Gifted Girls and Vocational Development

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Introducing gifted girls to a range of careers has been highlighted frequently, as valuable in supporting them to think creatively and productively about their future career interests. Research signifies that gifted students may exhibit an extensive repertoire of knowledge regarding careers, however, this information is often received much later than required. Some gifted students acquire a passion for a particular career earlier than others, which was evident in an Imaginarium course run during the April holiday break, Marine Biology. The course filled to capacity within two days of being opened for registrations.

As the course filled, I received emails from parents seeking places for their child, expressing their daughter’s passion for marine biology. Young ladies who were adamant their future aspirations were to become a marine biologist or a marine scientist. Interestingly, the age range of the girls attending this course was from 7 to 12 years old, strengthening the assertion that gifted girls can identify their future aspirations at a young age, though, it is important to note this isn’t the case for all gifted girls and the complete opposite can occur.

So, how can we support gifted girls in primary school, who do know what they aspire to work towards as a career option?

As part of the Marine Biology course, Theda, a marine scientist who works on our local Penguin Island, spoke to the girls about her career and her role on the island.  She brought many different items for the girls to look at, feel, ask questions about and discuss as well as an electronic presentation that included an array of different photos, including many of the different penguins she works with. Theda started her expert session; opening the floor to questions the girls were burning to ask. Questions ranged in inquiry; Theda excited and inspired by the complexity and depth, often mentioning this in her response.

Questions from the girls continued, thick and fast, for fifty minutes; Theda’s visual presentation sitting still on the first slide, her items still sitting in her box.  We learnt about the fascinating and contrasting roles her marine scientist friends have around the world following their university studies. We learnt about the eco tourism that occurs on Penguin Island and the different behaviours of penguins in the wild and in their rehabilitation centre. We learnt about the flora and fauna of the ocean and discovered more about species the girls were curious about, including the most deadly sea creature and what jellyfish are made of. We heard stories of Theda and her friends’ adventures in marine sanctuaries in near and far away places.

Theda spent two hours with the girls that morning, answering their questions, filling their inquiring minds with new information and feeding their curiosity through the visual and hands-on stimuli she had brought with her. The girls were intensely curious – soaking up any new piece of information they could acquire, writing new questions on their post-it notes as fast as she was answering them. At the end of the session the girls were inspired and the room was buzzing; excited voices discussing ideas, considerations and further wondering between new friends.

As I reflect on the courses and the engagement between the girls and experts who come in to present I wonder: How do we continue to support the girls in their vocational development? How do we provide opportunities that enable girls to learn more about different aspects of the role they aspire to? How do we expose them to a range of career types to introduce them to ones they might not be aware of?

The Imaginarium courses are developed from the interests of gifted girls. At the end of each course the girls are asked for feedback on what they are curious about and what they would like to further explore. It’s important the girls drive this – the Imaginarium is all about them; developing their social, emotional and cognitive domains whilst providing vocational education at their level. The inclusion of expert presentations is paramount to the Imaginarium courses to support the girls’ vocational education. As the courses continue to be created, I often wonder who we will meet next through the girls’ interests and what interesting stories we will hear about their career and role in society.

I am looking forward to reading through their ideas to start planning the next lot of holiday courses and finding experts in their field to continue the vocational education they seek to learn more about. The girls certainly have diverse interests that keep my role interesting.