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New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education's Blog

What's the Story? 

Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


Breaking the Ice on a Scorching New School Year

Helping gifted kids survive school transitions in the heatwave



“Think cool thoughts,” said Angel’s mother. ‘Think of snowstorms and icicles”. - Think Cool Thoughts by Elizabeth Perry

The heat. Ugh. There’s no escaping it, so it seems. Although ... we may have some luck on our side with a skiff of rain (hopefully not flooding!!) and perhaps, optimistically, accompanying cooler air from Tropical Cyclone Fehi. Then ... back into the heat. Ugh.



Blimey, it’s hard enough trying to write something creative in this heat, but our kids ... they have to learn in it! What’s more, for many at this time of year, this includes having to acclimatise to a new learning context, whether it be school, room, teacher, peers etc. Phew!


So what are some of the things we need to be mindful of as we support our kids back into school in the midst of this heatwave? Well, for starters, we need to be aware that bodies have to work much harder to regulate core temperatures with high ambient heat. This extra work results in glucose depletion, meaning less glucose is available for important back-to-school cognitive tasks such as emotional regulation, decision making, and learning. Ugh, yes - that did include emotional regulation. As if the start of the year angsting for many of our kids isn’t enough on its own, right?


Well, here’s the kicker. The nature of gifted brains is that they are, as Eide and Eide (2004) put it, “remarkably intense and diffuse metabolizers.” In other words, glucose is already used in abundance by these kids, especially when they are engaged in cognitively taxing tasks. In fact, for some, so much so that they have what James Webb and colleagues identify as “reactive  hypoglycemia.” The glucose depletion is significant enough that the resulting behaviours are often misunderstood as characteristics of bipolar disorder and ADHD rather than the need for regular healthy snacking!! Now, couple that with the extreme heat ... well, I am sure you get the picture.


Now the catch ... small, high frequency, high protein snacks are recommended to help even out glucose levels which support balance for gifted kids across the course of a day. However, high protein foods also play a role in increasing core temperature through a process called diet-induced thermogenesis, thus negating our efforts to keep cool. The recommendation is for high carb instead. So what are our options? Well, I am no dietician, but it would seem that the key is regular (at least every three hours and especially mid-morning and afternoon), and little, high carb and fibre, low protein, fat and sugar snacks.  And of course, the non-negotiable - water!! Lots of it.


Some lunchbox and snack options:

  • Fruit - fresh, dried, or even frozen (such as grapes or blueberries)
  • Rice cakes or corn thins
  • Sandwiches - regular or pinwheel
  • Pasta salad/noodles with veges
  • Sushi - seaweed or cucumber 
  • Rice balls
  • popcorn (non-microwave)
  • pretzels
  • Banana coconut biscuits 


One more trick ... you might also want to pop in an image of a person touching something cold - ice, snow, water ... Why? Because there is research which suggests that this too can help reduce core temperature ... Just a thought. ;) For now though, I leave you with this ... think cold thoughts ... think snowstorms and icicles.



For those of you reading this who are teachers, here is an ‘interesting’ resource published by the New Zealand PPTA. It pertains to “upper temperature limits” in the classroom and how to determine when students are at risk from the heat. (Please let me know if you can understand how to follow their instructions and manage to get a reading!!! I have been told that this reading is akin to the “feels like” temperature provided by the Metservice, but am open to being corrected). Nothing quite like keeping it simple!


'What's the Story?' is a new blog section which is being written for the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education, with posts being added regularly. The purpose of this space is to share musings and anecdotes relating to giftedness and gifted education to provide a form of information and support for those living with and/or teaching gifted learners. Please do share them along.


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What's the Story? Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


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Please note that the views expressed in these blogs are those of the author and not necessarily representative of the views of the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.

 Image credit: Spring Break by Jim Sinclair/USFWS by USFWSmidwest is licensed under CC BY 2.0. The image has been modified.

Breaking the Ice on a Scorching New School Year

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