Not many school students would choose to spend three weeks of their summer holidays learning at University. However, for 100 young people, the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth Summer School 2002 was a dream come true.
On 22 July, the University of Warwick's Westwood Campus became home to the lucky 11-16 year olds chosen to attend the Academy's first ever summer school. For many of them this was their first time away from home without family or friends as well as their first opportunity to stretch their abilities in a class where every child is academically gifted.
Students received seven hours of intensive tuition each day either in Mathematics, Chemistry, Creative Writing, Philosophy, Drama or Environmental Science & Ecology. The questions came in thick and fast as the gifted youngsters got stuck in, so much so that it was not unusual to see the students carrying on discussions about the theories and ideas through their break times.
It wasn't all hard work though. A variety of social activities, including sports, video evenings and T-shirt painting sessions, ran alongside a programme of intellectually stimulating events. They were entertained by several visiting speakers including Ian Stewart who captivated his young audience with a talk about 'The Music of Maths', and Jack Cohen who enthralled the inquiring youngsters with a presentation on 'The possibility of life on other planets'.
All the students were set challenging engineering projects, provided by the Warwick-based Gatsby Technical Education Project, the Technology Enhancement Programme. Designed to encourage the students to apply their intellectual abilities in new fields and develop lateral thinking skills, the projects were also an opportunity for them to work together in small teams. Many gifted students find that their exceptional abilities can isolate them from their friends and peers, so learning to work as a team can often be as challenging as the task itself.
The Academy's work doesn't end with the summer school and it will continue to build on this year's tremendous success. Working closely with students, parents, schools, LEA's and various partner organisations, the Academy's future activities are wide ranging. A programme of out reach events, including weekend classes and twilight taster events, as well as e-learning facilities available on the Academy website will be launched later this year. In 2003, the summer schools programme will expand to cater for 900 students at five different locations.
In the meantime, the Academy's search for excellence continues.