"Imagine the Possibilities" at the NAGC Convention 11/3-6/2016

By Dr. Jenelle S. Miller

 Left to right: Marie Thornsberry, Jenelle Miller, Dana Reupert, Ann Smith, Kari Hanson-Smith

Left to right: Marie Thornsberry, Jenelle Miller, Dana Reupert, Ann Smith, Kari Hanson-Smith

Last weekend I enjoyed attending the 63rd Annual Convention of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. I was excited to meet with my colleagues who are Board Members of the California Association for the Gifted (CAG) as well as several colleagues and friends from the University of Iowa's Belin-Blank International Center in Gifted Education and Talent Development.

The theme of the convention was "Imagine the Possibilities," which was fitting due to our location at the Walt Disney World Resort. Our Opening Keynote Speaker, Alex Wright, Creative Director of Walt Disney Imagineering, spoke on The Wonderful World of Creativity. Alex focused on "Dreamers" and "Doers." He said, "things that seem impossible now will become realities tomorrow." He talked about how he brainstorms ideas with his creative team and that "any idea is fair game with no boundaries" - he called that "Blue Sky Rules." Alex believes that there is "no such thing as a bad idea (not literally true)," but that "you don't know where that idea might lead." He continued, "It's not a good idea to spend time talking about why an idea can't be done because that stops the flow of ideas. Things don't just spring into being; people make them happen." Creative thought can be brought into any endeavor by imagining, "What if this? What if that?" Most of all, we need to foster curiosity with our students because that leads to creativity. We must encourage our gifted kids to "pursue the path to think differently. Anyone can be creative, but Imagineering is beyond that." Alex says that he never walks into a creative session thinking that he has all or the best idea. That would mean that all the ideas haven't been heard; ideas that could be added to or influence his idea in order for the best idea to unfold.

The Keynote session was a great way to launch the conference and there were many more exciting and informative sessions that followed.

Board Meeting of the California Association for the Gifted

By Dr. Jenelle S. Miller

Today I attended the Board meeting of the California Association for the Gifted (CAG) which was held in Santa Clara, California. I am the Parent Representative for the Palomar Region which covers San Diego and Imperial Counties. My colleague, Sue Ann Bussey, is the Education Representative for the same region. We sat together during the Board meeting and collaborated on our 2016-2017 regional plan which includes volunteering our time and expertise to hold regional meetings with parents and educators for the purpose of sharing information in regard to CAG. It is our plan to build and maintain a regional network of support and leadership for students, parents, teachers, and administrators involved with GATE education and to promote new membership in CAG within our region. We also work with our local legislators as resources and advocates of gifted education to keep them informed of current issues in our area.

Tomorrow a portion of our meeting will focus on planning our annual 2017 CAG conference which will be held in San Diego, California on March 3-5. We hope to see administrators, teachers, and parents of gifted children from all over the state of California and especially from our Palomar Region attend this conference.

If you have any questions or need more information about Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) in the San Diego or Imperial County areas, please feel free to contact Sue Ann Bussey or Jenelle S. Miller through our regional page on the CAG website.

CAG Palomar Region

 Sue Ann Bussey and Jenelle S. Miller at the Board Meeting for the California Association for the Gifted - September 17, 2017. #CAGCON

Sue Ann Bussey and Jenelle S. Miller at the Board Meeting for the California Association for the Gifted - September 17, 2017. #CAGCON

Fun with Storytelling, Puppets, and Mensa Kids

By Dr. Jenelle S. Miller

The National Mensa Annual Gathering was held in San Diego at the beginning of July 2016. The gathering hosted numerous programs and special events for members of Mensa and their guests. To qualify for Mensa, you must have scored in the top 2 percent of the general population on any one of more than 200 accepted, standardized intelligence tests — including Mensa administered admission tests — at any point in your life.

I had the unique pleasure of attending this gathering to assist with the children’s program which consisted of about 60 Mensa students between the ages of 4 and 12. In between a couple of science sessions, I engaged the children in a unique story that has been a part of my family since my father was a little boy. As you will see in the photo taken during the event, I became a storyteller and performed the Tajar Tales with puppets. Back in 1993 my artist sister, Jill Kerry, and I republished this whimsical tale written by Jane Shaw Ward in the 1920s; and then created the puppets, plush Tajar dolls, and an audio CD to develop a complete "story kit." I often use the story kit as an example during my "Student Publisher's Workshop" where I teach children how to collaborate together to write, illustrate, and narrate stories as well as make puppets and perform puppet shows. My sister and I are both big fans of including the Arts in education.

Source: https://www.mensa.org/

California Association of Gifted Conference

This afternoon I returned from the 54th Annual California Association of Gifted (CAG) Conference that was held in Palm Springs over the weekend (Feb 26-28) at the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. It was wonderful to meet the Board members and about 1,200 administrators, teachers, and parents who attended the conference. I also met Dr. Sandra Kaplan, who is the Education Committee Chair and Past President of CAG, and is a national expert in the field of gifted education.

Over the three days, I attended several informative sessions:

Friday was the Parents' Pre-Conference Workshop which had sessions on Advocacy, Curriculum and Instruction, and Social and Emotional. The purpose of these workshops was to provide parents with information that would help them parent their gifted children by understanding the common traits of gifted children and by learning practical strategies for parenting. In addition, support was given to parents as advocates in the classroom, school, and district so that they could ensure their children receive appropriate challenges commensurate with their abilities.

Saturday I listened to a panel of district administrators discuss how the new political legislation will be influencing gifted education in their districts in 2016 and beyond. I also attended a couple of sessions that addressed some of the issues and strategies of working with of Twice Exceptional (2E) children who are identified as gifted but also have one or more learning disabilities. This session provided a deeper understanding of how asynchronous development (where one skill or gift develops in an accelerated way, but another skill or gift is underdeveloped) affects gifted students.

Sunday's session brought in guest speaker, Dr. Dana Backman, from NASA who presented "SOFIA," NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. What a fabulous session! I learned so much about new discoveries made by astronomers using SOFIA. Wow! Then, the last session of the day for me was another NASA science presentation by Bob Barboza, STEM Director. His presentation was titled, "NASA Needs Your Help: Inventing, Designing, and Building." The idea is for students to provide "ideas and prototypes for Mars colonies, space suites, rockets, satellites, science and engineering centers, antennas, batteries, space food, ion engines, robots and ideas for Martian soil gardening" (as stated in the CAG conference presentation summary). I saw a new humanoid robot and an incredible new high-tech instrument for producing beautiful music, even if you cannot play an instrument or read music. New technology - WOW! I want to be a part of it.