We believe gifted education, at its best, is talent development. If a child has specific talents or aptitudes they ought to have every chance to develop these to their fullest potential. With this view we envision gifted education enabling intellectually gifted children to excel to the furthest extent of their academic potential.
Gifted education at Birchwood School of Hawken focuses upon subject content (history, mathematics, writing, etc.) and the habits of mind intrinsic to subject disciplines. In our view, gifted education should provide gifted learners opportunities to grow within recognized fields of study.
Each field provides a wealth of content and higher order thinking that allows gifted learners to thrive in measurable terms within the discipline. We do not invent special academic courses for gifted children. It is our contention that there are sufficient opportunities for acceleration, enrichment, and higher-level thinking in traditional subject areas.
Athletic coaches and musical instructors have long understood this simple approach. When athletic coaches talk about a gifted athlete, they are referring to a gifted baseball player, a gifted soccer player, or a gifted gymnast. Coaches see the potential and understand the particular training necessary to develop these respective talents. Perhaps these young athletes need to play on more competitive teams or maybe they need strength training. In any case, coaches seek opportunities for the young athlete to grow.
Similarly when music instructors identify a gifted musician, they note a child’s natural music ability that can blossom at the piano or on the violin. They will place this young musician on a pathway of progressively more challenging studies, step-by-step drawing out the child’s talent, until they reach their fullest potential based on their ability and interest.