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Junior Gifted and Talented Day

Early in Term 3, Siena College proudly hosted the first of two Junior Gifted and Talented Days for 2018. Over 140 students from the local schools joined an enthusiastic group of Siena girls to participate in the Junior Stretch and Challenge Day. The conference was an intensive one day program of short lectures for Year 7, 8 and 9 students, presented by Julie Arliss, Farmington Fellow at Oxford University and founder of Academy Conferences. The program seeks to identify and challenge the students' preconceived ideas and encourage them to think creatively about their world. It aims to provide students with an opportunity to interact with other like-minded students as they explore a range of interesting and thought provoking ideas about relevant modern day issues.

In the first session of the day, Julie presented a lecture entitled ‘Justice, Truth, Beauty and Mathematics’. The session explored the difficulty of achieving agreement about ‘what is justice?’ and ‘what is the point of punishment’? She used contemporary examples to demonstrate the complexity of the related philosophical issues and the impact on other areas of human knowledge, such as beauty, mathematics and art.

The second session was an interactive discussion based on a community of enquiry approach. The students formed small, mixed groups and were given a set of tasks designed to stimulate discussion based on the question, ‘Do animals feel pain and is it OK to kill them?’ Each team worked to reach consensus on a set of ideas, then elected a spokesperson to present their ideas at the end of the session.

After lunch, Julie introduced her colleague Dr Andrew Pinsent, resident Physicist, Philosopher and Theologian from Oxford University. He presented a lecture entitled, ‘Science: What comes First, Observation or Inspiration?’ which examined the underlying ideas that frame science. The students were inspired to think how they, as the next generation of inventors, will use science to solve current and future challenges.

The final session was a debate based on the contention ‘That it is never right to kill a person’. The debate gave students an awareness of the inconsistencies of our laws, which prohibit killing, yet condone killing in war. The debate also addressed the many issues surrounding capital punishment. This session gave the students an opportunity to apply quite a different set of analytical and evaluative skills, as they listened to the debate between Julia and Dr Pinsent. The session concluded with an invitation for students to contribute their opinions on the topic and ended with a vote on the issue.

The first of the 2018 Gifted and Talented Days provided students with an engaging and enriching experience as they were encouraged to broaden their understanding of the world. Julie Arliss and Dr. Pinsent presented a series of well-researched lectures designed to complement and enrich school-based gifted programs as well as extending and deepening gifted students' understanding of traditional school subject matter. 

Ms Heather O’Keefe and Mrs Ansalie Hanrahan

Student reflections:

I thought the Gifted and Talented Day was a really great experience that helped me delve deeper into topics that I don’t usually consider. I enjoyed collaborating with different schools as there were a lot of different opinions to be shared.
- Bridie Warren, 8B

On Tuesday, I participated in the Junior Stretch and Challenge Day. Something new I learnt from listening to our guest speaker Julie, was how justice, truth, beauty and maths are all connected in a way I’d never considered or thought of before. This session got me thinking about what justice is, and whether it is something mankind has constructed, or not. I really liked hearing other students’ views on the subject of ‘Do animals feel pain and have a right not to be eaten?’ as they challenged my opinions. Meeting new people and discussing various questions with them has helped my confidence, and I will be able to use this in my classes at school. The day gave me a new understanding of many topics, and challenged me to think and work with completely unfamiliar people.
-Giulia D’Angelo

Throughout the conference, I learnt about how justice, maths and beauty are all linked together and to think beyond the simple things in life to ask questions about why and how all these topics and ideas can be grouped together. I enjoyed listening to the students from other schools’ ideas; they were insightful, and everyone had a different opinion. Listening to each other also inspired me to think from different perspectives and broaden my thinking. Julie Arliss led a passionate debate amongst the students, and Fr Andrew Pinsent gave us an insight into the science of everything possibly imaginable and linked it with religion and theology. I can apply the knowledge I gained from this experience in analytical reports, essays, and conversations I have with my peers. This engaging experience was collaborative, inspiring, and challenging. I would thoroughly enjoy it if this experience was to be available again.
-Ella Graham 8D


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