Kids Having Fun While Learning in Southeast’s Horizons Program


Photo of Veterinarian Dr. Karen Bangert helping Katelyn Strange listen with a stethoscope to the heartbeat of a kitten.

Veterinarian Dr. Karen Bangert, right, helps Katelyn Strange listen with a stethoscope to the heartbeat of a kitten.


June 5, 2009 – Do you visualize/imagine yourself scaling Yosemite’s El Capitan someday? Or do you prefer the virtual world and fantasize about creating the latest must-play gaming sensation? Maybe you consider four-legged friends as some of your best?

No matter what their passion, kids participating in Southeast Missouri State University’s Horizons Summer Youth Enrichment Program this month are taking the first step toward pursuing their dreams.

Emily Holman, who will be a seventh grader at Central Junior High School in the fall, is enrolled this week in “Reaching New Heights: Basic Rock Climbing & Rappelling.”

“I really like to climb,” she said, “but this is my first time to actually take a class about it.”

Kelson Bowen, who will be a sixth grader at St. Vincent de Paul School in Cape Girardeau next academic year, said he’s taking the class “just to have new experiences and meet new people.”

Tom Holman, assistant professor of health, human performance and recreation, and instructor of the “Reaching New Heights” course, said, “I want them to have some fun and learn some basic climbing skills and techniques. I love to see these kids out active and using their muscle.”

Holman said he’s taking the class to Giant City State Park in Makanda, Ill., on Friday to give the children an opportunity to try out their new climbing skills in an outdoor setting. The children began learning the fundamentals of climbing this week in Southeast Missouri State’s Student Recreation Center-North.

“A lot of these kids have no connection with nature. We need to teach them that we need to have an appreciation and an ethic” concerning the outdoors, Holman said. “I love being outdoors. The outdoors has value. If they appreciate the outdoors, then maybe they will be good stewards of the environment.”

In addition to “Reaching New Heights: Basic Rock Climbing & Rappelling,” several children participated this week in the Horizons Junior Veterinarian class.

The Horizons program has offered the Junior Veterinarian class for a number of years, and it remains one of the most popular courses, according to Christy Mershon, assistant director of Extended and Continuing Education at Southeast.

“Students in the class get to experience a little bit of what it actually takes, beyond a love of animals, to become a veterinarian,” Mershon said.

The class is taught by veterinarian Dr. Karen Bangert, who brings years of experience, and many of her pets, to the course, Mershon said. Bangert teaches students the basics of animal behavior, anatomy and how to diagnose basic problems in their pets. They also learn how to give shots (to an orange) and even dissect fetal pigs.

“The majority of students who register for this class are girls…and many find themselves a little unprepared for the reality of being a vet,” Mershon said. “This is a true career exploration course showcasing both the “warm and fuzzy” and the (sometimes) gross reality.”

Alaina Baumgart, a fourth grader at St. Vincent de Paul School in Cape Girardeau, alluded to this, saying the students had found hookworms and roundworms in stool samples they viewed using a microscope.

Maddie McClintock, who will be in fifth grade next fall at St. Vincent de Paul, said they also learned how to stitch and how to give shots. Kennedy Davis, who will be a fourth grader at Nell Holcomb School, said the children also had learned how to take samples from animals.

“I hope there are a few of the kids who desire to be veterinarians,” Bangert said. “I really want to instill that in their hearts.”

Another Horizons class this week allowed students to design and develop their own computer game.

“I’ve always wanted to design a video game,” said Andrew Lawson of Cape Girardeau, who will be a fifth grader next year.

This week, the students each designed their own version of a game called “Balloon Pop.”

“It’s really fun making computer games, and you can play on them” too, said Lydia Gentry, who will be a fourth grader at Alma Schrader School. “If you want to be a video or computer game maker, you can learn the basics here,” she said.

Meanwhile in the Art Building, 5- to 8-year olds in the Little Horizons Program were learning “Spanish for Kids.” On Wednesday, the children were learning the words for colors and shapes in Spanish and then embarked on a scavenger hunt throughout the building to enhance their Spanish vocabulary skills.

“I want to be able to talk to my mom and dad in Spanish,” said Sierra Binnie, who is taking “Spanish for Kids” this week and will be second grader at St. Paul Lutheran School.

“I want them to understand that learning a language can be fun,” said Dr. Debra Lee-DiStefano, assistant professor of foreign languages at Southeast, who is teaching the course.

The Horizons program will continue through the end of the month, with new and exciting classes offered each week, giving youth a fun way to learn new ideas and skills not covered in the traditional classroom. While most Horizons classes are geared to youth ages 9 to 14, a few “Little Horizons” classes also are available for children ages 5 to 8 this summer.

Several new courses are available for the first time this summer as well, including a Little Horizons “Marine Biology” class.

“This class will bring the ocean to our southeast Missouri classroom,” Mershon said. “Students will get to touch actual marine animals in a special touch tank and play in sand and water, all while learning more about human impact on our oceans.”

“Stormchaser 101: Junior Storm Academy” will appeal to aspiring meteorologists.

“This has been such a crazy year for weather – it’s the perfect time to get kids interested in the science behind the storms,” Mershon said. “In this class, they get to build their own weather stations, create a tornado and even make it rain inside their classroom – how cool is that?”

The class also takes a field trip to the National Weather Service office in Paducah, Ky., where kids will get to see the “behind the scenes” actions that take place to keep them safe during storms, Mershon said.

“Cardboard Jungle: Creating a New World” challenges kids to think outside the “box” by creating their own cardboard “world” in the classroom, complete with buildings, plants and even inhabitants.

“I love the concept behind this class because it is limited only by the imagination of the students,” Mershon said. “The class emphasizes creativity and artistic expression, but it isn’t your typical art class.”

“Zen and the Art of Math” takes a different approach to art, allowing students to create their own mathematically-based art and investigate how artists used mathematics to create art and architecture.

“Our instructor does a great job of coming up with creative ways to get kids interested in math, which is a tough subject to sell to kids in a summer program,” Mershon said. “This class allows kids to be creative and participate in fun, hands-on activities while still learning basic math principles.”

“Super Kids: Going Green” gets kids who are interested in “saving the world” started down the path to a “greener” tomorrow.

“Everyone is in to ‘going green’ these days,” Mershon said. “This class combines the idea of being a ‘super kid’ who saves the planet and the basic concepts of ‘going green.’ It’s a ‘get your hands dirty’ kind of class where kids experience first-hand how they can make an impact on the world around them.”

Additional classes being offered in the upcoming sessions include: “Let’s Make a Movie,”  “‘Playing’ the Game Show,” “Around the Theater in Five Days,” “Grossology: The Slimy Side of Science,” “Making Things with Chemistry,” “Do You Kung Fu? Martial Arts for Kids,” “Roundup at Rolling Hills Farm,” “Own Your Own Super Bowl Team,” “¡Muy Bueno! Delicious Spanish Culture,” “CSI:  Crime Scene Investigation,” “From Crime Scene to Corrections,” “Photoshop: Graphics with a Twist,” “Junior Architect,” “Junior Engineer,” and “Crazy Comic Creations.”

Courses will be held during one of the remaining sessions this month: June 8-12, June 15-19 and June 22-26. The program offers morning sessions from 9 a.m. to noon, afternoon sessions from 1 to 4 p.m., and all-day sessions from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. All courses will be held on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University and the surrounding areas. Building and room assignments, along with a campus map, will be sent with confirmation of a child’s registration.

Classes are restricted to 16 participants to ensure a quality experience and ample individual attention, Mershon said. All instructors in the program are professionally trained and have practical teaching experience in the areas of instruction. Most of the instructors are Southeast professors. Classes that include lab experiments or those that are physically active will have an assistant to provide additional guidance, she said.

Youth will receive a T-shirt for each course in which they enroll.

Classes range in price from $99 to $149. Registrations are on a first-come, first-served basis. To register for the Horizons Summer Youth Enrichment program, call (573) 986-6879. For more information on Horizons, visit

Alyssa Ogle works on the fundamental of climbing in the Horizons “Reaching New Heights: Basic Rock Climbing & Rappelling” course.