Austin College Grad Students Lead Summer Learning Adventure
This summer marks the 15-year collaboration between the Austin College Austin Teacher Program (ATP) and Sherman Independent School District to offer Thinking Camp to the Gifted and Talented elementary students in the district.
Thinking Camp is a program dually designed to give ATP graduate students an opportunity to develop teaching skills and provide a rich learning experience for area elementary students. The annual program is coordinated by Dr. Julia Shahid, Austin College Education Department Head and associate professor of education, and Cyndi Petray, SISD gifted and talented teacher.
“We are thrilled to have this partnership with the Sherman ISD that exemplifies a win-win for all involved,” said Shahid. “The elementary students have the opportunity for a rich hands-on and minds-on learning. Simultaneously, Austin College students have their first opportunity to run their own class for two weeks as they work with a teammate to accomplish things that a classroom teacher is expected to do.”
SISD students will gather at Jefferson Elementary School, near Austin College, to explore India’s culture for two weeks beginning Monday, July 17, from 8:30 a.m. to noon each day. The program is offered to students who are identified as gifted and talented in the district, and there is currently a waiting list to attend. The camp has experienced growth within the past few years totaling a number of 40 to 50 students.
Austin College graduate students Kristen Annis, Hailey Clendennen, Haleigh Hahn, and Brittney Aldridge will teach this year’s curriculum titled “Exotic India: More Alike than Different.” Rising 2nd through 5th grade Gifted & Talented Sherman ISD students will discover the culture, religion, celebrations, geography, daily life, and challenges of India. The students will also receive dance instructions both weeks led by student members of the Austin College Indian Cultural Association.
Thinking Camp is funded by grant from the Capt. H. T. Hastings Trust. The grant covers costs of curriculum, all supplies, healthy snacks, dance instruction, authentic Indian food, and compensation for the Sherman ISD teacher/liaison.
Shahid emphasized that the program’s ultimate goal is two-fold. First, the program provides a unique, enriching learning experience for the students. Second, the program allows Austin College’s grad students to build confidence in what it means to be a teacher. “It is truly a rich learning experience for all involved,” said Shahid.
Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, international study, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 40 percent of students representing ethnic minorities. A residential student body of approximately 1,275 students and a faculty of more than 100 allow a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. The College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. Founded in 1849, the College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.