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Children, parents create together on final day of College For Kids

Barry McNamara
Sawyer Fletcher works side-by-side with his father, Ed Fletcher, on the final day of College For Kids on June 23 at Monmouth College. They were among several groups of students and parents creating works in Sue Keener’s class, “Art & Math Collide.”
MONMOUTH, Ill. – During the final session of “Art & Math Collide” Friday morning at Monmouth College, it wasn’t only the two academic disciplines combining to make a pretty picture.

Students and parents also joined creative forces in the College For Kids class led by Sue Keener, a teacher in the Sherrard school district. On Friday, the summer enrichment program for gifted and talented children in the area completed its 37th year at Monmouth.

“It’s a great opportunity for him – that he’s still learning over the summer,” said Emily Hergert of her son, Cohwen Hanneman. “This is his third year here, and it’s something different every year.”

“You get to do things you normally don’t get to do,” said Hanneman.

Next door in “American Lego Warriors,” parents were also involved in their student’s projects. Prior to the concluding session, instructor Teresa Nelson assigned her students to create “brain puzzles” for their parents to solve. Once the puzzles were solved, the students and parents collaborated on creating their own Lego projects.

“Sometimes for parents it can be hard to find the time to sit down and just play with their kids,” said Nelson, who works in the College’s educational studies department as associate director of service learning.

“Throughout the two weeks, we did group challenges and challenges in pairs,” she added. “It helped the students learn to work with others and work on their social skills. I think that’s even more important to them than the specific work they did with the Legos.”

Nelson, who prepares Monmouth students to become teachers, said she enjoyed the opportunity to work with elementary school students again. This year’s College For Kids was open to students entering grades four through nine.

“It’s incredible,” said Kathy Mainz, who has directed College For Kids for 10 years and has a total of 26 years working with talented and gifted students. “I watch these kids literally grow up. We wind up working with some of these kids for five or six years. They might be shy and quiet for the first two or three years, and then I see them become dynamic leaders in junior high, confident in their abilities.”

Mainz has a passion for working with such students because “I was one of these kids.”

“I lived to be able to go on the Super Saturday sessions we had in the Quad Cities,” she said. “I know how important to me it was.”

Keener has sent students from Sherrard to College For Kids for several years.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids to go beyond what’s in the regular classroom,” she said. “It’s also a great opportunity for them to meet students from other districts.”

A dozen school districts were represented this year, said Mainz.

The learning opportunity is not only for the students. Emma Vanderpool, a May graduate of Monmouth, has worked with the program for the past four summers and knows it will help her career.

“As a future educator, working for College for Kids is remarkably fulfilling and enjoyable,” she said. “Even though it’s summer, they’re all so engaged and interested. It’s absolutely amazing the amount of material we can cover in just two weeks — and they soak it all up like sponges.”

During her final session of “Latin,” Vanderpool had students (and their parents) create wax tablets and practice writing like Roman school children would have done more than 2,000 years ago.

Elsewhere around the College For Kids campus, students broke a piñata in “Around the World in 10 Days,” staged a performance of The Jungle Book in “Page to Stage” and played a game of baseball using rules from the 1800s in “Baseball Fun.”

“I can really see his creativeness come out,” said Hergert of her son. “Last year, he took a Star Wars class, which was really cool. It’s all very broad and fun, and very creative.”