Thursday, November 13, 2008

“Isn't College Fun?”

Jennifer Brink, coordinator of academically based programs with Gordon in Lynn, writes of the En Camino excursion in which 80 fourth graders from Harrington Elementary School in Lynn visited Gordon’s campus:

“That was the best field trip ever!” shouted the kids as they finished up their school day at Gordon College. Jennifer Memmen, director of Adventure Camp and GORP Program, led them in a closing exercise where they tapped their legs, clapped their hands, snapped their fingers and then pointed to each other saying “Yeah!”
“What do we need to celebrate?” she asked. Hands shot up and after each answer she led them in the cheer routine. They wanted to celebrate things like science, seeing the residence halls, eating lunch, the art, being in the big gym, and making silly putty.
The fourth-grade children from E. J. Harrington Elementary School (one of several partner organizations with Gordon in Lynn), spent the morning of Friday, November 7, En Camino, which is Spanish for “on the path.” They learned about college and how it might be a part of their lives someday.
They began the day at the Barrington Center with Professors Mark Stevick and Dawn Sarouff. Dawn shared her early fascination with drawing and art and how that led to a career building theatre sets and teaching acting. Mark followed with a dynamic introduction to poetry, teaching the kids about rhythm, rhyme and meter with examples from classic poets such as Dr. Seuss, Eminem and Shakespeare.
Next, they divided up and visited the science faculty in the Ken Olsen Science Center to spend 30 minutes in a college classroom. Holding up a great horned owl, Professor Greg Keller talked about how owls eat without hands. Professors Dwight Tshudy and Emily Jarvis created a foaming chemistry reaction called Elephant Toothpaste. Professor Craig Story projected images of real beetles, butterflies and other colorful insects onto the big screen so the children could get a good look. Professor Stan Reczek worked with electricity and made their hair stand on end. In each classroom, the enthusiasm and curiosity of both children and faculty was obvious each time a hand shot up or someone said, “That’s cool!”
The children also visited the residence halls and talked with current students. Throughout the day Gordon in Lynn students and A. J. Scholars served as tour guides for the fourth graders. The children were able to ask lots of important questions like “Do you like the food?” and “How do you get along with your roommate?” And next Tuesday, November 18, on the Day of Prayer, the same Gordon students will visit Harrington School to further reflect with the children on their experiences at Gordon.
When Gordon student Dave Bircher asked some of the children what they wanted to be someday, one child answered, “President,” to which another child replied, “Did Barack Obama go to college?” “Yes, he did, and yes, you can too,” someone answered.
Though the path to college can be challenging as some families seek to overcome economic, social and cultural barriers, early exposure to college—like this day at Gordon—is one way to alleviate some of the challenges. It gives kids a vision of college life and an understanding of its importance for their futures. En Camino is a way to do justice for these kids so they too can imagine themselves in college someday.
As Professor Story asked as he pointed to a bright red beetle, “Isn’t college fun?” No one disagreed.

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