The September 2007 issue of Smithsonian Magazine was dedicated to “America's Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences” – 37 people under the age of 36 who are making names for themselves and are well on their way to eminence in their fields. Most of them can trace their passion and career focus to a few key experiences. Cristián Samper, for example, Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, says in his editorial introduction,
My own love of science came from a love of nature. As a Boy Scout, I camped and hiked in Colombian rain forests, returning home eager to organize my collections of plants and animals.…At 15, I joined ornithologist Jorge Orejuela on a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) summer expedition to the remote rain forests in the Choco region of Colombia. This was my first experience in hands-on fieldwork, and as I saw scientific data, field observation, conservation biology and environmental policy all coming together, I was hooked.(Smithsonian Magazine, 2007, p. 3)
The unfortunate truth is that schools are not places where youngsters gain these kinds of experiences nor places where creativity thrives, especially in the current educational climate where the emphasis is on increasing the academic achievement of underperforming students (Renzulli, 2005; Robinson, 2001). Academic achievement has become the focus of most of the thought, finances, and energy expended in education, and yet, we have an ambiguous relationship with academic achievement.