National Science Teachers Association shines spotlight on Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education

The Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education at UA Little Rock is the subject of a new short film featuring the center’s work in outreach programs to children and teachers.Each year the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) chooses a program to highlight at the conference, and this year, they chose UA Little Rock’s Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education. The film debuted March 15 at the NSTA national conference in Atlanta, the largest science educators professional group in the U.S. The March conference reached 9,000 to 11,000 educators. Subsequently, the film will be distributed by NSTA-TV to the much larger membership.

The Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock

The Science and Art of Developing Talents in Students and Teachers. Developing academic talents in children and adolescents is a complex process that involves schools, families, and communities. For schools, the development of talent should be a thoughtful and deliberate process with a generous awareness that precocious children exist and should be afforded the opportunity to learn something new every day.

“We are thrilled for this kind of recognition for our work,” said Ann Robinson, professor and director of the Jodie Mahony Center and past president of the National Association for Gifted Children. “There are only about 20 centers in the U.S., and they picked UA Little Rock.”

The film tells the story of developing academic talents and meeting the needs of advanced learners in classrooms in the context of the center’s activities. One program in particular that drew interest was the center’s STEM Starters+ program, which investigates the effectiveness of creative and rigorous curricula with a focus on science and engineering and companion teacher professional development on spotting talent and serving children from low-income and ethnically diverse households.

The program, funded by a five-year Research and Development Jacob K. Javits Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, operates in 23 elementary schools in the El Dorado, Pulaski County Special, North Little Rock and Little Rock School Districts.

Students and teachers from Terry Elementary, one of the participating Little Rock schools, were featured in the film alongside Robinson; Dr. Christine Deitz, associate director of the Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education; and Kristy Kidd, project director of STEM Starters+.

In the film, Robinson shares the philosophy of the Jodie Mahony Center saying, “If they’re not challenged, in other words, if there is not an optimal match between what a child knows now and what they need to learn next, then you don’t get the opportunity for every child to learn something new every day.”

This NSTA-TV film allows the center to share this vision and hope for fulfilling the academic needs of all children.

STEM Starters+ is just one of the ways the Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education supports and advocates for gifted education. The other areas of service are professional development and graduate education for teachers and schools through online graduate programs and Advanced Placement Summer Institutes for teachers; programs for talented youth such as Summer Laureate University for Youth; curriculum development through the Blueprints for Biography series; and research on talent development.

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