Below is an article published in Mindscape, the magazine of the Queensland Association for Gifted and Talented Children, in its October, 2010 issue.

From its once only offering to students in the South East Region in 2009, the Days of Excellence have been made available four times in 2010, across North and South Brisbane, and the Gold Coast, to over 600 gifted and talented students.

During the last week of term three this year, Days of Excellence was offered by the South East Region’s Gifted Education Committee, in conjunction with BRAINways EDUCATION and QAGTC. The programs covered a variety of topics, from engineering to poetry, from imagination to chemistry and health sciences. The programs provided challenge and fast pace, the level of complexity being often three, four and five years above the students’ year level.

The students involved in the Engineering Science program were able to work as part of a team to examine real life scenarios in their social context, identify problems and derive solutions, while employing scientific thinking and communicating. The Voyage of Imagination was for the students an opportunity to develop higher order thinking processes, promoting creativity when exploring unusual characters and stories through visual arts, movement and writing. Introducing a toolbox of creative, practical techniques, Jumpstart Your Writing: Poetry offered open ended activities and choice, to develop the students’ voices as poets. Exploring chemistry in students’ everyday life, Household Chemistry supported the development of scientific thinking, while encouraging the students to question phenomena that are often overlooked or taken for granted, and stimulating their minds to constantly analyse the world around them. Introducing students to neuroanatomy, the Brain Power program offered the opportunity to explore the brain and its structures, to create visual models to represent them, to use the scientific method in investigations, to collect and manipulate data to establish relationships.

As recommended by models of curriculum differentiation for gifted and talented students, the Days of Excellence programs were an opportunity to work in the students’ area of interest, to go beyond the facts, providing depth in the topics explored, to relate content to field specific methods of inquiry. The programs developed higher order thinking skills, used open ended processes, stimulating further thinking, and the establishing of patterns and principles. The students had the opportunity to solve real life problems and were provided with choice, the programs creating opportunities for independent, self directed learning. Working in a group, with like minded peers, was another valuable aspect of the Days of Excellence programs. While at times students arrived at the programs anxious about working with other highly able students, about making mistakes and not being listened to during group work, the Days of Excellence programs provided the supportive environment and encouraged them to take chances, in the successful completion of group work.

Find below an excerpt from an article published in the October, 2009 issue of The Collegian, the biannual magazine of the Brisbane Boys’ College. The article is titled “Next Generation of Genius”.

“For the first time this year, BBC joined with BRAINways EDUCATION offering EXPEDITIONS OF DISCOVERY, a series of extension workshops for boys in the Junior and Middle School. Held during class, this workshops enabled boys to take a hands on approach to learning, while encouraging them to develop higher order thinking, problem solving and critical analysis skills.

“After receiving a great response to the workshops in May, we decided to offer a second round of workshops in August.

“Investigating poetry, our Junior School boys worked with a poet to produce some outstanding pieces which were entered in a poetry competition, while our Middle School students gained a ‘big picture’ perspective on architecture.

“Set within a ‘real-world’ context, these boys were required to investigate the construction of bridges, from the conceptual phase including design, space, volume and materials, through to considering more functional and economical requirements…

Below is a fragment of an article published in the June, 2010 issue of Mindscape, the magazine of the Queensland Association for Gifted and Talented Children.

Some authors regard special days activities with skepticism (Stevens, 2009) underlining potential shortcomings, such as their one off occurrence with little opportunity to follow up, the provision of little depth and their offering as a whole school experience. However, the Days of Excellence programs developed by BRAINways EDUCATION offer participants 12 hours of intensive exploration of a topic, a similar amount of time as allocated by most schools’ curriculum for their in depth explorations (Warren, Allen & McKenna, 1998). Therefore, Days of Excellence programs provide the required depth, without the interruptions inherent in the school curriculum offering. This practice is supported by research as being effective, and is recommended as best practice in the education of the gifted and talented students (Rogers, 1991). In addition, the Days of Excellence programs are not offered as a whole school experience, but to gifted and talented students identified and invited to participate by their teachers. In the process of selection, the students’ interest in the topic to be explored is considered.

While research demonstrated that enrichment programs provide substantial academic gains if are offered without interruption, if are allowing for the achievement of real depth, if are covering topics in students’ area of interest, and if are bringing together like-minded students who enhance each other’s learning (Rogers, 1991), the Days of Excellence programs meet all those criteria.