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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.


Hear our voices: Gifted education and social justice



It’s been an exciting time in gifted education in New Zealand with the opportunity to share views with regards to the draft Disability and Learning Support Action Plan. Good on you if you got involved and had your say. It is tremendously important that when the political doorway is opened just a crack, we all come together to help open it wider to enable others who are not necessarily living with the realities of supporting gifted kids day in and day out, to see more clearly the challenges these learners face – the often invisible barriers to equitable opportunities to learn, to belong, to contribute in a meaningful way, to be included.

I recently had the privileged opportunity to meet with a group of amazing gifted education advocates from around the country, to discuss the Draft Action Plan. As I prepared for this, I talked with some young gifted people to gather their opinions about what they felt would improve the education system for them, so as to be placed to represent their perspectives at this important meeting. What an honour to be able to be their voice on the day. This led me to think about self-advocacy among our gifted. How do we empower our young folk to use their voices - truly, authentically, and with power? How can we equip these kids not only to advocate for themselves, but for their peers, and for anyone and anything they truly believe in?

I soon realised that really I was looking at something much broader than advocacy; the focus was really one of social justice. In line with the current political conversations in New Zealand, and even conversations overseas, about access to gifted education being a social justice issue, I began to recognise the need to teach not only advocacy skills in the learning environment, but also to explicitly teach about social justice at all its levels. Danielle Robinson does just this in her classroom and explains the levels with the iceberg graphic shown below.



“Gifted youth from all backgrounds and experiences have great capacity to change the course of this nation and the world. When they are given the opportunity, they will do just that” - Joy Lawson Davis 

Watch and listen to the wonderful work being undertaken in the classrooms of Kia Aroha School, which exemplifies not only this process but also the empowerment that comes from it. 



So, what sort of resources might help us kick-start conversations and action among our young people? Picture books, websites and biographical works - to name just a few. Through resources such as these, as well as specific relevant role models (e.g., contemporary or historical figures, such as inspirational locals and/or people from the child’s iwi), we can support kids to tease apart the social justice iceberg model through exemplars.

From there, they can begin to address the issues they themselves identify as pressing and determine their pathway forward. While a little long and slow to watch, the footage of a group of Pakistani university art exchange students shows some of these processes in action; the identification of issues, learning about different forms of expression, and developing their own forms of communication to educate others of the need for change. The following video provides another example, whereby students are making change and leading the way as role models in the community within their own right. This is a great conversation starter to elicit thinking about how it might fit with the aforementioned model – or if indeed there are ideas to form a new model.



“Here’s the big not-so-secret: Kids know what’s going on. They also have the capacity to be deeply upset by it…If we want our children to grow up to be thoughtful and engaged citizens, we should help them be part of social change now” - Caroline Hope

Embedded within the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education curriculum is the development of thinking skills – including Lipman’s dimensions of caring thinking, philosophy, communication skills and, importantly in the midst of this, understanding of self as a gifted learner. The culmination of these learning opportunities leads to empowering kids who thrive on fairness, justice and the need for equality, to better understand the issues being faced, and how they can begin to respond to these with action – at any age.


'What's the Story?' is a blog section which is 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.


We would love to hear from you.  Grab a cuppa and share your story in the comments.

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 credits: About IFAW by Helgi Halldórsson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 and has been modifed.

Hear our voices: Gifted education and social justice

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