By JESSICA BAUER

LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER

No special qualifications were necessary this week as a group of kids excavated fossils, observed hatching chicks and watched their own hearts pulse on an ultrasound screen.

These students were participating in the interactive Super Kids camp, which is in its 11th year at the University of Central Arkansas Child Study Center.

According to coordinator Lisa Herrington, these students are learning ideas and concepts they would not normally see until college; however, the program comes without admissions standards.

"Sometimes you have to have qualifications or prerequisites to get into summer programs, but if you're a kid, you can come to Super Kids," Herrington said Thursday.

With a new group of elementary students each week for four weeks, Herrington said the camp sees more than 200 young faces.

As many students are repeat customers, the lesson themes rotate each year as well, she said. This year's students are studying to become young paleontologists, young medical scientists and young ornithologists.

Although the primary purpose of Super Kids is to have a camp where all kids, even those with disabilities, are welcome, Herrington said science is also key.

"We do have a science-based curriculum because sometimes science can get pushed to the back burner and teachers don't necessarily have the resources to do the kinds of things we are doing here," Herrington said.

In each of the three rooms, many activity centers were available for students to put their creative, logic and critical thinking skills to work.

Herrington, or "Dr. Lisa" as the kids' in her class called her, spearheaded the curriculum for the burgeoning medical scientists.

Everything from X-rays to skeletons to an actual pig's heart were on display for students to see, feel and experience. Herrington said Super Kids focuses on hands-on learning so students can go beyond simple comprehension.

"Every Wednesday, Dr. Don Steely, a cardiologist, comes over and brings a portable ultrasound machine and shows the kids their own hearts," Herrington said. "They think it's really neat to see what they look like on the inside."

In the paleontologist room, as students passed through the classroom door, instructor Allan West informed them that they had stepped through a time portal and were thrown back into the prehistoric age. He then said they were not only learning about dinosaurs, but actually becoming paleontologists.

"There's a volcano and trees on the wall and pterodactyls flying overhead because we really want them to feel like they are experiencing it firsthand," West said. "We want them to think they really are the paleontologists who have to excavate a fossil so they can clean it to be used by the university."

Although the students were spending a week of their summer vacations in the classroom, many said they were having a blast exploring new ideas.

Third-grader Garrett Pendergraft said he loved digging around in the paleontology room.

"I like the creation stations and the art stations in there because of all the different things you get to do with fossils," Pendergraft said.

Clay Tollett, a third-grade student, said he preferred the activities in the medical scientists room, especially getting his hands on real organs.

"I thought it was fun because you get to touch yucky stuff, but a lot of people didn't like it," Tollett said.

Second-grader Jordan Bierbaum said she liked playing in the centers, "especially playing doctor and putting casts on people."

"But I also liked that I got to make some friends from different schools," Bierbaum said.

(Staff writer Jessica Bauer can be reached by e-mail at jessica.bauer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)