18 pages, PDF
Gear Up, Get Ready … for College
by Brenda K. Bredahl, ’90
When Michael Miller, an assistant professor of teacher education, was asked by the UWRF Academic Success Center if his educational psychology class would like to visit with St. Paul middle school students on a college readiness field trip, he said, “No.”
Says Miller, “We said somewhat boldly, ‘We don’t want to participate; we’d rather run it.’”
The St. Paul Public School district agreed, and this fall for the fourth time, some 150 sixth, seventh and eighth graders from Cleveland Middle School and Washington Technology Magnet Middle School will participate in a dynamic pre-college experience event across campus. A day of hands-on, fun interactive activities designed and delivered by Miller’s educational psychology students helps the middle schoolers start imagining themselves as college students.
The Gear Up/Get Ready Program gives students from groups traditionally underrepresented in college the tools and experiences that will help motivate them to complete high school and pursue a postsecondary education. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education through a Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant and administered by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.
Some 2,000 students from fourth grade through high school participate in various experiences at universities and colleges around the Twin Cities, including UWRF. Data on students’ progress and ultimately their choices after high school is collected throughout the program’s two six-year grant periods.
“We saw these field trips as having the potential for a longer-term, more fixed partnership between the university and the St. Paul Public Schools,” says Miller. “This is a great opportunity for pre-service teacher preparation while also serving the broader community.”
Miller’s students design everything from opening ice-breakers to facilitated conversations about facing and overcoming barriers to postsecondary access and success. Teaching approaches include cooperative games, art projects, role-playing and scavenger hunts to learn about campus life, academic majors and skills for success.
“[It’s great] to have an opportunity as a seventh grader to be on a college campus and to be led by a group of college students,” says Kelsey Schonning, a senior from Minneapolis, who is majoring in English and secondary education. “[They] see what it’s like to set foot on a college campus.”
“It’s a great combination of civic engagement and service-learning,” said Miller. “The event offers a safe, fun and positive exposure to college for middle school students and provides authentic training for pre-service teachers. It is incredibly satisfying to see my educational psychology students engage in this type of process. I fully believe that it could be one of the highlights of their pre-service teacher preparation. In educational psychology we are doing a lot of things that promote the university’s mission of preparing creative, ethical and engaged citizens. I think that teacher education programs in general have the potential to be a real leader in achieving such a vision.”
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