Watch the full lecture by Associate Professor Tracy Riley.


Brains reign at gifted children’s conference

The pros and cons of cramming after-school hours with relentless activities is among topics high school geniuses will discuss with academics at a conference for gifted pupils – the first of its kind in New Zealand.

Aimed specifically at gifted and talented children, the one-day conference will bring 230 year 11, 12 and 13 students from nine North Island schools in Auckland, Hamilton and Dargaville to Massey University’s Albany campus for a taste of tertiary level lectures and discussion.
The conference is being organised by the Secondary (Auckland) Gifted Educators (SAGE) to expose children with high potential to a university environment, says the organisation’s chair Sonia White.
“Sometimes gifted children feel a bit like square pegs in round holes, so it is great to create an opportunity to stretch them and to connect them with their peers,” she says. “The conference will allow them access to a higher level of learning in areas of interest than they might get at school, and to help them meet other like-minded students.”
One of the keynote speakers, Associate Professor Tracy Riley, understands what it is like to be young, gifted and possibly out of synch with your peers. She was identified as gifted at high school. Now an expert in Gifted and Talented Education at Massey’s College of Education, she will talk to students about the challenges and opportunities that come with being extremely bright.
“Being identified as gifted or talented can be a challenge for some students who don’t want to stand out, but for me it was an opportunity to find out other things I was interested in, to stretch myself and to find other like-minded people,” Dr Riley says.

There are no figures on how many gifted and talented children there are in New Zealand, but Mrs White says on the most conservative estimate it would be about 10 per cent. “Giftedness is a matter of degree – how gifted? and a matter of kind – in what areas are they gifted? Children gifted in a number of areas are referred to as multi-talented and those who are highly gifted could be as low as five per cent of the population.”
Students will attend lectures and workshops by academics from different disciplines and universities, including on law and justice, creative writing, geology, education and activism, philosophy and entrepreneurship.  

Massey educational psychologist Associate Professor Steven Little will discuss his American-based research on how the modern predilection for squeezing numerous activities – music, dance, sport, extra tutoring – between school and bedtime affects children’s achievement and development.

High achieving but not gifted students in the study experienced greater levels of anxiety but gained higher marks. “What we don’t know is what the long-term impact is,” Dr Little says. Young people needed free time to be inventive and develop self-sufficiency rather than be constantly organised and instructed by adults, he says.
Massey is sponsoring ten gifted and talented children from low decile schools to attend the conference.
SAGE is a group of Auckland educators, mostly teachers and professionals involved with teaching gifted children. They met for several years and formed an association in 2009 after the Government cut funding for gifted and talented support within schools.

For more information on the conference go to:

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