By Dana Asby, CEI Intern
As global demands require workers to have flexible, divergent, and creative thinking, Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) Education has gained international attention. Countries all over the world are making STEAM Education a priority because they understand the benefits of presenting information in a multidisciplinary format rather than the siloed way information is delivered in traditional K-12 schools (Gess, 2017). STEAM summer camps have recently been popping up in America and abroad.
In the summers of 2013 and 2014 at the University of Georgia, The Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development brought a group of gifted Turkish students to their campus for an inquiry-based STEAM summer camp experience, Global Minds. The camp introduced them to aspects of American culture, exposed them to an English-language environment, and challenged their critical thinking through interdisciplinary studies. Students aged 7-12 from the Gifted and Talented Education Center of Turkey (GTECT) in Instanbul came to Athens, Georgia for three weeks with to explore hands-on STEAM classes designed for gifted students. The Torrance Center worked closely with GTECT to deliver a tailor-made curriculum and accommodations on campus. I had the opportunity to help implement this STEAM camp in Turkey.
During Global Minds’ first year, students took classes such as:
- Secret Agent Scientist, where they learned about forensic science while solving a summer camp crime,
- Field Biology, where they explored the local habitats at various Georgia landscapes,
- Personality Psychology, where they learned basic psychological concepts and how to use them to better understand peers,
- Increasing Creativity, where they tried out various forms of creative expression, and
- Multiplicative Reasoning, where the underlying assumptions of math were examined from a philosophical perspective.
Many adults may think a summer camp curriculum like this better resembles an ambitious college freshman’s jam-packed first semester and question whether such a rigorous schedule is appropriate for elementary school students. For many gifted students, pushing their thinking is their greatest joy and summer camps like these can be the one chance per year they have to socialize with other kids like them who would rather discuss quantum physics than Pokemon.
Making Sure Kids Have Fun. Of course, kids are still kids. Outside of the classroom, we kept Global Minds fun with traditional American summer camp experiences like games, chants, songs, scavenger hunts, dinners in the cafeteria, a talent show, board game night, a trip to the roller rink, and a few short adventures to tourist attractions in nearby Atlanta. We understood that part of the motivation to come to Global Minds was for an authentic American summer camp experience.
Year 2: Nutrition Camp. For Year Two of Global Minds, we designed a STEAM-based summer camp experience that incorporated classes on nutrition and the chemicals of processed foods, agriculture and economics, math in business, and genetically modified foods to deliver three weeks of a multidisciplinary enrichment project about creating a healthy food business and marketing it to make a profit.
During the first week of camp, students used the information they were learning in class as well as some hands-on experience cooking and visiting kitchens to develop a recipe for a healthy but delicious food item to be sold at a festival to culminate camp. The next week, students used the skills they were learning in their business math class and some trips to a large chain grocery store and a small local food co-op to compare prices and decide which ingredients to buy and how much to charge to maximize customers and profit. Students learned how to create marketing campaigns during their arts-based classes in week three. Students also engineered original carnival games they charged customers to play during the end of camp festival.
Advantages of Mixed-Aged Grouping. Because the students were divided into multi-age groups, the problems that presented were not just intellectual, but also socio-emotional, an area that gifted students often find inherently challenging. At times, it seemed the students struggled more with interpersonal conflict than grasping a complicated economic theory. Putting the students into mixed age groups allowed the older children an opportunity to reach a new level of understanding of certain concepts as they taught them to others. They demonstrated impressive knowledge about the different aspects of agriculture, food science, math, and art during their projects. The younger children were challenged in their thinking more intensely than they might have been in a room of peers.
Involving Parents. While the students enjoyed ice creams and parachute games between classes, those of us running the camp were able to have meaningful conversations with parents who were grateful that we had taken the time to design a special camp just for their exceptional children. They told us stories about traveling hours into Instanbul from their tiny towns once a month so that their child might get the chance to spend an hour with other exceptionally gifted children like themselves. Parents relayed stories of giving their child every opportunity to learn, because that was the only thing that brought them joy.
Needs for Gifted Education in Turkey and Internationally
Turkish citizens are beginning to understand the importance of gifted education in cultivating the talents of these impressive children. However, there is currently no teacher training for giftedness and inadequate policies to uphold gifted students’ right to a fair education. (Gucyeter, Kanli, Ozyaprak, & Leana-Tascilar, 2017). I’m thrilled to have been able to bring some gifted Turkish students a summer camp experience that none of us will forget.
Globally, the awareness of gifted education, along with its benefits and necessity, is increasing. There are now members of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children from over 70 countries (WCGTC, 2018). Many of these countries are in the nascent stage of developing their gifted education systems and operate independent gifted centers with varying opportunities. From what I saw and the discussions I had with others, there is significant interest in countries around the world who could use the help that the Torrance Center provided to start-up similar programs. Designing and planning a summer camp experience takes months of planning, collaboration, and coordination, but the joy of introducing young children to a new culture and language while challenging their thinking through fun, multidisciplinary classes is worth every minute.
Gess, A.H. (2017). STEAM education: Separating fact from fiction. Technology and Engineering Teacher, 39-41.
Gucyeter, S., Kanli, E., Ozyaprak, M., & Leana-Tascilar, M.Z. (2017). Serving gifted children in developmental and threshold countries’”Turkey. Cogent Education, 4(1).
World Council for Gifted and Talented Children. (2018). Join WCGTC. WCGTC website.