Dr. Carol Horn, coordinator Advanced Academics, Fairfax County Public Schools

Dr. Carol V. Horn is coordinator of Advanced Academics Program (former Gifted and Talented Programs) for Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia.

She has worked in gifted education for the past 20 years and has a Master of Education in Educational Psychology with an Emphasis on Gifted from the University of Virginia.

She earned her doctorate in Teacher Preparation and Special Education from The George Washington University and is the 2002 recipient of the Hollingsworth Award from the National Association for Gifted Children for outstanding research study in the field of gifted education.

Her upcoming book is “The 10 Big Ideas: Help your child to thinking bigger, imagine more, and do better in school.”

Research: The Road to Action

June 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — Teaching children how to research is a critical skill that can start early and will serve them for a lifetime. In today’s world, where so much information is readily available at our fingertips, it is never too early to begin to teach children how to search with a “critical eye.”

Opportunities to conduct in-depth research allow children to discover and explore a wide range of topics that connect to personal interests and encourage inquiring minds. As they search for knowledge and data about topics that are connected to real-world issues, personal interests, and relevant concerns, children learn the value of searching for information through a wide variety of resources.

They also discover and practice investigative and formal research techniques that train them to develop abstract ideas, use inductive thinking, see connections, and solve problems.

The research process itself teaches them to organize, apply, and evaluate information and data that they can collect from multiple sources and then use that information for a project, a purchase, a personal goal, or to help solve a real-world problem.

In order to strengthen and refine their thinking and communication skills, children need opportunities to explore topics they are interested in and share what they learn with others.

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How to Be a Creative Problem Solver

May 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them,” said Albert Einstein.

This quote highlights the importance of teaching children to think creatively so that they will be prepared to cope with the complexities of our modern world and face situations that do not have one clear answer.

What is creativity, and why is it important? How can it be nurtured? How have creative thinkers changed our lives and shaped our ever-changing world?

These are just a few of the questions that may be used to start the conversation and raise awareness of creativity and its connection to innovative solutions. There are also children’s books that share the stories of children who have solved everyday problems with innovative ideas.

One of my favorites is The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. It’s an inspiring story of a young boy in Malawi who used scrap metal, tractor parts, and pieces of old bicycles to create a crude yet operable windmill to bring electricity to his village.

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Inspire Creative Brainstorming With SCAMPER

April 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — Brainstorming encourages children to think of new ideas, combine existing ideas in new ways, and generate original and often unusual ideas.

Once they have opportunities to practice this type of thinking, children can improve their ability to make inventive or creative connections between ideas and also come up with new ideas.

An important rule of brainstorming is that all ideas are accepted and none are judged. The process of suspending judgment is important as it emphasizes the importance of accepting all possibilities and helps to ensure and maintain an open mind.

Many great inventions would have met an early end if the inventors had not been open to possibilities and continually thought of new ideas. Thomas Edison’s lightbulb is one such invention.

While other inventors had already invented an electric lightbulb, the filaments that they used were not practical and either burned out quickly or used too much electric current. Edison brainstormed with his team and conducted more than 1,200 experiments before finding a filament that would burn for a long time without burning out.

A fun way to introduce the power of brainstorming to children is a strategy called SCAMPER.

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Clever Analogies: Practice Making Creative Connections

March 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — Innovation and creative thinking are valuable skills that are needed in today’s workforce. A facility for working with analogies gives children a structure for generating creative ideas, seeing complex relationships, and making unusual comparisons.

Analogies are a powerful thinking tool because they build on the brain’s natural inclination to draw connections and comparisons as we learn new material, deepen our insights, and apply creative thinking in our everyday lives. They not only stimulate the imagination, they also lead children to deeper understandings by connecting things that do not always appear connected.

There are three kinds of analogy that may be used to stretch and extend children’s thinking, and each one becomes more complex as it is applied.

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The Art of Persuasion

February 2013, Be Inkandescent magazineI Wanna Iguana is the delightful story of a young boy’s efforts to convince his mother to let him have an iguana that his best friend is giving away.

Alex and his mother write back and forth to each other a series of humorous notes and drawings that capture the arguments he puts forth to persuade his mother to let him have an iguana for a pet, and her responses. The book can serve as an excellent introduction to the art of persuasion.

Persuasion is an important thinking skill, and, as Alex learns in this story, it is one that can be learned through practice and reflection.

Listen closely and you’ll hear persuasive appeals wherever you go!

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The Power of Colorful Thinking

January 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — What color is your thinking? “Six Thinking Hats,” a book by Edward de Bono, provides a colorful structure to guide children as they discuss a topic or issue from six different perspectives.

There are six colored hats and each color represents a different type of thinking: The white hat is used for facts and evidence, the red hat elicits feelings or emotions that are associated with the topic, the yellow hat focuses on the positive aspects, and the purple hat focuses on the negative aspects.

The green hat is reserved for creative ideas, and the blue hat takes all ideas into consideration in order to formulate a plan. The colors provide an important visual that children learn to associate with each type of thinking.

Children may draw, color, and cut out the hats from paper, cut out different color hats from a magazine, collect hats of the different colors, or create the hats out of colored construction paper.

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The Importance of Having a Good Point of View

December 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — Everyone has a viewpoint. Kids, adults, writers, politicians, and teachers, too.

Learning the role of viewpoint—and understanding that each person has a unique point of view—is one of the most important thinking skills that a child can acquire.

It is not only important for children to become comfortable sharing their own viewpoint, they must also be willing to listen to and learn from the viewpoints of others. They will also learn that their own viewpoint is stronger when there is evidence to support their thinking.

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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions—and Outcomes

November 2012, Be Inkandescent magazine — “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” is an age-old adage that lies at the heart of this first decision-making strategy that will give parents insight into how they can help their children succeed in the classroom.

In fact, the next time you browse through a bookstore, take a look at the creativity and color that goes into designing a book cover as publishers compete to capture the reader’s attention and sell their product.

We have all selected books at one time or another based on superficial reasoning. Sometimes we are lucky and it truly is a great book, and other times we are disappointed. Book selection is just one of many choices children make each school day as they practice making decisions and dealing with the outcomes.

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Smart Stuff: How does your child learn best?

October 2013 — “I want my children to understand the world, but not just because the world is fascinating and the human mind curious. I want them to understand it so they will make it a better place,” Gardner said in 1999.

It is with such a goal in mind that Gardner, a Harvard University professor, devised the theory of Multiple Intelligences. His 1993 landmark book, Frames of Mind, turned on its head the belief that human beings are blank slates that can be trained to learn anything — providing the information is presented in an appropriate way.

On the contrary, Gardner’s research suggests there are at least eight intelligences, each with its own strengths and constraints. “We have found that the mind is far from encumbered at birth, and it is unexpectedly difficult to teach things that challenge these natural lines,” he explains. “The theory [of multiple intelligences] is an account of human cognition in its fullness. It provides a new definition of human nature.”

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