Super Saturdays provides enrichment experience to gifted young students

Nevaan Chandak (left), 7, Nora McCutcheon (center), 6, and Angelina Goulbourne (right), 7, play a game of dominos in Super Saturdays “Master Mathematicians” course in the Honors College & International Center. The course was designed for grades 1-2 to “explore fun and challenging games, puzzles, and exciting missions.”

Sarah Yaacoub

“Those are the eggs,” said seven-year-old Emma, a student in the Super Saturdays Learning with Legos class. She pointed to one of the corners of her Lego board, where she had constructed a set of yellow rectangles built in the likeness of ladybug eggs. This was the first stage of a ladybug’s life cycle, which the Legos students were studying and attempting to recreate with the brightly-colored plastic blocks.

While many children were at home enjoying the weekend, hundreds of students in first through eighth grades sat in classrooms across WKU’s campus, preparing for lessons and hands-on activities.

The first Saturday of this month, Feb. 3, was the first Saturday of the four-week winter Super Saturdays event series during which gifted and talented students come to WKU and take a class of their choosing focused on an area that interests them. The event will take place again Feb. 17 and Feb. 24. This season, topics for classes range from bridge-building to musical theatre, and many of them center around things children don’t typically learn in grade school.

Julia Roberts, executive director of The Center for Gifted Studies, said the Super Saturdays program has been in operation for about 25 years. The Center, which Roberts founded 37 years ago, hosts Super Saturdays semiannually and exists to serve gifted students, their parents and their educators.

This year’s winter courses consist of 25 classes taught by a variety of instructors. Some are public school teachers with training in gifted education, some are WKU faculty and others are people with a passion for teaching and a particular expertise for the subject they teach.

Renee Hale is the school media librarian at Warren County’s Drakes Creek Middle School, and she has taught the Learning with Legos class for the past five years.  

She said the environment at Super Saturdays differs from that of traditional classes, and she appreciates the freedom she has in planning the lessons.

“It’s fun to work with students more creatively than in a school setting,” she said. “A school environment has more standards, so the option to teach in a more creative way is limited.”

Super Saturdays instructors are given more freedom in their classrooms because there is no state-mandated set of curricula to cover.   

Roberts said the subjects typically offered encompass art, science, language arts and problem-solving, sometimes even blending areas and blurring the lines between disciplines.

Some classes, like Zombie Science, would be difficult to come by in most school course catalogs, while others, like Crazy for Coding, may cover subject matter that may be taught, but normally much later than third or fourth grade.

Over the years, Super Saturdays has expanded to match the needs of a growing student population.

“We started smaller, adding classes to meet the demand,” Roberts said.

She said the Center now partners with WKU’s art department and the Kentucky Science Center in Louisville to offer a wider variety of opportunities for its students.   

“It engages children in learning something that isn’t offered in schools and builds interest in a content area,” she said.

The program may have gotten bigger, but the aim of the classes remains the same.

Features reporter Sarah Yaacoub can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @SarahYaacoub1.