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UNG offers Appalachian-focused summer program for gifted children

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The College of Education at the University of North Georgia (UNG) is holding its first academic summer camp specifically for gifted middle school children. Camp Appalachia, set for June 15-19 at UNG's Dahlonega Campus, features focused instruction from UNG graduate students and professors trained in the specific learning needs of gifted students as well as highly skilled masters of Appalachian arts and culture.

Attitudes based in the myth that "they'll do fine on their own" mean gifted students may not get the support they need to reach their full potential, said Dr. Catherine Lindsay Linsky, assistant professor of middle grades education at UNG. According to the National Association for Gifted Children, some 3 million to 5 million students in the U.S. are academically gifted and talented -- including some 209,000 in Georgia.

"Unfortunately, gifted students often get ignored in school because of the hyper focus on low-performing students," said Linsky, who also is the coordinator of the gifted endorsement program at UNG. "Because they usually perform well, gifted students don’t get the support they need and they may have trouble with motivation because they aren't being challenged."

Through creativity, problem-solving and inquiry, UNG's weeklong day camp will challenge gifted students to explore life in 19th century north Georgia. Campers experience Appalachian history, select group projects based on interest and bring those historical projects to life for the community.

"Activities such as these keep gifted students actively involved in their own learning. These experiences spark interests in new and exciting learning opportunities," said Dr. Sarah Widincamp, assistant professor of middle grades education at UNG and camp director.

The camp, one of very few summer offerings for gifted students in the region, is intended for rising fourth- through sixth-graders who have been officially identified as gifted and talented within their schools.

Linsky said it was important to the College of Education in developing Camp Appalachia to provide an affordable, local option for gifted students.

"The College of Education really is filling a need by offering this program. Local school systems don't have summer programs for gifted students and though there are some great programs elsewhere, none are located nearby and they aren't very affordable," she said. "Also, there aren't really any programs in our region addressing Appalachian culture and breaking down stereotypes, raising awareness and respect the very rich culture of our region."

The College of Education also has funded scholarships for several local students to attend, Widincamp said.

The week will culminate with a living-history inspired "museum," with exhibits prepared by the campers throughout the week; parents, families and the community will be invited to tour the museum housed at UNG's historic Vickery House.

Camp Appalachia is a collaboration between the UNG Appalachian Studies Center and the gifted endorsement program, both units of the university's College of Education. UNG graduate students also providing instruction during the camp are pursuing a gifted endorsement, which requires 50 hours of field experience. While beneficial for gifted students, the camp also helps UNG graduate students gain experience.

"Although we learn a great deal about the nature of the gifted student in the classroom, and we teach about the needs for differentiation for gifted students and the unique nature of the gifted learner, the camp provides authentic experience working with these inquisitive young people," Widincamp said. "This experience helps our teacher candidates and our experienced teachers gain a first-hand view of why these students need and deserve lessons that are differentiated to support their need for higher-order, enriched curriculum."

The cost of the camp is $125, and includes all camp activities, supplies and a light snack. Registration deadline is June 1 and is available online through UNG's Division of Professional and Continuing Education.

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