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Educating With Altitude: Reaching Beyond the Summit

NAGC 2012 Convention Logo.jpg

Perhaps you have heard of Temple Grandin, professor and doctor of animal science, author, animal behavior consultant with the livestock industry, subject of the Emmy-winning film in her name, and advocate for those with autism. Temple is twice exceptional, a gifted individual with high-functioning autism. This year she will be one of the featured keynotes at the National Association for Gifted Children convention, November 14-18, in Denver, Colorado. I had the opportunity to see her give a keynote at Edufest a few summers ago and was absolutely enthralled. Temple is funny, innovative, straightforward, insightful, and able to offer fascinating first-person perspectives on life with autism. She is highly regarded in the worlds of Animal Science, Autism, and Gifted Education. I'm so excited to have a chance to see her again!

Other general session keynotes at this year's national convention will include "In Their Own Voices in Our Time," featuring Joseph Renzulli, Howard Gardner, and Robert Sternberg, all well-known theorists and researchers in the field who will discuss and share insights into how their ideas about gifted education and gifted learners evolved over the years. (This keynote is at the same time as Temple Grandin's... I don't know how I will ever choose!)

Saturday's General Session, "Getting it Write: Where Imagination Meets Creativity," will feature author Ridley Pearson (thanks in part to collaboration with Disney Educational Productions and Disney Youth Programs). Enter the world of imagination through the eyes of someone who has thrived off of his!

The pre-conference sessions on Wednesday and Thursday look to be interesting, too. Wednesday's in-depth, whole-day Gifted Education Essentials session is titled "Supporting Gifted and High-Potential Learners in a Common Core State Standards Environment: What Every Teacher Leader Needs to Know." Questions covered will include, "How do the NAGC Pre-K-12 Gifted Education Programming Standards fit into the bigger policy and service picture? How do they align with the CCSS?" and "How do our gifted students develop their talents over time? How might pathways to excellence be created within the Common Core?" If your state, like mine, is going the Common Core direction, what implications does this path hold for our most advanced learners? Sounds like this session will make strides in discussing and showing where and how these learners fit into this new framework.

Thursday's "Gifted Education Applications" sessions all fit under the theme, "Critical Issues and Models for Delivering Successful Programs and Services." Among the individual, half-day options to choose from are "G/T Coordinator Support: Learn, Share, and Problem Solve Together," "Developing Talent in the STEM Fields in the Era of the Common Core State Standards," "Untethered Learning Through the Use of Technology and Curricular Design," "Secondary Programs for Advanced Learners: Effective Models & Services," "Early Entrance Programs for Young Gifted Children: Preparing for Four Year-Olds in Kindergarten," and "Gifted Education Programming: A Sherpa for Guiding Everyone to New Heights."

Two things I have always loved about the pre-conference sessions are 1) their depth (the sessions are long enough that you have more time to learn and absorb) and 2) their connectedness (the crowds haven't yet arrived, so it's a less hectic atmosphere for connecting and interacting with others).

Other Thursday offerings are the Action Labs (i.e. field trips). Choices include "The Gifted Solution - All Day, Everyday at Stargate K-8 Charter School," "Experience the Old West on Colorado's Front Range," "Go Behind the Scenes: Witness Educators of Diverse Learners in Action/Polaris at Ebert Elementary: The North Star in Arts Integration for Gifted Learners," and "Exploring Gifted Education Center Structure Using the Autonomous Learner Model." These tours offer up-close access so you can see the nuts and bolts of how unique schools and other offerings actually work for kids.

Are you parenting a gifted child? If you can't come for the whole convention, then consider registering for Saturday, or "2012NAGCParentDay.doc."

Are you a STEM fan? The National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science, and Technology is offering their annual conference in conjunction with the NAGC convention this year.

The Signature Series includes a variety of panel discussions on timely, thought-provoking issues in the field. I'm trying to decide between "Implementing RtI with Gifted Students: Service Models, Trends, and Issues," "Talent Development: A Framework for Our Work with Gifted Children," "Examining the Relationship between Executive Function and Intelligence in Twice-Exceptional Children with Asperger's Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism: Empirical Evidence and Practical Application," and "What Administrators Can Teach Us about Making the Case for Gifted Services."

Curious what else is offered? Preview all sessions via the Live Learning Center.

Coming as a group? Groups of ten or more can register with a special rate this year.

Are you an undergraduate or graduate student (taking 9 or more credits)? You get a special registration rate, too.

The rest of us get the "Early Bird" rate if we register by September 21st. Registration after that date is still possible, but costs a little more. (Online registration also available.)

Keep up to date about convention details via the NAGC Convention 2012 - Denver, Colorado page on Facebook.

You can also earn Continuing Education or Graduate Credits through your attendance at the convention.

Flying in from somewhere else? American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Avis Rental Cars are offering special rates for those coming in for the convention. And, if you make your hotel reservations as part of the NAGC room block (and register to attend) prior to September 21st, you're automatically entered into a drawing for three complimentary nights at the hotel during the convention, a free registration to next year's convention in Indianapolis, or $50 NAGC cash to use in the NAGC bookstore at the convention. (You can also make your hotel reservations online.)

One advantage of booking your hotel in the NAGC block? You won't end up where I did ten (nine?) years ago the last time the convention was in Denver. A colleague's daughter who worked for a hotel chain said she'd get us rooms with her employee discount. Well, our rooms were cheap, alright, but the tall buildings of downtown Denver where the convention was were about an inch tall as seen through our hotel room window. We had to get on a 6:10 a.m. bus outside the hotel, then take the train (tram? I'm a small town girl who doesn't know the big city lingo) into the downtown area where we picked up the light rail whose closest stop to the convention dropped us two blocks away. We then hoofed it as fast we could to get to the first sessions on time. And reverse this puzzle for returning to the hotel in the evenings. Yes, it was an adventure, but it was also a p-i-t-a and it prevented us from taking part in some of the evening offerings since one leg of our return trip (the bus, I believe) didn't run that late. I much prefer being "right there" ;o) (Most shocking thing I noticed on these early morning treks: KIDS on the bus at 6:10 a.m. with their backpacks, heading to school! wow...)

I do hope to make it to the national convention once again. It's such a fun, intense, thought-provoking experience, and I always learn a lot and come away with great ideas. Hope to see you there!

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