Belin Blank Center at the University of Iowa

The Belin Blank Center at the University of Iowa provides resources and support for educators and students in the field of gifted education. There are various opportunities and programs for students at grade levels 2 – 12. Students and teachers from 11 countries participated in the various programs at Belin Blank last year, but it is surprising that many local students and parents are not aware of this great opportunity at the U of I.

For more information about the Belin Blank Center and the services they offer, visit their website here.

The weekend and summer programs/ camps are expensive when compared to the other summer camps provided in the state, but if you look at similar programs offered by other colleges in the country, you will find the costs to be in a very reasonable range. They not only have programs in the STEM fields, but you will also find interesting opportunities for the writers, leaders and artists in your life. Applications for Belin Blank’s summer programs are now open and is rated at 17th place among the college summer programs in the country (read here).

Belin Blank Center has commuter programs as well as residential programs. Also, some programs do not require the students to have participated in their BESTS or Talent search program. So watch out for these details before you enroll your child.

My kids have been fortunate to attend different programs at Belin Blank. After attending the “Chemistry Explorations and Investigations” class by instructor Deb Snook, my son said,” The periodic table finally  makes a lot of sense.” He developed interest in chemistry and started exploring more after attending that particular class. Below I am sharing some of the specific programs/camps my children have experienced and enjoyed over the years. 

Above Level Testing (BESTS): If your child has at least one score in the 95th percentile or above on a core subject of a grade-level test such as the Iowa Assessments, they are eligible to participate in Belin Blank’s talent search program. Read more about Bests on their website here . 2nd-6th gaders take the I-Excel and 7th- 9th graders take ACT.           I-Excel is completely free for any 5th grader who lives in Iowa. You can learn more about above level testing (read here) and gifted education (read here) on Belin Blank’s blog. Even though the test is intended to find the giftedness in your child, I believe as a parent it helps us also to figure out the subjects which they might need more help with.

Wings : Wings is a one weekend class offered 3 times a year. Kids from Quad cities, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines metro area, Ames etc attend these sessions. I would recommend trying out this program first if you are new to Belin Blank. I believe there are still some openings for the February classes.

Blast (formerly called CHESS): Blasts is the summer commuter program offered for grades 2-6.  Blast is a week long either half day or full day sessions in Iowa city campus. They used to have  Blast locations in Ankeny and Waukee as well till last year. This year I don’t see these locations listed. It is unfortunate that they have discontinued Blast program at the Des Moines metro area locations. I believe if they receive enough interest and requests from parents they might  bring the program back. So parents, please reach out to them at

JSI: JSI is a week long residential program for 6th- 8th graders. The students live in dorms under the supervision of Belin Blank staff. The classes focus on one subject for the whole week and the program keeps the children busy with various activities during  the evenings. The kids learn and enjoy spending their time with other kids who share the  same interests.

I know, I am overloading you with information and this post is getting longer. There are many more programs and events offered by the center and I will try to touch on them in another post.

Meanwhile, checkout this blog which has links to different topics and might answer many of the questions you have about the Belin Blank Center.

If you are looking for similar reputable programs in other states, the Davidson Institute’s website has a good listing of programs by state (read here).

As always, if you have any questions, you can reach me at or leave a comment below.


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