Programs for the Gifted,
Talented and Very Able
Identifying and nurturing talent potential is the focus of many efforts in the United States. Both Israel
and the United States have numerous school-centered programs. The programs described below differ
in that they are outside the normal school structures a residential high school for gifted and talented
students, after-school programs designed to identify and nurture talent potential among disadvantaged
students, involvement of specialists and material resources from communities, use of programs for able
children as a strategy for community-building, a school for gifted Russian immigrants and the design of
computer programs for stimulating academic growth. Each of these has possibilities for improving the
opportunities America provides for its able students.
Israel Arts and Science Academy (IASA)
Raphi Amram, Director
The Society for Excellence through Education
P.O. Box 9603
Jerusalem 91096, Israel
Tel. (02) 755111/755100, Fax. (02) 423686
To create a unique educational environment for the nurture of exceptional talent potential
in science, mathematics, music and the graphic arts.
To nourish cognitive, affective, social and creative excellence.
To learn about curriculum, teaching, creating a learning environment and other elements of nurturing
Youth from the entire State who have shown exceptional talent potential.
Program and Activities:
The Israel Arts and Science Academy is a unique three-year residential high school (grades 10-12) for
students gifted in the arts, science and mathematics, or both. The Academy selects students from all
over Israel and provides them with a general education consistent with their unusual abilities, nurtures
their unique talent potentials and cultivates their values and commitment to serving Israeli society.
The force that motivated the creation of IASA was the belief that if Israel is to survive, she must
encourage youth to achieve excellence in their areas of talent potential and as human beings by
nurturing a deep moral, social and civic community.
In June 1994, the Academy had 182 students from 70 Israeli communities and included, among others,
28 Russian immigrants, 14 Arab-Israelis, and youths from kibbutzim and moshavim. The student body
has been described as a "majority of minorities," one that is completely diverse with respect to ethnic
background, socioeconomic class and religious commitment (Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jewish,
Christian, Muslim and Druze). This diversity reflects the Academy's success in identifying talent
potential in Israel's multicultural population and provides for living and learning in a microcosm of that
IASA opened in September 1990 after five years of intensive planning both in Israel and abroad. Since
there are other secondary schools and other program for the gifted in Israel, the planning began with
conceptualizing what goals and objectives a residential high school might achieve in nurturing
giftedness and talent that go beyond or differ from those of a day school. Unquestionably, a residential
school makes possible the creation of a "total learning community." Moreover, the mix of youngsters in
the arts, science and mathematics, from diverse cultures and backgrounds in a "residential 24-hour
setting," opens learning opportunities not otherwise possible.
There are four elements that comprise the IASA program:
1. First-class education in specific fields of talent. This element aims at nurturing students to become
extraordinary performers and/or producers of ideas in their chosen field of specialization.
2. General core studies and interdisciplinary studies. This element aims at broadening the cultural
perspectives of students and enhancing mutual sensitivity and appreciation between science students
and art students by providing ample opportunities for cross-fertilization across these disciplines.
3. Opportunities to serve the community. This element pertains to the relationships between the
students, the school and the community. It is designed to enhance a sense of responsibility and
commitment to the community. In addition, the community provides a laboratory and resources for out-of-school enrichment.
4. Nurturing of values. This element emphasizes a general humanistic orientation and commitment to
Israel and to the Jewish people.
The staff and curriculum development are ongoing and perceived as major commitments for all staff
members. There are three kinds of "teachers" at the Academy: (1) a cadre of full-time teachers for the
core disciplines, (2) a cadre of guides/counselors with prime responsibility for the residential and
informal components of the program and (3) a cadre of part-time instructors who are specialists in their
fields, usually performers, producers, university professors or doctoral students, some of whom teach
only a few hours per week.
Guiding the design of the program is the concept that learning opportunities exist round-the-clock.
Every student, even residents of Jerusalem, must live on campus in one the four dormitory buildings.
Developing the best possible atmosphere for the students to grow academically, creatively, emotionally
and socially is a function of the dormitory program. Living away from home leads students to develop
different relationships with their families and friends at home and establishing new friends and
relationships at the Academy. Dormitory life means new freedoms and new constraints, new
governance patterns and social interaction all of which have inherent learning possibilities.
On Saturday nights, there is usually an activity for the entire student body initiated by one class or
another. In addition to student recitals and presentations, there are lectures and recitals by outside
performers and experts, readings and dramatic performances, videos, debates, etc. A balance is sought
between organized, structured group activities and opportunities for more leisure-type, unstructured
time. Students are encouraged and enabled to take advantage of the rich cultural life of Jerusalem its
theaters, concerts, films, lectures, exhibitions and conferences.
Seminars and other activities are also aimed at establishing and implementing a code of
behavior teaching students to respect each other, to value the property and resources of the school,
and to involve themselves in the issues confronting society as well as that of the school. Sometimes,
these very bright and talented youth seem to be self-centered and individualistic, academic competition
becomes heated and other personal and social problems arise. This is recognized and is dealt with by
counselors with individuals and groups.
The "Knowing Israel" program provides trips to biblical and archeological sites, nature preserves and
historical sites tied to Israel's nationhood, as well as particularly interesting neighborhoods and centers
in and around Jerusalem. As Israel's capital, Jerusalem contains government and other official buildings
that students visit.
All Israeli secondary students are required to take the bagrut, the national secondary school
achievement tests. The Ministry of Education makes it possible, however, to substitute alternative
curricular procedures for the tests. The Academy has taken full advantage of these available options,
based on the belief that its students need a different curriculum, not simply an accelerated curriculum.
A major ongoing effort has been focused on designing curricula in each discipline that are appropriate
for the gifted student population. When the alternative curriculum, which includes procedures for
evaluation, is approved by the Ministry of Education it can then be implemented. In some curricular
areas, it is also possible to substitute a supervised research project for the bagrut test.
There is a Curriculum Development Unit that does unusually creative work with computer software and
multi-media programs, much of the programming being done by the students. Some examples of the
CDU's production include: Nitsan, a unit designed to improve self-expression and reading
comprehension; software for Listening Comprehension for Music Students and a multimedia program
titled Sumaria and Acadia. Seven of the 1994 graduates worked in the CDU and transferred their
knowledge and expertise to 12 new CDU participants. Using new math software with graphics, through
tutoring, practice and problem solving, students can improve their math skills exponentially.
Another thrust has focused on the interdisciplinary aspects of curriculum experiences aimed at
broadening the perspectives and enhancing the mutual understandings between the science and arts
students. The Academy does not provide watered-down science courses for its arts students or low-level "appreciation courses" for science students. Rather, its curricular efforts focus on providing
opportunities for high-level interdisciplinary experiences that bring out the basic, integral relationships
of science and arts in non-contrived ways. In addition, the Humanities curriculum provides
opportunities for intensive study and discussion of important moral, ethical and aesthetic issues.
The Discovery Program
Raphi Amram, Director
The Society for Excellence through Education
P.O. Box 9603
Jerusalem 91096, Israel
Tel. (02) 755111/755100, Fax. (02) 423686
To create enriched environments in disadvantaged communities that will provide
opportunities for the discovery and nurturing of talent potential that otherwise might not surface.
To identify and nurture educationally students from disadvantaged communities who have potential for
giftedness and leadership but have not had the cultural or educational advantages needed to develop
To make the striving for excellence a goal of local educational systems.
To increase the pool of applicants for the Israel Arts and Science Academy.
Seventh, eighth and ninth graders in schools in economically disadvantaged
neighborhoods who have indicated that they might have above-average talent potential.
Program and Activities:
Initiated in 1988 by the Israel Arts and Science Academy, a three-year residential high school for Israeli
gifted and talented youth, the Discovery Program provides opportunities to discover potential among
students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in programs for the gifted, and for students
to discover their own potential talents. Operating initially in nine communities, by 1993-1994, the
Discovery Program was functioning in 26 communities Jewish, Arab-Christian, Druze and Bedouin.
The Discovery Program is based on the concept that highly able children are to be found in each
segment of society, and in every community, but that the conditions and facilities available for
disadvantaged youngsters to satisfy their educational needs often do not meet the challenge presented
by their innate abilities. Disadvantaged children share the natural curiosity that leads others of their age
group in more advantaged surroundings to involve themselves in activities such as science clubs, music
studies and visual arts lessons. Some very able children from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot get
support from their parents, their schools or their communities for answers to their questions about
science and technology, the arts or lifestyles. The Discovery Program was initiated to provide some
answers to this problem of underdevelopment of talent potential.
In each of the communities, highly able seventh graders are identified by teachers and principals using
criteria developed during the first years of the project teacher nominations, standardized test data,
academic performance, or other relevant evidence concerning the child's performance. Those seventh
graders invited to participate continue through the eighth and ninth grades at which time they may
compete for admission to the Academy on the same basis as other students. By making a concentrated
effort at the local level, using local teachers with the guidance and supervision of outside experts, the
community itself learns to identify youngsters who excel and to take pride in their development.
The Discovery Program takes place in the afternoons in informal groups of no more than 12-16
students. This format enables considerable discussion, investigation and hands-on experience in the
laboratory or studio.
Students participate in three types of activities throughout the school year:
Two weekly one-and-a-half hours sessions one on mathematic thinking skills and the second
dealing with a variety of subjects in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology and technology.
Five to seven special activities in art and music throughout the school year.
Two full-day activities that include visits to museums, art exhibits, concerts, etc. These field trips
are usually conducted with Discovery Program participants from other communities to add an
important social dimension and to make a clear statement of unity of purpose.
The activities are selected because they are neither commonly accessible to youngsters in disadvantaged
communities nor do the home or community regularly provide them. The activities include meetings
with artists, writers and musicians; creativity workshops; theater and cinema performances; and inter-community gatherings designed to expose youngsters to other cultures prevalent in Israel.
In all activities, the underlying strategy is to develop the ability to think in the field being studied and to
develop a way of approaching the subject rather than simply giving more information. All activities are
aimed at teaching the participants to learn how to learn. In a world of changing knowledge, it is more
important to develop such abilities as creative and inventive thinking than to simply pass on
With respect to the science curriculum, the Israel Arts and Science Academy and the Youth Division of
the Weizmann Institute developed a series of courses that explain and demonstrate important scientific
principles through the use of very simple and inexpensive means. This stimulates hands-on
experimentation in any community or setting while obviating the need for costly laboratories.
The classes are taught by local teachers who receive guidance, in-service training and continuous
supervision from "national experts." Combined with the fact that classes take place in the home
community, teaching by local teachers provides an important psychological advantage for all the
participants children, teachers and community. It brings home the conviction that they can, through
their own efforts, in their own surroundings, move forward, expand their knowledge and develop their
talents in accordance with their personal hopes, desires and needs.
Young Persons Institute for
the Promotion of Excellence and Creativity
Dr. Erika Landau
Tel Aviv University, Technical College
Tel Aviv 61170, Israel
Tel: (03) 427014, (03) 415776
To provide educational enrichment opportunities that augment the regular school program.
The aim is to provide a framework within which the child learns to enjoy the personal search for
Gifted children between the ages of 5 and 15.
Program and Activities:
About 2600 gifted children participate in each semester in 180 after-school courses in the exact and life
sciences, the humanities and social sciences and the arts. Children come from all levels of the Jewish
and Arab population and are referred to the Institute by psychological services, teachers or parents.
The Institute program uses an enrichment approach, providing afternoon classes designed to augment
the regular school program with experiences of special interest to the individual. During the morning
hours, children are with their chronological peers; in the afternoon, the children are with their
intellectual peers at the Institute. Children are challenged intellectually by being provided with an
enriched environment in which he/she has a wide choice of subjects at a level commensurate with his
talent potential. The Institute tries to unlock both the manifest and latent talent potential by providing
opportunities for children to discover and develop their capabilities.
The courses are intended to stimulate children to think and to create, to actualize their need for
belonging and acceptance, to quench their thirst for knowledge and its applications and to involve them
in the problems of society so they will formulate an individual, personal value system. The Institute
gives particular attention to nurturing a creative attitude.
In addition to its activity on the Tel Aviv University Campus, the Institute deals with about 800
children each year from disadvantaged environments in the Tel Aviv area. From among the children
selected as being gifted relative to their environment, the Institute discovers and develops some 35-40
young people each year with outstanding talent potential judged by general standards. Without this
special program, it is highly unlikely that many of these youngsters would have realized their talent
potential and some, out of frustration, may have even directed their potential in negative ways. The
Institute's credo is: "Children, if not encouraged and channeled toward constructive values may use
their intelligence for destructive-delinquent goals."
Most of the teachers are lecturers or assistants at Tel Aviv University or the Academy of Art. They
work in accordance with the principles set forth by an Advisory Committee and meet regularly to
discuss pupils and teaching methods. Psychologists follow the student development and assist with
During the summer holidays, the Institute sponsors a "Creative Activity Month" during which children
work in the fields of arts and sciences through educational games, constructions and discussions. They
visit various research institutes, meet scientists doing their research. Symposia are organized to study
problems faced by Israeli society e.g., Israel-Arab relations, pollution, etc.
During school holidays in-service training is provided teachers on the nature of giftedness and
creativity and how to identify and nurture it in their regular classrooms. About six workshops are
provided each year for parents, aimed at helping them understand and support their gifted children.
Lectures and seminars on creativity and giftedness are provided for educational psychologists and
counselors. Counseling is also provided for gifted children, their parents and their teachers, who are not
enrolled in the Institute program.
The Institute is supported by a sliding scale of fees and contributions.
AMUTA Jerusalem School of Physics and Mathematics
Dr. Nina Lapina
Tel. (02) 231311
To help gifted children-repatriates (i.e., immigrants from the former Soviet Union) adjust
to the Israeli system of education and, at the same time, to enable teachers from Russia to use their
unique knowledge, skills and experience.
High school age immigrants from Russia who have been identified as gifted in
mathematics and science. Eventually, it will include children from 4 to 18.
Program and Activities:
A large number of experts with unusual experience in teaching mathematics, natural sciences and
technology at the specialized schools of the former Soviet Union are now available to introduce and
adapt their skills and insights to Israeli schools. The Jerusalem School for Physics and Mathematics
builds on the unique experiences of these teachers.
The "morning department" of the school is organized on the basis of joint teaching by Hebrew
speaking teachers of "host schools" and Russian speaking teachers at the School for Mathematics.
Subjects connected with the culture and history of Israel are taught in Hebrew by the teachers of host
schools, while technical and natural disciplines are taught by Russian-speaking teachers with the
presentation of all the necessary corresponding Hebrew terms. This approach allows students who are
not yet fluent in Hebrew to comprehend the technical material as they learn the new language.
The school's curriculum is based on modern concepts that consider the development of creative abilities
to be of primary importance compared with the acquisition of concrete knowledge and skills. Methods
used in the school are based on the ideas of such scientists as Vygotsky, Brunner, Feuerstein and others.
Sets of tasks have been specifically developed for mathematics, physics and biology.
Students are provided complex tasks that challenge them to work out scientific concepts by themselves.
Younger students participate in quasi-experimental activity while older children
are involved in real research work in cooperation with university researchers. There is a large
component of independent work. In addition to compulsory school tasks, each student is required to
solve about 100-150 additional complex tasks and take 3 to 5 tests per term. The course of studies in
mathematics, physics and technology corresponds to the highest levels of Israeli schools.
Teachers provide many examples of interdisciplinary links, as well as the practical and theoretical value
of the material being studied. They constantly make connections with the history of science and the
general cultural background.
The program aims at confronting the personal problems encountered by Russian children as they are
absorbed into Israeli society. By providing a combination of study in their native language and the
normal conditions of an Israeli school, it aims at building self-esteem, confidence and motivation.
It differs from the more usual practice of organizing "Russian classes" in high schools in that the aim is
not only to overcome problems of insufficient language knowledge but at creating a unified system for
the integration of these children and youth into Israeli society. The project includes students of all age
groups, thus helping younger children avoid psychological trauma.
A next stage of the development is aimed at bringing together gifted children repatriates and sabrim
(native-born Israelis) in common activity such as joint lessons and laboratory studies, olympiads,
special games and projects in which the intellectual commonalities are more important than prior
experiences. The aim is to incorporate newcomers into Israeli society and reduce the danger of future
A Fostering Program of Doctoral Students for Math
Education and Welfare Services Division
Ministry of Education and Culture
2 Devora Hanevia Street
Jerusalem 91191, Israel
Tel. (02) 293770, Fax. (02) 293775
To build leadership in math among youth in development towns and suburbs who excel in
their high school studies by accelerating them toward their university studies in the sciences and
Students tested at the end of seventh grade who have scored high on a special
examination that tests mathematical thinking and basic skills.
Program and Activities:
During grades 8-10 studies take place under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University in special centers
located in areas such as Netanya, Ramlah and Ashkelon. Thirty meetings take place annually, each
three hours in duration. The curriculum provides for mathematical enrichment and instruction toward
the math matriculation examination.
The program provides several routes: (a) Matriculation examination at the end of the tenth grade and
continuation of studies at Bar-Ilan University; (b) admission to Bar-Ilan University to continue studying
math with the matriculation in mathematics determined by the marks received in the two core courses
at the university "Linear Algebra" and "Infinitismal Arithmetic"; (c) admission to Bar-Ilan University
to continue study in math with the matriculation exam coming during the 11th or 12th grade or (d)
return to school to take the math matriculation exam at the end of the 11th year and continuing studies
at Bar-Ilan in the 12th year.
"Infinitismal Arithmetic" is a one-year course made up of four hours of lecture and two hours of drill
weekly. Between 11th and 12th grades, students may participate in a special concentrated four hours
daily, five-week course, an "Introduction to Grouping Theory and Analysis." This course is the
equivalent of a full-year's work. Students can then complete the baccalaureate degree in mathematics as
a primary subject (24 annual hours of lecturing and 10 hours of drilling), meeting all the requirements
in two years and, in some instances, even less time.
Table of Contents