Review of Creation Crate

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Earlier this year we learned of a new subscription program that involves Arduino called Creation Crate from a fellow homeschooling mom.  We explored her son’s kit and were impressed.  Thus, we ordered one to try with our son because we wanted something he could independently over the summer. My son loved the first kit so much we did the 3-month subscription.

As a parent, I thought the first kit was too easy to build because my son has lots of electronic building experience.  But my son really did enjoy it and loved that he could do it independently.  He needed no assistance until he had code errors.  It was a perfect exercise in learning about debugging.  He needed just a little assistance from his dad and he was back on his own.  So when the 2nd kit came I loved that it did increase in difficulty in the build.  Still, it had very easy to follow directions.  This time, he had the debugging down and needed no assistance.  The third kit was a favorite of my son’s because it came with incomplete directions.  He loved it.  It was just the right level of challenge he needed.  The 4th kid he received also added another level of difficulty, with fill in the blank codes.  This kit has not been finished yet, but will be soon.  However, thanks to Creation Crate my son has been coming up with more Arduino creation ideas on his own.

Creation Crate is definitely a great beginner Arduino teaching kit.  It is perfect for kids with no knowledge and want to learn as well as those with some experience but want to do it independently.  It starts off easy and then each subsequent kit gets a little harder.  Of course, if your child had difficulties there is a way to get assistance.  It teaches both the hardware and software.  You will need to download the free Arduino software.  But, they send you everything you need: breadboard, wires, components, Arduino, etc.  Thus, for a novice with Arduino and electronics, it is the perfect kit.  Once you are finished you can hack it by modifying the code or the hardware.  At the back of the directions, they do give additional challenges.  Of course, you can also use it for something totally different.

Creation Crate is a great starter kit for learning Arduino.  If you want additional resources for learning about Arduino, please check out an earlier blog I wrote called “Arduino & Raspberry Pi for Beginners.”  Creation Crate and Arduino is a really great learning tool for kids, teens, and adults.  Go have fun, make and create!

Giftedness and Social Issues

Being gifted is not easy.  Giftedness comes with all kinds of challenges like asynchronous development, overexcitabilities, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, and pressure from others.  All of this can lead to a variety of social issues.

Here 10 things to keep in mind when trying to understand the social issues that gifted individuals face:

  1. One does not equal all. Each gifted person is unique, just like all children.  Do not pigeon hole them.
  2. Giftedness does not automatically mean gifted in all areas.  In fact most gifted are not.  And, there are gifted who are 2E meaning they have giftedness along with some other learning difficulty or special needs.  This also can lead to difficulties making friends.
  3. Many times gifted persons doubt their abilities or try to mask them (Imposter Syndrome) due to trouble with self-acceptance as well as an attempt to be accepted by others.
  4. Gifted person often face pressure from parents, teachers, peers, and other adults when asked to “prove themselves” or false expectations that giftedness equates to all A’s.  In addition, they feel pressure to be or act “normal” in order to be accepted by their peers.  Yes, some peers put extreme pressure because they perceive the gifted student as the one ruining the curve or winning all academic contests.
  5. Many gifted have such high levels of perfectionism that they avoid or fear risk-taking.  This leads to frustration for them and others.  And, this can lead to serious anxiety issues.
  6. Asynchronous in giftedness is the fact that their emotional and social development is not matching their academic or intellectual development.  Due to this, gifted persons often do not get their needs met by the same peers but rather need different aged peers or adults for different areas of their development.  It is often hard for a child with the academic skills of a high school student but the social maturity of a 10-year-old to fit in during all situations.  Sadly, this asynchronicity can lead to gifted individuals not having their cognitive or academic needs being met in traditional school settings.  In addition, this leads to frustration for everyone around.
  7. Many gifted individuals have emotional sensitivity or intensity.  Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities are real.  However, some gifted are mislabeled or misdiagnosed due to the misunderstanding of giftedness.  And others, are denied treatment because their problems or difficulties are minimized.  This too can lead to difficulties making or maintaining friendships.
  8. The highly and profoundly gifted often have divergent interests.  Sadly, many adults and peers do not understand these interests or don’t share pleasure in these interests which can lead to social isolation or ostracization.
  9. What works for one gifted person may not work for others.  There is no single recipe for success. Each gifted person will need to learn strategies that work for them for handling the flow of life, social issues, and emotional balance.
  10. Many gifted persons are at risk for being victims of bullying.

It is clear, giftedness poses challenges.  However, they also need to be understood and accepted for the individuals they are.  They might need additional support to help them grow and find their “tribe.”  As parents we all want our child to be accepted and happy. A little more support can go a long way.

Additional Resources:

Credits:

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Social Issues.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser:

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_social_issues.htm.

BlogHopSocialIssues

Young Eagles Program – kids can fly for free!

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Our son recently completed his Young Eagles Flight while we were on vacation in Wisconsin to visit extended family.  We chose to have him do his flight in Wisconsin at the Oshkosh EAA Museum and Airventure due to the ease of which we had access to this facility and the fact that that is the home to the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association).  We grew up seeing EAA shows and knew that our son should have his first flight there.  He had so much fun that we felt it was important to share about this free and unique experience opportunity.

First, the Young Eagles Program is a free program via the EAA for youth ages 8 to 17.  The Young Eagles Program at EAA Museum  and EAA Airventure in Oshkosh, WI is daily May through September depending on the weather.  There is a find a flight location, so you can find a Young Eagle Flight anywhere in the US.  You just need to contact the nearest local Young Eagle Coordinator in your state if you cannot make it to Oshkosh, WI.  And they have parent information here

After our son completed his flight he was given a certificate, a log book, and an access code so he could become a student member of the EAA  and access Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course for free.  Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course  is free to Young Eagles after they take their flight and register (saves $200).  Sporty’s is a flight course, training, and test prep program online that students must get through 3 levels of before they can take in-person instruction (must be at least age 12 for this part).  After completing the first three levels you will then be eligible for a free in-flight lesson.  After the first free lesson, you pay for the reminder of your child’s instruction and licensing.  Sporty’s lets your child work towards their private, sport, or recreational license.  And, youth who did their Young Eagle flight get access to this program through age 17 for free.  So, your child can take their young eagle flight now and then decide when they are a teen to start the course.

Again, all of this is free.  The Young Eagle Flights are great for children to get a chance to fly 1-on-1 with a pilot.  They get to ask the pilots any question and they get a very, unique experience.  Flying in a tiny 2-seater is completely different than flying on commercial airlines.  If you are in WI or within driving distance to Oshkosh, WI we highly recommended doing the Young Eagle Flight there and enjoying the museum.  If you are outside of WI, use the find a flight (link up above) to find the nearest pilot.  This is a great opportunity for your child to experience a special flight for free!

Summer of STEAM

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For those of you who have not heard of STEAM, it means Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics.  STEAM is adding art to STEM in terms of educational thinking.  In fact, both STEM and STEAM are important.  Check out these articles for more information:

Since we homeschool, we know our son is getting a great STEAM education.  In fact, we know our son does a lot more STEAM than most. I wrote a blog, “Summer Science Homeschool Style,”  that covers the science kits we used as well as lots of free resources.  However, science is just one part of STEAM.  And, there are lots of ways to have children experience more STEAM activities.

The following list is not exhaustive but rather a way to give you ideas.  Here are some great ways to help your children or students get more STEAM experiences:

You do not have to have a kit to create STEAM experiences.  In fact, the best STEM/STEAM kits are the ones that are open-ended or one that is easy to add-on.  Sometimes it takes a little creativity to “hack” a kit or mix kits to expand on the experience.  Our son is notorious for hacking almost every single kit or gift he receives.  In addition, you can combine any science kit with books and additional materials to go more in depth. Remember, museums also offer great STEAM experiences.  Whether you choose to use kits or the DIY method, the point is to go explore via playing, creating, taking apart, or hacking.  Hands-on STEAM experiences are all around us.

Credits:

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “All Things Science.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser:

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_all_things_science.htm.

bloghopscience.

Review of Hydrodynamic Building Set

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My son first saw the Hydrodynamic Building Set by Bridge Street Toys at a museum five years ago.  He has always enjoyed plumbing, piping, and pool pumps.  Thus, this was an immediate hit.  We found a set online via amazon and put it on his wish list in 2012.  His grandparents got it when it was on sale.  It was truly the perfect find!

I have to admit, this set is extremely hard to find.  In addition, it is expensive for a building set.  Our son is lucky his grandparents got it when they did 4 years ago!  It appears to only be available from Bridge Street Toys now.

That being said, it is a very unique building set.  It is the only building set that I have seen that lets children learn about hydraulic engineering.  It comes with a submersible pump and tubing along with lots of building materials to construct a variety of tanks, funnels, and chambers.  The guide is extremely basic in that it does not give step-by-step building directions but rather pictures of projects such as a toothpaste factory, paint pilot plant, vinegar production facility, distillation tower, ice cream factory, etc.  However, the kit is extremely easy to free-build any type of water distribution creation.  In addition, the guide does give an explanation of the components and how they would be used in real-life.

Here is a neat video of the set done by a dad and his two boys.  In their video, they used the kit outdoors.  We have been using ours indoors, but with lots of towels around.  It is fun but will get water everywhere depending on the creation or fiddling while operating by your child.  It is definitely a great outdoor water toy, but with towels on hand, it can be inside.

The recommended age is for 10+ but that is solely because of some of the small parts and construction is not the easiest.  My son is 9 and when he first got this kit years ago he needed lots of adult assistance.  Now he only needs a little help but is mostly independent.  In addition, the lack of step-by-step directions will frustrate younger children.  However, if an adult or older sibling is willing to help, the kit would be perfect for younger elementary age students.  The kit is not only fun but has great educational potential.

If you can find one of these sets, it is definitely a lot of fun!

Mysteries of Giftedness: One does not equal all.

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“One does not equal all.”  My son wrote this phrase many times his last year in public school.  He wrote it with words and in mathematic symbols as a formula (1 ≠  ∞).  He wrote his phrase in response to group discipline being used at his school and hearing many staff members say, “One is all.”  I found the note written on tiny scraps of paper at least 20 different times.  He had a huge pile in his desk by the end of the school year.  I know he said the phrase to many school personnel in private conversations as well.  And, I know he left notes for his teacher too.  He was only 6 years old and he hated the fact that the whole class was punished for the misbehavior of just a couple students.  Sadly, it was the same students repeatedly causing trouble.  Group discipline was not changing their behavior.  Instead, it was creating anger in my son as well as some of the other children.  And, it was creating feelings of resentment.  He continues to have a strong justice sensitivity even today.

Little did my son realize at the time, his phrase was right on so many levels.  Many adults would tell him he was correct and try to explain to him why the teachers had no other choice.  It did not change the fact, he was right, “one does not equal all.”  One does not equal all is true of group discipline, gifted education, gifted identification, and age grouping of children at school.  He does know now how correct he was.  As a homeschooler, he appreciates that one does not equal all on many levels.  Gone is grouping by age but instead, he is taught at the grade level he needs.  He finally gets to take middle school level science classes and algebra.  There is no longer group discipline being utilized.  And, he meets other gifted homeschoolers in which they all have their own educational needs.

I heard from some teachers and some school administrators, “we’ve had kids like your son before, we know what to do.”  I also heard people tell us, “oh he is gifted, he should be fine in school.”  I should have used my son’s phrase with those folks because working with one gifted child does not mean you know how to work with all gifted.  In addition, just because a child is gifted does not equate to school being “fine.”  One gifted child is not representative of all. From our own experiences, the school was completely inadequate in meeting our son’s educational needs.  In fact, most of the school personnel told us to homeschool.  By the end of first grade, we were encouraged to either home school or do grade acceleration because the current school system structure was not working for our son.  We were lucky, the school was honest with us and they knew my son was right, one does not equal all as well as what works for one does not work for all.

One does not equal all applies to both gifted identification and gifted education too.  Each district and each gifted teacher has their own terminology and their own perceptions.  The  word gifted is a mystery to those not living or not working with a child who is gifted, but it needs to be understood.  Depending on what state or country one lives, different terms are used: gifted, gifted and talented, profoundly gifted, highly gifted, moderately gifted, mildly gifted, twice exceptional, etc.  This just adds to the mystery or confusion of giftedness.  Hoagies’ has an extensive list of acronyms and definitions used within gifted education that should help clear up some of the confusion.  

Once knowing the terms and what they mean it becomes even more obvious that one does not equal all in the realm of giftedness or education.  Grouping solely by age or solely by IQ (yes there is a private gifted school that does that) does not help the students.  In addition, the gifted identification practice of a student having to be gifted in all areas also does not help the students.  As an educator, the question should be, “What can I do to help my student(s) who already knows what I am teaching?” It should never be, “you can only do this grade level of work even if you already mastered it.”  The “one is all” kind of programming or identification does not work.  My son is right, one does not equal all.  

Additional readings for understanding “one does not equal all” are as follows:

Credits:

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “The Mysteries: The Wierd Stuff.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser:

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_mysteries_of_the_brain.htm

JuneBlogHopPicture 

Heart Attack at 40?

On Wed. I heard some words I never thought I would hear, “heart attack.”  First, I am not the typical age nor the typical profile.  Second, my medical history is with GI issues and not with the heart.  Third, I had gone to an urgent care facility earlier in the day.  But that night changed everything.

My symptoms started more than a week ago with a minor GI issue.  The next day the doctor cleared me.  I have a history of a gall bladder issue and pancreatitis due to being in the minor percentages with such a pregnancy complication.  In addition, I have an even longer history with Celiac.  So I was not happy when a week later I had odd back pain that would radiate down my left arm to my wrist and fingers.  I thought I must have pulled something.  Two days after that GI issues returned along with extreme tiredness and more back pain.  This time, I headed for urgent care suspecting flu and GI issues returning.  I tested negative for the flu and the doctor explained that my back pain was not the typical flu but could be either heart-related although unlikely due to my age and health.  Thus, he truly thought it was radiating pain from GI issues. He admitted that the urgent care was not set up to do the necessary lab work to look at all the possible GI conditions.  Instead, I was given very simple orders: “go to ER if pain worsens or pain moves to chest and get into a gastroenterologist within the next two days.”  We could not get into my gastro until the end of June so we found one closer who could squeeze us in on Friday.  We took that appointment but within 4 hours we were driving to the ER.  The pain got worse and steady, it hurt if I tried to take deep breaths or yawn, and I only felt good if I was sitting on my knees with my head on the ground.  We knew there was a problem, but had no idea what the night had in store.

My husband and 9-year-old son take me to the ER.  I tell them my symptoms and they immediately take me away for an EKG.  I have had other ER visits whether me, my husband or my son and had never been taken so quickly like this.  The nurse and ER doctor immediately moves me to a room, explains that I will not be leaving and that there is a possible problem with my heart.  My family sees me and hears what tests they are doing, that a cardiologist is being called for a consult, and that they were perplexed by the EKG combined with the array of symptoms but not the usual age or health profile.  My family then goes home so my son can go to bed, also we were thinking it would be some time before results would be in and I’d be moved to a room upstairs.  We’ve done this kind of visit before.  Sadly, 40 minutes after they leave a team of doctors comes in explaining my blood work says I am having a “heart attack.”  They explained that I must have an immediate heart catheterization in order to determine what exactly is going on and if surgery is needed.  Not only in pain but now in shock, I cried and asked them to call my husband.

I do not know what exactly my family was all told on the phone or who made the call.  I can only imagine the thoughts they were having.  I do know that my husband and son quickly arrived into the chaos of medical staff prepping me for moving to the “Cath Lab” and the cardiologist explaining what has to to be done.  We are stunned by those words again, possible “heart attack.”  Although at this time we start hearing another word as a possibility, “pericarditis.”  My family follows and is lead to a different waiting room in the cardiac area while I enter the “cath lab.”

During the heart catheterization, I can see everything.  My mind is spinning, partly due to pain meds and partly due to thoughts running through my head.  But I hear everything and see lots.  It is becoming clear to me, it is not a “real” heart attack.  I hear the doctor excitedly say, there is absolutely no blockage.  The blood work must be pericarditis but there is something else here.  It is tiny, but this area is not right and it is takotsubo cardiomyopathy.  The cardiologist explains everything to my husband and son and I’m taken upstairs to ICU.  Now I have a name but no known cause and not at all what we expected when we entered the ER 3 hours earlier.

Due to the procedure and heart issues, I am taken to ICU.  I am transferred to a bed and had it explained the monitoring would be frequent as well as I had to remain flat on my back until 5 am.  That was my longest night.  I got very little sleep.  There are so many machines and noises even with lights off.  But, they come and take readings every 15 to 20 minutes and administer medicine.  I have an IV port on my left arm, blood pressure cough monitoring machine and blood oxygen machine on my right, and 10 leads to my chest.  In addition, I still have so many thoughts going through my head: “I am 40 and had a copycat heart attack thanks to 2 weird named heart conditions I had never heard of.”  

This was all so unreal.  By the end of Thursday, we had learned way more about Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy (here , here, and here) and Pericarditis (here, here , and here).  These diseases are not real heart attacks but mimic one.  Pericarditis is a disease of the outer lining of the heart while Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a contracting problem of the left ventricle .  Both present symptoms that look like a heart attack but they are different.  We also learned that nothing was wrong with either my pancreas or gallbladder but slight numbers off on my kidney and high numbers on infection.  As my cardiologist said, “if you are ever going to have a heart condition, these are the ones because they often self-correct.”  

By the end of Friday the echocardiogram revealed heart functioning had increased, and signs of infection were improving.  By Sat. morning numbers were normal for everything and finally low enough on the infection that the internal medicine doctor agreed to discharge with the cardiologist.  We do not know a cause and the hypothesis is a virus or GI Infection and Upper UTI/kidney infection causing a chain reaction.  We will likely never know the cause.  I see my cardiologist this week for follow-up.  I am on the road to recovery and my heart will heal.

I am alive and I am home!  And, I have a serious warning for all of you:  If you have odd back pain and odd arm pain call a doctor.  My ER caught everything early enough before a full-on heart attack did occur or any other complications.  Do not take chest pain or difficulty breathing lightly.  I am proof, this can happen at any age.  I am still learning about my heart condition but thankful my cardiologist and hospital staff caught this early.

Review of RumbleLab

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We learned of RumbleLab from a fellow homeschooling mom.  They had seen something about it online and got in on the first crate.  Her son loved it.  And, because it is very tinker or maker-oriented in terms of building and designing a creation she immediately thought of our son.  So, we got in on the company’s second crate.  And, my son loved it immediately.  We will be participating in future crates for sure!

Here was our experience.  The crate we got was the Crank Slide Pump.  It arrived 3 days before the first of the month, which meant we had to wait.  The deal with RumbleLab is that you get your kit before the 1st of the month because on the 1st of the month they put up the videos for construction.  They have an “I Give UP”  or “Last Resort” you can click on to receive step-by-step directions if you need them.  Our son loved building via the videos.  You then have 15 days to build and start thinking of ideas for re-design during the upcoming challenge phase.  On the 15th of the month you get the engineering challenge.  The challenge for our kit was to innovate a new way to use the crank slide.  The challenge is the chance for imagination and free-build.  You can also use a 3D CAD program called OnShape to help you.  RumbleLab has some designs on there and they have their own tutorials.  OnShape was a bit more difficult to learn, but my son is 9 and had never used a program like it.  He enjoyed it.  And, we just learned OnShape is available as an app too.

In addition to the fun of creating, RumbleLab added a competition to it.  They encourage builders to share their creations on social media.  And, they give away prizes for the first built and they have a team that judges the challenge entries for a different prize.  Of course you do not have to compete.  Our son won the first build and thought that was neat.  We didn’t realize the competition side as my son was just excited to build something completely different from what we have done with Tinker Crate and Legos.

Right now it appears that RubmleLab is not a subscription and is not monthly.  They appear to release crates every other month.  They have a one month window to order the next crate.  If it sells out, then you have to wait to the next crate.  On May 15th they just opened the order for the next crate.  On June 15th, they will close the order and you will receive the crate before the 1st of the build month, which is July for the next crate.  This does mean you are purchasing and then waiting a full month.  And, they don’t post anything on their website letting you know what the next crate is.  It is a surprise until you get the box and you have to wait until the 1st of the month to see the videos.

RumbleLab is perfect for any young builder or inventor.  My son is 9 and needed very little adult assistance.  I only had to hold it for him 4 times while he was fastening stuff.  The videos and photos we saw looked to be of various students ranging in ages from 8 to 14.  It could be used with small groups such as an after school club in a traditional school or within scouts (boys or girls).  Adding the use of OnShape makes it a great way to learn about designing and planning.  In addition, the challenges allow for creativity as well as there is potential to mix these crates with other construction materials such as littlebits or Legos.  I know our son is thinking of a way to motorize his challenge creation to take it to another level.  The way their website is set up, the previous month’s information is online so it is even possible to reuse or rebuild the original design.

Review of the Foundation Chemistry Kit: Beakers and Bubbles

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It should be noted that the Foundation Chemistry Kit: Beakers and Bubbles is a kit from Yellow Scope Science Kits For Girls .   It is heavily marketed as “science for girls” and is sold in a few online stores.  I had never heard of it but saw it on clearance at the MakerShed (online store for Make magazine) for $15 and thought for that price it would be worth trying.  I have a son and did not care that the kit said for girls and neither did he.  The kit itself is not “girly” but has female scientists and encourages more writing and drawing than any other kit we have done.  As my son has repeatedly said while doing the kit, “Science is for everyone!”  Thus, we decided once we were done with the kit we would write a review to let others know about their kit and the fact it is good for both boys and girls.

We loved their lab book.  Now, we didn’t write in ours because we were planning on sharing it with friends.  However, we completed every single experiment and answered every question.  Doing all the suggested experiments in addition to what the main lab experiments resulted in a total of 19 experiments.  And, from there my son came up with a few of his own.  Their lab book is broken into 3 separate labs with different amounts of experiments in each lab, which led us to break up the experiments over 3 days.  Realistically, a family could do the whole kit in one day but it is better to break it up over 3 days.  The lab book comes with great descriptions and explanations.  It is written very clearly that any child could set up the experiment and run it with minimal adult assistance.  We both felt their lab book was one of the better ones we’ve seen in kits.

Overall, the kit was fun and educational. It was too simple for our son.  He was expecting more from a foundation chemistry kit.  He had fun and said he would enjoy repeating it.  As a parent, I liked how well stocked it was.  There is definitely enough materials to repeat experiments.  And, all materials are clearly labeled as well as easily identified if you needed to obtain more.  The beakers used are a great size.  Many other kits out there use really tiny plastic cups versus Yellow Scope using standard size plastic beakers with markings.  The scientific explanations and the questions asked are much more thorough than what we have seen in the Magic School Bus Kits or the Scientific Explorer Kits.

The only downside is the price.  I am so glad we picked it up on clearance when we did because MakerShed no longer carries it.  However, its regular price is too expensive.  At $44 it is almost double the price of other similar kits like the Magic School Bus and Scientific Explorer.  It is higher quality but not double the price level.  From being at the Yellow Scopes website, this appears to be their first kit and it is sold at a very limited number of physical stores.  Hopefully, they will come out with more.  And, maybe you will find it on sale.  In addition, science is for everyone.

Giftedness in the Media

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Sadly, the portrayal of gifted individuals in popular media is not always correct or positive.  Rather, the media tends to reinforce stereotypes and send the message that the highly gifted are not normal.  Gifted individuals or geniuses in pop culture have an unbelievably high IQ, exaggerated behavior or personality traits, elicit conversation, interests in obscure topics, rattle off statistics and calculations, play chess, read thick books, seem blunt and insensitive, some level of arrogance, emotionally detached, logical-minded, etc…  The media’s insistence on reinforcing stereotypes is not helping how the gifted are perceived by others.  Instead, people are sometimes describing gifted children based on which TV character they think the child is more like.

Pink or Paris? Giftedness in Popular Culture” is a research paper from the University of Wollongong in Australia that analyzed the portrayal of gifted in the media.  Their analysis found that gifted young people are often stereotypically portrayed as studious, non-sporting and not popular and that gifted programs are portrayed as undesirable settings with obnoxious characters.  They also found that the terms used for someone who is gifted are largely negative such as freak, geek, egghead, nerd, or brain.  In addition, they found gifted portrayed doing stereotypical activities such as maths, science, chess, debate, art, band or after-school classes.  In the journal Gifted Today, there is an article by Jennifer Cox called “Amadeus to Young Einstein: Modern Cinema and its Portrayal of Gifted Learners.”  Her research also found that gifted characters are presented as abnormalities or oddities. In other words, the media is reinforcing negative stereotypes and missing the broadness of giftedness or the fact that the gifted are everyday people.

Here are just some “gifted” characters from various TV & Movies that many people know about:

  • Doogie Howser from Doogie Howser, MD
  • Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang
  • John Nash from Beautiful Mind
  • Will Hunting from Good Will Hunting
  • Lisa from the Simpsons
  • Daria Morgendorffer from Daria
  • Hermione Granger and Harry Potter from Harry Potter
  • Cordelia from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Calvin and Susie from Calvin and Hobbes
  • Angus MacGyver from MacGyver
  • Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds
  • Mike Ross from Suits
  • Michael Scofield from Prison Break
  • Walter White from Breaking Bad
  • Gregory House from House
  • Walter Bishop from Fringe
  • Sherlock Holmes from Sherlock
  • The Professor from Gilligan’s Island
  • Professor Farnsworth from Futurama
  • Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle
  • Lex Luthor from Smallville
  • Stewie Griffin from Family Guy
  • Benjamin Linus from Lost
  • Steve Urkel from Family Matters
  • Mr. Spock from Star Trek
  • Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation

Here is a list of movies specifically about “geniuses” (Hoagies’ has an even longer list of movies featuring gifted kids or adults.):

  • The Imitation Game
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Limitless
  • August Rush
  • Copenhagen
  • A Beautiful Mind
  • Finding Forrester
  • October Sky
  • The Legend of 1900
  • Pi
  • Goodwill Hunting
  • Shine
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer
  • Rain Man
  • Amadeus
  • Little Man Tate
  • Gifted Hands
  • Pollock
  • My Left Foot
  • Tim’s Vermeer
  • The Fountainhead
  • Finding Neverland
  • The Soloist
  • Kindergarten Teacher
  • Dead Poets Society
  • Pawn Sacrifice
  • Crumb
  • A Brilliant Young Mind
  • Proof

Here is a list of TV shows about geniuses:

  • Pretender
  • Rubicon
  • Fringe
  • House
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Sherlock
  • Suits
  • Dexter
  • The Mentalist
  • White Collar
  • Monk
  • Numbers
  • Unforgettable
  • Scorpion
  • Lies to Me

Another portrayal of the gifted is the international trend of making gifted children compete against each other to see who is the “real” genius.  In America, the show is called “Child Genius.”  In fact, the parent group we are part of received emails looking for candidates for their reality show.  We wanted no part of it for many reasons.  There are other shows like this in the works.  The problem is, these shows exploit gifted children and perpetuate the myth that parents “hothouse” their children and made them that way.  Amy Harrington has an excellent blog about this called “Child Genius: How Media Distorts & Exploits Gifted Children.”  Elizabeth Meckstroth and Kathi Kearney wrote an article for Hoagies’ called “Indecent Exposure: Does the Media Exploit Highly Gifted Children?” that also address similar points and even gives tips for handling the media.

In print media such as newspapers and magazines, there tends to be a more accurate presentation because they often give factual stories of gifted children and early college entrance, musical performances, or athletic victories.  In addition, there appears to be a rise in educational articles regarding the failure of the current gifted and talented programs in both the identification of students (especially of minority and low socioeconomic status) and providing services (lack of funding and lack of appropriateness).  Historically, this may not have been the case.

Joan Lewis and Frances Lewis wrote the article “A Portrayal of the Gifted in Magazines: An Initial Analysisafter researching the number of articles per year from 1982 to 1996 that focussed on gifted and talented children.  They found the most articles existed in 1984 at 12% of all articles.  However, in 1996, they only found 3% of all articles focussed on gifted and talented children.  They also found that articles were mostly in education related magazines.  They also found few articles dealing with the needs of gifted and talented individuals and made recommendations for this source of media to be better used.  Sadly, I could not find a follow-up study to see how the numbers changed.  Based on the rise of social media it certainly seems like there has a been a rise in articles about gifted and talented children and their educational needs.

The following is a list of magazines or journals that are dedicated to gifted and talented education:

  • Twice-Exceptional Newsletter
  • Creative Kids
  • Gifted Child Quarterly
  • Gifted Child Today
  • Gifted Children Monthly
  • Imagine
  • Journal for the Education of the Gifted
  • Journal of Advanced Academics
  • Roeper Review
  • Understanding Our Gifted

In addition to TV, movies, and magazines there are also books with characters who are gifted.  With books, there is a significantly broader portrayal of gifted.  Hoagies’ has a list of books for children featuring gifted children.  Bertie Kingor also has a list of books with gifted characters.   

It should be noted that many books are used by gifted children to find characters that they can relate with or have similar struggles.  Our son enjoyed these book series with gifted characters:

  • George’s Secret Key to the Universe (series by Lucy & Stephen Hawking)
  • Nick and Tesla (series by Bob Pflugfelder & Steve Hockensmith)
  • Frank Einstein (series by Jon Scieszka)
  • House of Robots (series by Jon Patterson)
  • Journal of a Cardboard Genius (series by Frank Asch)
  • Uncle Albert (series by Russell Stannard)

If you are truly interested in debunking media myth about the gifted, check out these resources:

Credits:

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Giftedness in Popular Culture, Positive & Negative.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser:

 

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_pop_culture.htm

GiftedInMediaBlogHop