted.org

KidSource Online: www.kidsource.com/kidsource/pages/ed.gifted.html  


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