Many parents who value academic excellence want to ensure their children have academically rigorous experiences and may search for gifted and talented programs. Are children born gifted? What can we do as parents to nurture a child’s potential for giftedness?
Barbara Clark, author of Parenting Gifted Children, defines giftedness as “an advanced and accelerated development of functions in the brain that allows for more efficient and effective use. Giftedness is not limited to analytical and problem-solving abilities, but also includes softer skills of intuition, leadership, creativity, and empathy.
The research shows that while children are born with the potential to be gifted, the environment and nurture plays an important role in developing those innate abilities. In fact, researchers estimate conservatively that environmental influences can add 20-40 points on measured intelligence. Babies are born with 100-200 billion nerve cells and how those cells are wired and connected in early childhood will show themselves later, in language skills and mathematical skills, the ability to focus or executive function, or in the ability to think rapidly and connect disparate ideas.
Immersion education places children in an environment where the teacher speaks in a second language and has been shown to make children smarter and improve them social emotionally. The language acquisition process creates connections in disparate parts of the brain, as a child is beginning to understand, think, and converse in another language –making their brains superior to that of monolinguals. But this cannot be achieved In an environment with only a few hours of language instruction a week. Full immersion, students spending up to 90% of their time in another language such as Spanish or Mandarin, which is what is offered at HudsonWay Immersion School, has been shown to impact giftedness.
Using the coGAT, a common tool for assessing cognitive ability to identify giftedness in public and private schools, HWIS was able to show that while 64% of students who spent one year at HWIS were average or gifted, 100% of those spending 4+ years at HWIS were above average or gifted. This data supports the research on immersion programs and is one reason parents looking for the best private school options are increasingly considering immersion programs.