All middle school students are in a period of rapid transition. They are developing meaningful relationships, a personal and social values system, a healthy self-esteem and identity, and increasing independence from their families. All adolescents at this age need role models, supportive adults, and appropriate intellectual stimulation to ensure growth. Yet gifted adolescents have unique needs that go beyond these characteristics.
Early adolescence should not be defined only as a time of turmoil; it can also be a period of tremendous resilience, productivity, cognitive growth, generosity, and increased involvement in school and community. To this end, students need choices in school projects and activities, and they need opportunities to discover and hone their own learning styles.
Gifted adolescents are often significantly more advanced than their peers in one or more academic areas, and have a greater capacity for deductive thinking. These students tend to have increased sensitivity to people and events, are more deeply introspective, and often display a higher sense of justice and fair play. Their actions and ideas are often influenced by heightened self-criticism, sensitivity, and intensity. Understanding these characteristics can help guide gifted students toward self-actualizing behaviors and emotional growth. They need to develop relationships with people who take them seriously and have similar awareness.
Their sophisticated abilities to conceptualize, seek alternatives, explore diverse relationships, make connections, and find creative ways of self-expression should serve them well come adulthood, but during adolescence, these same qualities may create, rather then solve, some unique problems.
Based on what we know about the unique characteristics of gifted adolescents, the SAA experience allows students to demonstrate meaningful applications of the knowledge they are acquiring. We believe that students should be investigating the questions that they themselves are asking about the world and their place in it. They need to be solving problems, making connections, asking questions, and taking risks.
Our experienced faculty and staff are trained in best practices to maximize the boundless potential of this unique student population. Our small class size, commitment to differentiated instruction, and philosophy of “taking students where they are” help us recognize, understand, and nurture the advanced abilities of the gifted adolescent.