Most children are curious, but siblings Hirini and Mereana are an extreme example.
As preschoolers, they constantly stumped their parents with random thoughts and questions, mum Perya Short says.
Another early clue that the kids were intellectually gifted is their love of books – their kindergarten teacher was astonished they had been reading since the age of one.
‘‘There’s always been books around,’’ Ms Short says. ‘‘They’re both avid readers.’’ Once a week, 11-year-old Mereana can satisfy her thirst for knowledge at One Day School, a programme which brings gifted children together at Rangikura School to discuss and explore advanced topics like black holes, mythology and DNA.
To be eligible for the programme, children must score in the top 5 per cent of a cognitive test administered by educational psychologists.
The lessons are not as rigid as regular school, and allow pupils to research aspects of topics that interest them, Mereana says. ‘‘It’s a lot of fun, actually.’’ Four days a week she is at Pauatahanui School, where she studies with kids two years older and takes correspondence French. Despite leaning towards arty and music subjects, Mereana wants to be a forensic scientist when she grows up.
‘‘I like mysteries,’’ she says. ‘‘It’s really the logic and using the bits of a puzzle to put it all together.’’
Aotea College student Hirini, 14, is a graduate of One Day School, which admits students from year two to eight.
Friends he made at One Day School are still his closest mates, he says.
‘‘It’s such a small group you make really strong bonds.’’
A lover of science, maths and engineering, he is considering archaeology as a career.
One Day School was established in 1996 to cater for the special needs of gifted children, and now has 34 classes nationwide.
Gifted children are often bored at school, and are often misdiagnosed as troublesome or disruptive. They are over-represented in suicide and prison statistics, according to the Gifted Education Centre.
Ms Short says a lot of gifted kids suffer from social unease, but ‘‘ not these ones’’ – her youngsters are bubbly and confident.
Word perfect: Gifted siblings Mereana and Hirini Johnston have been bookworms since kindergarten.