About the Programme
The GIFTED Programme is the largest and most important project undertaken by the Polish Children’s Fund. It is a unique nationwide initiative developed in collaboration with hundreds of artists and academics from leading Polish universities, art schools, and research institutes. It targets students of primary and secondary schools from all over Poland who are passionate about learning and about developing their talents. We endeavour to give these young intellectuals the chance to attend classes taught by renowned experts, under whose supervision they can then investigate the topics they find intriguing in a fairly independent manner.
The Polish Children’s Fund takes under its wing more than 500 young people each year: assisting those who do not feel sufficiently challenged in their everyday lives, who want to know more and are willing to tackle difficult tasks, and who – even before graduating from high school – desire to experience what real science and art look like. We are particularly keen to help talented students from culturally and socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds – those who not only do not have access to the financial resources needed to cover the costs of extracurricular activities, but who also lack the appropriate familial and institutional support.
Each year, participants in the GIFTED Programme can choose from more than 50 different classes which are offered free of charge. All our educators – who range from eminent scholars to university students – are volunteers. They are eager to work with young people, whom they perceive not merely as students but also as potential future co-workers. They are committed, open-minded, and well-disposed towards their pupils, but they also have very high expectations of those involved. Equally importantly, the Fund gives participants of the GIFTED Programme the opportunity to meet peers with similar interests, to collaborate with them on art and research projects, to help and inspire one another, as well as to make new friends and acquaintances.
Thus, the GIFTED Programme can be regarded as a true university – an association of both teachers and the taught. This community, strengthened each year by a fresh cohort of the Programme’s alumni, is our greatest asset – and we have been building it for the past 40 years. Such a network of mutual support and encouragement is also what sets our programme apart from other similar initiatives.
Science and Humanities
Our offer for participants of the GIFTED Programme who excel in academic subjects, such as humanities, social sciences, or STEM disciplines, includes a range of small-group classes taught by distinguished scholars. These include specialised scientific workshops, interdisciplinary science camps, seminars and meetings dedicated to humanities and social sciences, as well as summer internships that take place in the institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences and at the various faculties of leading Polish higher education institutions. For the duration of these classes, young people are integrated into research groups: not only do they acquire unique know-how, but they also have the opportunity to tackle the problems that PhD students and senior scientists try to solve in their everyday professional lives. Furthermore, students can develop additional competencies that are indispensable in the world of contemporary academia: communication and teamwork skills, as well as the ability to draw from different areas of expertise. Sometimes our beneficiaries are even acknowledged as co-authors of important journal articles.
Apart from giving them the opportunity to participate in classes, we also provide our scholarship holders with bespoke support: thanks to tutorials and consultations, they can have their questions answered and obtain tailored advice on topics of their choice. Group trips to theatres and concert halls – followed by discussions about various aspects of these performances – are also regarded as an essential part of all of the camps organised by the Fund. This makes it possible for students to embrace novel experiences as well as to take an interest in disciplines that are seemingly unrelated to their chosen field.
To those of our beneficiaries who play musical instruments, we offer the opportunity to perform in prestigious venues. Thanks to each of the 24 annual concerts we organise, four young soloists are given the chance to showcase their skills to a large audience. However, this is not the sole opportunity that is made available to participants of the GIFTED Programme: they can also obtain funding for music-related expenses. Such grants can, for instance, be used to purchase musical instruments or to cover the costs of participation in competitions and master classes.
Nevertheless, neither financial support nor assistance in the acquisition of performance skills is the most valuable thing we can offer to our scholars: the Programme’s alumni can testify to the fact that the true cornerstone of their musical development was the Chamber Music Workshops. During two weeks of workshops, particular emphasis is put on working in groups under the supervision of both distinguished educators and young musicians – our alumni. The Chamber Music Workshops also boast a unique interdisciplinary curriculum, and their participants are able to choose from several courses that range from lectures and seminars on history, music theory, philosophy, and religious studies, to dance and theatre classes as well as astronomical observations. All this contributes to an inimitable atmosphere and creates a competition-free environment in which the participants can easily broaden their horizons and make new friends.
Participants in the GIFTED Programme are invited to take part in the annual summer painting trip which forms part of the Interdisciplinary Summer Meetings “Rzeczpospolita mniej znana” (a camp that is held in lesser-known but historically and culturally important parts of Poland). Young artists attend painting and drawing classes, art history lectures, and workshops on selected art techniques taught by university educators. We are also keen to ensure that participants have the opportunity to obtain tailored advice through personalised consultations and to access additional sources of inspiration thanks to general-interest classes on topics ranging from philosophy, literature, and history to theatre and film studies. The Interdisciplinary Summer Meetings culminate in two exhibitions of students’ paintings and drawings: the first takes place in the same town (or village) as the camp itself; the other is in the University of Warsaw Library.
The highlight of each year is a collective exhibition in the ABAKUS Gallery in Warsaw’s Old Town, to which our fine arts scholarship holders can contribute. The works to be exhibited are selected by the fellows of art schools from all over Poland and by the alumni of the GIFTED Programme. The two-day meeting that coincides with the preparations for the exhibition also encompasses workshops on a selected technique, a group trip to the theatre and to an exhibition, as well as general discussions about art.
EUCYS Poland – the Discoveries Competition
The GIFTED Programme is not the sole focus of the Polish Children’s Fund. We also organise the Discoveries competition with the aim of incentivising young people to conduct independent research.
Discoveries is the Polish edition of the European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS), which has taken place under the patronage of the European Commission since 1989 and is one of the largest and most prestigious science fairs in the world. Its participants include teenage inventors and STEM aficionados from the EU and affiliated countries. The Polish Children’s Fund has been the organiser of the Polish qualification stages for EUCYS since 1995.
Thanks to this competition, young people with a passion for science are given the opportunity to showcase the results of their experimental and theoretical work, to obtain guidance from leading experts in their fields, and – perhaps more importantly – to get to know their peers who share the same enthusiasm for scientific research. Participation in Discoveries also opens many doors in the professional world. Former awardees are now distinguished undergraduate and PhD students, renowned academics, innovative business leaders, or senior managers in multinational corporations.
What Participants Say
During the ten days I spent in Serock participating in the interdisciplinary camp, I met numerous people – not only my peers but also some slightly older tutors – who were filled with the same amount of enthusiasm as I. I could see their eyes glitter when they delivered a lecture on the Navier-Stokes equations, outlined the assumptions of the Riemann hypothesis on a piece of paper, or explained to me what microcontrollers or the zeta function are. A gathering of so many open-minded individuals, clearly passionate about what they do, was something very different from my everyday experience. The conversations I had at that time significantly contributed to my mental well-being: they gave me a sense of belonging as I realised that I am not alone in this world – that there are some kindred spirits out there. They enabled me to find my place within the community. They strengthened my conviction to never give up and to carry on, to focus on doing what I really love instead of fulfilling other people’s expectations.
A particularly valuable part of the classes in the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Warsaw were the discussions with the instructors. They not only shared with us their knowledge and told us about their own research; they also provided us with useful tips for planning a career in science and advised us on our projects. Having thought about this for a while, I believe this has helped me the most.
During the experimental physics workshops, we were given the opportunity to work with some highly sophisticated instruments such as an epitaxy apparatus and an electron microscope. It was hugely exciting to be able to carry out experiments with this equipment.
One of the reasons I decided to sign up for this seminar was my desire to experience something other than what I usually encounter at school and in my everyday life. My expectations were fully met. I was given an opportunity to talk to and befriend people with whom I could debate less mainstream topics, such as literature, history, and philosophical questions, or discuss experiences related to education and learning.
Professor Zanussi’s film seminar was undoubtedly the most remarkable and unique experience of all the activities I have taken part in thanks to the Polish Children’s Fund. I was most impressed by the way these workshops were run. Krzysztof Zanussi spent all this time with us: he would simply sit with us at the table and talk about various topics, and then we would watch and discuss his films.
As my internship progressed, I was assigned tasks that required me to work in an increasingly independent manner. I was also given scientific papers to read, and I could discuss them during the time I spent in the laboratory. I got familiar with the relevant equipment and found out how to analyse animal behaviour, keep records of research procedures, and plan experiments. Furthermore, my perception of the world of science changed and I met many kind people who invited me to work with them in the future.
Playing in a quartet with such wonderful and talented musicians was a true pleasure. It is not often the case that every lesson or rehearsal is awaited so impatiently, but this is the feeling I enjoyed for the whole duration of the Chamber Music Workshops. The opportunity to perform in the gorgeous concert hall of the Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music was also a magical experience – memories of that day will surely stay with me for a long time.
For me, these music workshops were the first opportunity to explore fields other than music. A wide variety of activities was offered, and every participant could find something for themselves. The daily lectures taught me a lot. I took the greatest interest in the calligraphy workshops and the notebook-stitching classes. During the workshops in Lusławice, I read a collection of poems by Czesław Miłosz. I discovered in myself both a passion for humanities and a certain artistic talent.
Thanks to the intensive working environment and tonnes of inspiration from my fellow artists, I hugely improved my painting skills during the trip. Everyone in the studio held a different view on art – and this was a truly amazing thing since we could all influence one another. I feel that these conditions make me to flourish artistically and intellectually.
What I truly appreciate about the interdisciplinary trips organised by the Fund is that they allow me to meet people from all over Poland whose talents span a wide range of fields: science and humanities, fine arts and music. Regardless of our specific interests, we could always find plenty of conversation topics; these discussions frequently inspired my actions and, in particular, my creative output. My artistic development was fostered: not only did I learn some new techniques, but I was also given the opportunity to showcase my works at an outdoor exhibition as well as to present my project during the Rogoziniec Summer Academy.
The atmosphere during the final stage of the Discoveries competition bustles with scientific curiosity and puts everyone in a good mood. It is not just about winning the prize: it is equally important to learn something new, reflect on the questions asked, and befriend smart people.
When it comes to the competition, what I remember most vividly is joy. Although I was just a high school student, I could present my research in front of an international audience which also included Nobel Prize winners. I also realised that having a clever idea is crucial to science, even if (as in my case) one has to use grandpa’s old bicycle as a workbench.