Last Saturday morning – instead of watching Super Hero cartoons on TV – more than 100 teens calculated whether Batman is stronger than Superman or whether Wonder Woman is more cunning than Spiderman.
It was all part of SuperSaturday, the math and science camp that gives students in grades 7-9 a chance to learn or reinforce skills in a fun atmosphere. There was the Super Hero exercise, for instance. Provided a data table listing the individual skills of 24 cartoon favorites, students computed, among other things, who were the most vulnerable, who had the greatest powers or best weapon use.
Jose Gutierrez, a Highland 7th-grader who signed up for Super Saturday “because I needed some help on math,” read values from the table while three others in his group used calculators to compute the “mean,” “median,” “mode” and “range.” Ti’Leasha Wright, in the meantime, diligently recorded their answers.
In a Freshman High School classroom across the hall, Crystal Segovia did the same thing with her group. Segovia shocked her parents by signing up for the SuperSaturday session in October after hearing about the opportunity during a school announcement. “They were actually surprised that I wanted to come because I like school – but I’m not very good at it,” the freshman admitted. “I needed help in my math and science and I just decided this would be a good thing for me.”
Urenco, which financed the camp as well as prizes that include Ipads to be given away when the program concludes in April, agreed the camp was a good thing – for everybody. “We sat down with the Hobbs schools and listened to their assessment that they really needed to help improve the math and science scores in our community,” Urenco spokesperson Brenda Brooks said. “Urenco helping to do that benefits the students, the community, and, in the long run, us - so we were happy to help with that.”
Nine teachers and one high school senior – Kishan Patel – signed up as instructors for the program. Patel, who plans on majoring in chemistry, volunteered for a simple reason: “I’m trying to get other students to like the subject like I do,” he said.
Hobbs High School math teacher Keith Bausman signed up because improving the skills of younger students will make his job easier when those same students show up in his high school classroom.Bausman added that creative lesson planning is a key to Super Saturday success. “It’s really a motivational program that is designed to be interactive and integrated,” Bausman said. “Who doesn’t like working with Super Heroes?”
“The kids like it because it’s hands on,” added Mary Lynn Roper, another teacher who volunteered for the Saturday duty. “It’s generally fun or an outdoor type of activity. We try to mix it up with different things and hold their interest.”
Assistant Supt. Will Hawkins draws up exercises that have included measuring the surface area ofthe football field, basketball courts and the high school swimming pool. “We try to keep them active,” Hawkins explained. “We don’t want the student sitting at a desk doing a work sheet or listening to a teacher drone on. But we also try to put things in a context where a student would experience the reason for needing a particular skill – replacing the wood floor of a basketball gym, for instance.
Houston seventh-grader Priscilla Oronaappreciates the effort. She said the fun factor has been a main attraction for her. “When they said SuperSaturday, I said there’s nothing else to do on Saturday,” Orona said. “Either have fun with people and get to know them or stay home and be bored.”
Hawkins, teachers Debbie Dean and Loretta Milligan along with FHS Assistant Principal Gene Strickland helped create Super Saturday after pinpointingweak areas in science and math test scores, then targeting a wide range of seventh-through ninth-graders who run the gamut of skill levels. Once the original 180 or so signed up for the first session in October, theywere separated into 10 classrooms based on varying skill levels. “We created groups based on ability so no group was stronger or weaker than another,” Hawkins explained. “The teachers have now developed a bond, a relationship with those students. And even though there are different age groups, there’s been no fighting or bully, nothing but respect. The kids are helping each other out.”
Kids like seventh-grader Payton O’Brain.She admits she loves math, science and school in general – which is the reason she shows up every month. Plus, she likes meeting new classmates and lending a helping hand. “Sometimes it takes a little longer for other kids, so I always try to help. For me, (Super Saturday) is pretty much like a giant hangout while you are learning stuff,”O’Brain said.
Seventh-grader Celeste Martinez, on the other hand, said she’s “okay at math but wants to learn more.” And the fact that she learned a concept in SuperSaturday that later came up in her regular math class at Houston – and she was the only one in her group who knew the answer – was a big boost to her self-esteem. “It’s actually kind of fun here,” Martinez said with some note of surprise.“I thought it would be like school – boring.”
Another teacher, Loretta Milligan, acknowledges that a handful of students may be attendingSuperSaturday for the prizes. In addition to a drawing that will award those Ipads to students with perfect attendance, each SuperSaturdaysession concludes with high-energy music, a pizza party and the handing out of dozens of $10 and $15 gift certificates.
“The carrots are good,” Milligan said. “You almost need that for this grade level. But just getting them here means that they are having the opportunity for definite progress and growth. I have one girl who isn’t afraid to ask questions all the time. Every time she walks out of that door understanding more than she did when she walked in -- and really that’s the whole point.”
The girl in question – 7th-grader Brianna Dean – admits she had poor math grades in sixth grade. But she credits her Houston math teacher, Stephanie Stevens, and Super Saturday with the “A” she currently is making in math.
“To me, this is really fun. I love the searches, I love the bingo problems, I love the pizza,” Dean said. “I like it more than regular school.”