38th annual DreamFest focused on STEM education


HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — While efforts to support kids who need a little extra help in school are often highlighted, educators in “gifted and talented” programs say their students need extra attention from time to time as well.

Hundreds of students got it in northern Kentucky Monday during an annual event called DreamFest.

What You Need To Know

  • NKU hosted the 38th annual DreamFest on Monday

  • The event gives students in “gifted and talented” programs a chance to work on projects and socialize

  • The focus of this year’s event was on STEM education

  • One educator says gifted education is often overlooked

It may come with a sense of pride and accomplishment, but being labeled the “smart kid” in class can unfortunately also bring increased pressure or feelings of isolation.

But make no mistake, “smart kids” like to have fun, too.

“I have popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and I’m shooting candy. And my goal is to hit the target,” said Walton-Verona Middle School seventh grader Henry Hincks.

Hincks was one of about 800 grade school students in gifted and talented programs across 11 school districts in five northern-Kentucky counties who spent the day at Northern Kentucky University while college students were away on spring break.

The Northern Kentucky Association of Gifted Educators and NKU’s Institute for Talent Development and Gifted Studies organized the 38th installment of DreamFest.

“Our school has a good GT program, but it’s not the biggest thing. So we don’t really do as many activities,” Hincks said. “But these field trips we go on to different places, it’s always a lot of fun. It’s very beneficial to students because they get to meet other people, so it improves your leadership and your social skills. And you just get to learn more. It really just brings kids together.”

Students explored hands-on activity stations and workshops themed around STEM knowledge and critical and creative thinking. DreamFest’s main-stage presentation featured the Kentucky Science Center presenting Ion Jones and the Lost Castle of Chemistry. 

Fellow Walton-Verona student Lola Stanley, an eighth grader, said DreamFest is a day she and others look forward to.

“It shows you different options potentially for careers, or just hobbies and talents and stuff that you never really get to see on a normal daily basis,” Stanley said. “For me, it’s more like just trying new stuff out and deciding later down the road. But I think it could spark a different interest in a new career for someone.”

Stanley and Hincks’ teacher, Aaron Linville, is the gifted and talented coordinator for the Walton-Verona Independent School District. He said his students need events like DreamFest.

“Gifted education is something that I think a lot of people overlook. And it’s something that honestly these kids, they need something different. They need a way to work with other people, and they need to be able to come together and explore their gifts and talents,” Linville said. “It gets them out to see that, ‘hey, there are other kids that are just like me.’ Because that is one thing that you see a lot in middle school is that peer pressure, that, ‘I don’t want to be seen as the smart kid.’ But here, ‘hey, I have the same interests that you do, and you can talk and collaborate.”’

DreamFest began in the mid-1980s with a focus on the performing arts. Since then, the event has taken many forms, but has always called NKU its home.