Student Programs

At the Belin-Blank Center, we believe that gifted students deserve the chance to learn new things, develop their talents, and make friends who share their interests and abilities. Our programs are designed to do just that. Whether you're looking for a fun way to spend your summer, a way to add challenge to your school day, or even to start college early, we have something to meet your unique needs as a gifted learner.

Summer Programs

Our summer programs take you on a deep dive into a topic of your choice with other bright kids like you. We offer a wide range of rigorous classes to choose from, and most importantly, they are lots of fun! Programs include commuter and residential options for students in grades 2-11 in areas such as science, technology, math, art, writing, and leadership. They take place on the University of Iowa campus, giving you access to valuable university-level resources and experts. Participation in a school’s gifted program is not required.


Blast is a summer program designed specifically for students who have completed grades 2-6 who want to learn all about a particular topic - all while having fun with other bright kids who share their enthusiasm for learning. Students get to choose one class to focus on all day, for a full week – and these aren’t just any regular classes! With past options like Harry Potter, STEAM, Mixed Media Art, Virtual Reality, Programming (and more!), we're sure to have something for any curious kid. Learn more.

Junior Scholars Institute

Students in 6th- to 8th-grade with a deep curiosity, a love of learning, or a lot of talent in a particular area will feel right at home in our Junior Scholars Institute (JSI)! JSI is a one-week residential summer program designed for bright middle school students who want to thoroughly explore a topic – all while hanging out with other middle school kids who want to do the same. JSI students also get to experience a taste of college life by staying overnight in the dorm with their peers for the week! Plus, they get to hang out with their new friends and attend plenty of fun cultural and recreational activities, seminars, and off-campus field trips in the evenings and on weekends.  Learn more.

Blank Summer Institute

The Blank Summer Institute for the Arts & Sciences (BSI) is a prestigious one-week residential summer program for 120 of Iowa’s most talented 7th- and 8th-grade students, nominated by their schools. BSI provides exceptionally talented students with an intensive and advanced educational experience designed to enhance their intellectual and social growth. Each of the students in a class represents a different school, creating a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Iowa's brightest and most promising middle school students to live and learn together for a week. Learn more.

Perry Research Scholars Institute

The Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI) is a two-week residential academic summer program for students in grades 8-10. PRSI students spend their days with a backstage pass to cutting edge facilities and spaces at a major research institution. They'll hear from University of Iowa faculty researchers and their teams about how the research process works, the many different ways that research can look, and even the ways they can pursue a research career. For the duration of the program, they will live in a residence hall with their classmates and experience life as university students.  Learn more.

Secondary Student Training Program

The Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP is a highly selective and intensive summer research program for students in grades 10-11. Students conduct research under the mentorship of world-class faculty at a research-intensive university. In doing so, they explore their interests, enhance their academic skills, and make meaningful friendships with intellectual peers. SSTP offers rare access to elite opportunities that help students realize their academic and professional goals.  Learn more.

Summer Art Residency

The Summer Art Residency (SAR) is a unique opportunity for students in grades 9-12 to work with world-class faculty in a world-class facility. SAR consists of lectures, open class discussions, workshops, and studio time involving a range of expressive opportunities. SAR students spend their time participating in classes, workshops, evening tours, lectures, and events that excite and stretch them as artists. They spend three weeks living and learning with other high school artists from all over the world and finish off the summer by showcasing their creations to their peers, teachers, and the public. Learn more.

Summer Writing Residency

The Summer Writing Residency (SWR) enables students in grades 9-12 to spend their summer in a UNESCO City of Literature - one of only two in the United States - learning from world-class faculty on one of the premier arts campuses in the country, home to the famed Iowa Writers Workshop. Students spend three weeks participating in classes, workshops, evening tours, lectures, and events that inspire and challenge them as writers. They spend that time with other high school writers from all over the world and cap off the summer with a public showcase of their work. Learn more.

Academic Year Programs

During the school year, you may discover that you'd like to take on some extra challenge or enroll in a class that's not offered in your school. Maybe you have an idea or project that you could submit to a competition for a chance to earn recognition or even scholarships! Or perhaps you are ready to leave high school and start college early. Our academic year programs will help you reach your goals and learn new things along the way.

Weekend Enrichment Program

Formerly known as WINGS, our Weekend Enrichment program is designed to supplement what elementary and junior high students are learning in school and give them a chance to explore their interests - or discover new ones! Weekend Enrichment consists of half-day enrichment classes for students in grades 2-8 that take place at the Belin-Blank Center on the University of Iowa campus. Classes in STEM, arts, and the humanities will cultivate students’ interest and spark their curiosity! Learn more.

Invent Iowa

Have you noticed someone having a problem that you think you can fix? Do you have an idea for a product that will make the world a better place? Invent Iowa is the state's foremost competition for budding inventors and entrepreneurs! K-12 students can submit their inventions for a chance to show them off at the state invention convention. If you win big here, you'll earn a spot to represent Iowa at the National Invention Convention, where you will learn more about the invention process and compete for exciting prizes! Learn more.

BESTS Above-Level Testing

Every child deserves to learn something new every day, including the ones that ace every test. It's often the case that bright students are ready to learn things beyond the level of the grade they are in -- but how can you tell what level would be more appropriate for a particular student? One way, called above-level testing, is to give a younger student a test that was developed for older students. The Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) uses above-level testing to uncover information about a student's academic abilities and learning needs, helping parents and teachers discover what that student is ready to learn. Learn more.

Recognition Ceremony

We believe academic talents deserve to be celebrated, in much the same way that athletic or musical talents are celebrated! The Belin-Blank Center’s annual Recognition Ceremony honors the accomplishments of qualifying high-ability students and the teachers who have made a difference in their lives.  Learn more.

Scholastic Art & Writing

Creative high school students can submit their art and writing samples to the nation's most prestigious recognition program, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. As the Iowa and Midwest Region-at-Large Affiliate, we accept art and writing submissions for these two regions, judge those submissions, and hold an awards ceremony recognizing regional winners. Learn more.

Iowa Online AP® Academy

Bright students are often ready for subject material beyond what is typical for their grade, but it is not always feasible for small or rural schools to offer advanced classes. The Iowa Online AP® Academy (IOAPA) provides free access to nearly 30 online advanced courses for Iowa students who do not have access to these courses in their schools. IOAPA classes include Advanced Placement® courses for high school students and high school-level courses for eligible middle school students. Learn more.

Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy

If you think you have to wait until you graduate high school to go to college, think again. The Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy empowers high-achieving students to begin full-time on-campus study at the University of Iowa after their sophomore year of high school. We support you, and a cohort of your peers, every step of the way. Are you ready? Learn more.

Junior Science & Humanities Symposium

The Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (Iowa-JSHS) program is not your average science fair! High school students compete for scholarships and recognition by presenting the results of their original research projects before a panel of judges and an audience of their peers. Students will also have the opportunity to visit cutting-edge university research labs, hear from university researchers about their work and career paths, and network with their peers. Learn more.