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Gatton Academy's Julia Roberts is Coordinating World Gifted Conference

Julia Roberts said most people come up to her and say, “It’s summer – you must have lots of (free) time.”

Not really. She’s actually busier.

“We are busy all year, but double our speed for the summer,” said Roberts, executive director for the Center for Gifted Studies and The Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University.

Among the many summer activities Roberts is overseeing is the 20th biennial World Conference for the World Council of Gifted and Talented Children “Celebrating Giftedness and Creativity” from Aug. 10-14 in Louisville.

Roberts serves as World Council treasurer. The council has had conferences every other year for 38 years in places such as Barcelona, Spain; Sydney; Istanbul, Turkey; and two years ago, Prague. The first world biennial conference was in London in 1975. This is the first time the United States has hosted the conference since 2005, when it was in New Orleans. Roberts was just elected to her second, and final, four-year term on the seven-member council executive committee. Only two terms are permitted and only one representative from each country is permitted on the executive committee, Roberts said.

“We have outstanding keynotes,” she said of the event, adding it’s a great opportunity for people of Kentucky to attend the conference. The next conference in two years will be in Denmark. “It’s a terrific time to learn from others. We want to showcase how Kentucky is a leader in gifted education.”

Roberts said Joseph Renzulli and his wife, Sally Reis, pioneers in gifted education in America, will both be at the conference.

Renzulli, Reis and others at the University of Connecticut Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development conducted research about 40 years ago related to creativity, assessment, identification, programming and evaluation in researching gifted and talented. This seminal research led to strategies to teach gifted students.

Renzulli will discuss what factors contribute to high levels of creativity in children. Another speaker, Todd Lubart of the Universite Paris Descartes in France will present information on how to build a school system that promotes the development of creative potential. A third speaker, Tracy Riley of Massey University in New Zealand, will explain how to enhance creativity through competition, a release said.

Gifted education efforts span the globe, according to the World Gifted, the newsletter of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children. In Australia, efforts continue to bring gifted education to every classroom in every school. In Austria, the first TalentDay as part of the Europe-wide TalentDay was organized in 2012 to raise awareness for the promotion of gifted and talented across all ages. In Belgium, the National Conference on Giftedness was held under Royal Highness Princess Mathilde in the fall of 2011 and there were about 350 participants.

The parent association Gifted Children is working in Denmark to create awareness in gifted education.

“Seeds planted long ago in the Danish educational system are slowly coming to life,” writes Ole Kyed. “We see a lot of small projects in close connection to the mainstream education.” 

In Jordan, the teachers, students and parents at the Jordanian International Schools in Amman, are using a gifted education system developed by Joseph Renzulli.

“Teachers are happy to see their students applying what they have learned,” wrote Janette Wakileh, head of primary for Jordanian International Schools, in the newsletter. “They have noticed that learning has become more meaningful and enjoyable because the knowledge and skills are learned within real-life situations. Teachers can now easily find appropriate differentiation activities for students with minimal time and effort. They can also access exciting websites to help their own teaching and can even download creative activities to use in their classroom.”

Efforts are taking place to identify more gifted and talented students in Mexico, while Spain held a conference in the fall of last year called the Spanish III National Conference of High Intellectual Abilities, where the delegates saw a need to include creative educational programs in the schools. In June 2012, Bangkok hosted the Global Round for the World Scholar’s Cup, where more than 1,000 students from 16 countries competed.

Registrations for participants in the world conference are due by July 10, and the program will be finalized 10 days later.

— Chuck Mason covers education for the Daily News. Follow him at or visit

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 Last Modified 9/24/14