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Great Summer Learning Opportunities

It's that time of year when summer plans are taking shape, and I wanted to give you some tips on great summer professional development opportunities for those of you who are wanting to learn more about gifted students.

I'll highlight a few, but I also encourage you to check out the HoagiesGifted page's list of conferences. It's very comprehensive and includes summer (year-round, actually) learning opportunities in a wide range of locations, from South Dakota to Virginia, Illinois to New Mexico.

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Of the four conferences I want to highlight today, the first is an experience I look forward to every summer. Edufest is a week-long gifted education conference that takes place each summer, the last week of July, in Boise, Idaho. For those of you who, like me, live in the west, it's a reachable and relatively affordable opportunity for us to delve deeper into topics of interest in gifted education. The week's schedule is centered around strands, which are like mini-classes. Each day (M-Th) you see the same presenter on the same topic for an hour and half, for a total of six hours with that person. This arrangement (and you get to choose three strands) lends itself to much greater depth than we teachers normally experience in professional development offerings. Edufest also brings in SIX keynote presentations and includes a smattering of additional conference offerings, like Special Topics and evening chat sessions with the presenters. Edufest's program is welcoming to parents, counselors, and administrators, too, and they include in their program a Parent's Day (July 24) and an Administrator's Day (July 26) for anyone in those categories who might want to specialize their learning. Edufest manages to bring in multiple well-known people in the field of Gifted Education each year, including (all this summer!) Jean Sunde Peterson, Terry Neu, Marcia Imbeau, Stuart Omdal, Del Siegle, Betsy McCoach, Mary Slade, Rachel McAnallen, Tom Hebert, Felicia Dixon, Susan Baum, Margo Long, Susannah Richards, Jeff Danielian, and Ed Amend, plus some local (Idaho) presenters. (and me :o) The icing on the cake is that it's a tremendous amount of fun, too! Be sure to scroll down at the Edufest page to click the links for further information. You can also check out (and print for your teachers!) this flyer.

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The people who created Edufest patterned it after Confratute, which takes place each summer in Storrs, Connecticut (this year, July 11-16). Confratute also features strands for in-depth learning, plus multiple keynotes by fabulous presenters in the field, including (this year) Susan Baum, Donna Ford, Marcia Gentry, Sandra Kaplan, Jann Leppien, Rachel McAnallen, Sally Reis, Joe Renzulli, and Del Siegle. The energy level is electric at Confratute, and the learning continues into the evenings. Special features also include Evening Forums on specialized topics, a talent show, a film festival, and a ning. Check out this link for more info or watch their movie. If it isn't already obvious by that great list of special features, Confratute, in addition to being an intense learning experience, is also a great deal of fun!

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If you have some professional development funds that will expire on July 1, then consider June's Hormel Symposium (June 13-17) in Austin, Minnesota. Featured speakers include Jann Leppien, Susan Baum, Terry Neu, Felicia Dixon, Lenore Skenazy, Malik Henderson, Richard Cash, Mary Slade, Diane Heacox, Arlene DeVries, Bonnie Cramond, Rachel McAnallen, Karen Westberg, and Karen Rogers, among others. Be sure to click the links at the bottom of the page to pull up PDFs with more details, such as session descriptions and information on Administrator Day.

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Lastly, if you're looking for a real "retreat" experience, then the Conference on the Autonomous Learner Model for the Gifted is a real treat. The last week of June could find you at the rustic-but-comfortable Estes Park Center, just moments from Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Kids are invited to this learning experience, too, with a hayride, trout fishing, talent show, swimming, and nature hikes all part of this well-organized experience. The adults will get to learn from featured presenters George Betts, Robin Carey, Jolene Kercher, L. Dennis Higgins, Elizabeth Nielsen, and Patty Rendon. Topics covered will range from differentiated instruction to RtI, from twice exceptional to the Autonomous Learner Model. We just had George Betts (creator of ALM) at our Montana AGATE conference here a few weeks ago and he is such a joy to learn from.

You couldn't go wrong with any of these opportunites! Peek into your checkbook or district budget, apply for a scholarship, clear the calendar for a few days, and dive into a summer of expanding your understanding of gifted children! Feel free to share details about your own favorite summer learning opportunities in the comments section.

And of course don't forget online summer learning opportunities, like the webinars mentioned a couple weeks ago!

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