“SUPER stands for Saturday University Program Enrichment Resource,” said William Kamm, assistant professor at Lee. “It was originally Saturday University Program, but we did not like calling it SUP.”
Saturday University employs hands-on activities to challenge accelerated students. Principals and teachers from the school systems choose the elementary students who attend. Lessons are conducted by Lee’s education majors, aka “teacher candidates.”
These teacher candidates are primarily taken from Lee professor Alex Sandoval’s SPED 335 course. This is a special education course geared toward the gifted and talented. Sandoval appears to enjoy SU as much as the teachers and students.
“I had a student who just came up to me and said, ‘I made butter!’ I told him, I know— Welcome to Saturday University,” Sandoval said.
According to Sandoval, students are constantly being challenged to absorb information.
“What we want them to do is engage and work off of one another and learn to problem solve,” Sandoval said.
The program is offered twice in the fall and in the spring. Each semester has its own theme. Most recently, the theme was “Appalachia.” Past themes have included STEM and Asian countries.
Stations, or classes, included in the last Saturday University’s “Appalachia” theme included the water company, apothecary, quilting, general store, and building homes.
Students engage in group work. Sometimes they are mixed in with students from other schools.
“This program really focuses on leadership. They are learning how to be leaders with people other than their peers,” said Beth Sargent, county schools coordinator.
Miriam Anderson of the city schools system recognizes the win-win situation between Lee and the two school systems.
“It gives the Lee students a chance to develop lesson plans and see what it is like to teach before getting into student teaching,” Anderson said. “Our students, who were in need of enrichment opportunities, were then the beneficiaries of that.”
Joy Hudson, supervisor of pupil personnel services and Preschool program coordinator, is appreciative of the partnership between the school systems and Lee University.
“It allows our students to be challenged outside of the classroom,” Hudson said.
Patsy Hicks, a junior education major at Lee, said the experience is an enjoyable one for the teacher candidates.
“You get to hang out with the kids and learn from them while being passionate about the subjects. The whole reason I am doing this is for them,” Hicks said.
She added, “I am so excited about doing this one day as a career.”
Teamwork and thinking outside of the box are encouraged at SU.
One activity during the “Appalachia” theme had students designing a water container out of provided materials. Students manipulated newspapers, plastic, foil, rubber bands, and balloons in the process.
After designing the containers, they had to complete an obstacle course. Students carried water from one end to the other.
“They are trying to figure out how to get water inside the balloon without running water, so they make funnels,” Hicks said. “We have only had one group who was unable to build a successful container.”
Students are encouraged to explore while at Saturday University. This is part of thinking outside of the box.
Sheena Newman, elementary supervisor for county schools, said she is grateful to Lee for the opportunities given to students. Newman, Hudson, Sargent, and Anderson hope the experience encourages students to attend college.
“Some may never have had the opportunity to visit a college,” said Anderson.
Added Hudson, “It is exciting for students to be on a campus and interacting with college students.”