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Elementary school students enjoy superstar treatment

by Cindy Hess, communications and marketing last modified Dec 05, 2013 10:17 AM

When dozens of fourth-grade students from two local elementary schools arrived at the Rauch Planetarium Dec. 2, they were invited to walk down a red carpet amid applause and enjoy the “paparazzi” flash of cameras.

Elementary school students enjoy superstar treatment

Cochran Elementary fourth grader Hassan Iqbal is interviewed by a local TV station while fellow student, Mackenzie Edwards (in purple coat), waits her turn. The youngsters were among six students whose stories were showcased at the Dec. 2 event.

Why such fanfare?

The event marked the culmination of a semester-long “This I Believe” project that encouraged the youngsters to define their core values while honing writing skills. About 80 students from Cochran Elementary and Atkinson Academy participated.

The program was the brainchild of faculty and students in the College of Education and Human Development. The exercise was designed to help CEHD students become effective teachers and, at the same time, help the elementary students master skills such as organizing thoughts and expressing themselves through writing.

“At first it was hard for the fourth-graders to articulate their belief statements,” said Christine Sherretz, an assistant professor of literacy who organized the project. “But they learned quickly and many of the stories are beautiful and compelling.”

Graduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences also participated in the program by creating two videos—one that chronicled the teaching and learning process and another that gave each author a few moments in the spotlight to share a core belief. The “spotlight” video was shown at the Dec. 2 event.

Students Harley Ferris, Jessica Winck and Megan Hartline produced the elementary school videos as part of their community literacy class taught by English professor Mary Sheridan. Other rhetoric and composition students in that class worked with community partners such as Women in Transition and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth on other projects related to their identified needs.

“We look at how writing functions in the world. This is a class that’s trying to see what really happens,” Sheridan said.

Documenting the younger students’ work became “an opportunity to help kids share their words” with a larger audience, Ferris said.

“I feel like we have a responsibility to attend to literacy outside the university,” Winck said. “On a personal level, it was really fun to see what the kids were doing with their literacy development.”

“This I Believe” began in the 1950s as a radio series by journalist Edward R. Murrow. A book by the same name was released in 2007 with a collection of essays written by people from all walks of life. The book is the university’s Book in Common for the 2013-2014 academic year.



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