Astronomy, ancient history and algebra are just some of the classes on offer to pre-schoolers through to Year 8 at Academicus at USQ Toowoomba, a holiday program designed for gifted young students.

Seven year old Zoey Quinn is one of those students. Opting for Storytelling with Algebra, Zoey and her fellow primary school students were taken on a journey of numbers told with letters, gaining an understanding of mathematics within a narrative framework. Zoey said it was a little trickier than her normal classes. “It was really different from school because we’re learning harder things, but I loved it,” Zoey said.

Academicus is but one of a series of holiday enrichment programs for designed for young prodigies thanks to a partnership between BRAINways Education and USQ. The two day program includes topics across a  variety of disciplines including earth sciences, trigonometry, journalism, philosophy, playwriting and more. Lecturer in Wellbeing, Counselling and Human Development as part of the USQ School of Linguistics, Adult and Specialist Education Mark Oliver said high achievement started with children and adolescents that were socially supported and exposed to challenge in their interest areas. “Interest development becomes a driver for them to move through their schooling, and for them to think about what they’re going to do post-schooling,” Mark said. “It’s a very natural way of learning. Interest development is absolutely critical for career development, career interest, and long-term ‘stickability’ into a type of profession.”

Mark said while content was critical, the process of the program was an important factor in developing interest in the young students. “Our mentors are people that work in these areas with PhDs (or in progress to get PhDs). You also need to expose the students to like-minded peers as there’s a social dimension of seeing other kids with the same passions. Ultimately it’s about developing the confidence and self-esteem that then helps to drive kids to pursue those interests throughout their education and life.”

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