For many March Madness means the NCAA basketball tournament. Well for our family, March Madness is 2 college visits for our 8 year old son. in one month Yes, I said college visits and specifically for our 8 year old son. We don’t force these, he wants these. And, he is on campus from before they start until they end because he wants to be there.
There are actually 3 days a year we now plan for college visits: UT Explore, A&M Physics Festival, and A&M Chemistry Open House. Two of those are in March (the first two), thus March Madness for us. UT Explore is in Austin and requires a night stay in Austin because it is impossible to do it all and 3 hour drive each way. A&M is barely a day trip, but in the future it may turn into a full weekend thanks to Texas Parents of Profoundly Gifted (TPPG) and Davidson Young Scholars putting on extra events with the physics department.
We started attending college events when he was 5 after we joined TPPG. TPPG’s big yearly gathering is at Texas A&M’s Physical Festival. This was our first time seeing other PG (profoundly gifted) and seeing a University putting on amazing demos and lectures for all ages. The best part was seeing our son so happy and engaging with college students and professors. Listening, you would have never thought our son was 5. So this was our beginning. At the end of the month, this will be our 4th time attending.
At Physics Festival we learned that in the fall A&M’s Chemistry department does their open house. OMG, our child was in heaven again. He was 6 and loved every minute of it. We knew after this event that we’d have two college days to attend to every year. This past fall was our 3rd time attending Chemistry open house and Alex chose 2 lectures on top of the big show. As he has gotten older he is preferring the lectures, lab tours, and big shows instead of the demos.
When he was 7 we learned about UT Explore. UT Explore is not as specialized as A&M’s event but rather a complete campus open house filled with lab tours, campus tours, hands on demos, lectures, and special shows. Last year our son never made it past the computer science and engineering buildings. This year, it was all about lab tours (4 of them). He took one class too and of course some of the demos. But if you ask him his favorite, he’ll tell you the lab tours and talking with the mechanical engineering students.
Sadly, none of the universities around Houston do anything like what UT and A&M do. Thus, we make the drive so our son can have the experiences he wants. He really does crave them. He gets excited about them to the point of not sleeping so well the day before the event because he wakes up extra early ready to go. He loves planning and choosing the activities. And on the day, he loves being able to ask technical questions to college students and professors who know more on the areas he is interested than we do. He often comes to these events with specific questions in mind.
While some might think its crazy or strange, for us its just another field trip or road schooling example. I am not going to stop him from wanting to learn. Learning is fun when you have a passion! In addition, these events are great for kids of all ages, whether they are gifted or not. The hands on demonstrations done are truly amazing as well as better than most public elementary school science class. Plus, these events are free and open to all!
For those in TX and curious: