Last year, we reported on a semester long partnership between the School of Education and McElwain Elementary in the Adams 12 Five Star School District, in which teacher education students worked weekly in third grade classrooms as Reading and Writing ‘Buff Buddies.’
This spring, Professors Elizabeth Dutro and Bridget Dalton, PhD Candidates Ashley Cartun and Ellie Haberl, Principal Ardell Rivera-Francis, and teachers Jack Chambers (a CU alumnus), Kim Melnychenko, and Marisa Rydzy continued the fulfilling relationship with a new cohort of undergraduate and third grade students. And again, the team celebrated the culmination of a semester of reading and writing together with a much-anticipated field trip to CU Boulder.
The McElwain third graders arrived wide-eyed and full of excitement. Just as it was many of these students’ first time seeing a college campus, many will be first generation college students themselves. Indeed, one parent of a student who attended last year announced in a district board meeting that the field trip to CU had specifically “motivated my child to strive to attend college.”
Students began the day sharing course projects in groups with their Buff Buddies in the UMC, followed by campus tours led by CU Students from SORCE (Student Outreach & Retention Center for Equity), lunch at the C4C, and finally, time on the practice court and tours of the basketball facilities at the Coors Event Center led by Director of Basketball Operations Bill Cartun and–to the kids’ sheer delight–joined by CU’s mascot, Chip.
Third graders also enjoyed connecting with their CU Buff Buddies, with whom they had developed close relationships over the semester. Teacher education students spent every Thursday in McElwain classrooms, learning from the teachers and students, and leading mini-lessons on current third grade content using strategies from their Reading and Writing Methods course.
As Regina expressed, “My Buff Buddy taught me how to stretch out the words so that I could read them. When there was a word I didn’t know… like in the book, The Cat in the Hat, there is a boy named Conrad but I didn’t know that word, so I made it ‘con’ and ‘rad’ and then I knew it was Conrad!”
Dario likewise cited strategies that improved his reading. “I really liked the Buff Buddies coming on Thursdays because they learned about our reading and writing and helped us with new ways to read. Like they taught us to use ‘visualization’ and ‘chunking’ and it helped me read better.”
Reflecting on her experience in the course, CU undergraduate Alex wrote, “Through video recording, observations, and enactments of writing instruction, I would teach my lesson and my peers would help me see areas I could improve and through the video I could critique myself. . . I think one of my favorite [moments] was after the first time I did the lesson. I loved seeing myself teach, but what really made my day was when one of my peers came up to me after and said to me, ‘This might sound weird, but I think you are going to be an excellent teacher!’ I was so happy because I knew this is exactly what I was supposed to be doing.”
Professors Dutro and Dalton thank those who contributed to making this trip and the larger research-practice partnership a reality, including WISE (Women Investing in the School of Education), CU Outreach, ODECE (Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement), SORCE, CU Spirit Squad, CU Men’s Basketball, and the School of Education. They hope that this partnership will continue for many cohorts of McElwain third graders full of promise and their outstanding teachers.