The first- through fifth-grade students, representing several Grayson County elementary schools, spent the entire morning each day at Jefferson School in the in the annual summer enrichment program, offered by Austin College students and faculty of the Austin Teacher Program (ATP).
This year’s camp was modeled after “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” Students “journeyed” to Japan, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Malaysia through daily lessons. The students spent a day studying each country. Social studies and science activities with hands-on experiences focused on better understanding each country. For a few activities, the elementary students went “to college”—holding sessions in the computer lab of the ATP classrooms at the Temple Center on campus.
The collaborative camp is coordinated by Julia Shahid, associate professor of education in the ATP. She, along with administrators and teachers at Jefferson, began the program several years ago, recognizing the need for a summer program. Each year, a few Jefferson teachers take part in the program to provide technical support and to help evaluate the program.
”In their daily lessons, students always were one step behind Carmen Sandiego as she attempted to steal national landmarks from each country,” said Shahid. She said students were given clues to help them see where she was going next in attempt to prevent the thefts. “They have been excellent detectives and always discovered where Carmen would go next.”
Now in its ninth year, past sessions have explored the cultures of Japan and India, as well as the topics of space exploration, weather, and the environment.
The program benefits Austin College as well as area elementary students. Shahid teaches a summer course for ATP students on science and social studies methodologies, but since area schools are not in session, can offer no classroom experience as part of the course. The Jefferson summer program provides her students the opportunity to experience an entire morning in the classroom.
Priscilla Lo, 2011 Austin College graduate and a student in the Austin Teacher Program, is one of the camp teachers. “By teaching at a camp that focuses on science and social studies, I have been able to get more experience in two subject areas that I normally don’t have an opportunity to practice teaching,” she said. “Working with other teachers in the classroom, I also am able to bounce ideas off them and have a better idea of how to teach science and social studies in fun and creative ways.”
Lo witnessed many learning opportunities for her young students. “The camp really opened the kids’ eyes as they learned about the lifestyle, food, clothes, and living situations of people in different countries and allowed them to expand their experiences beyond Sherman,” she said. They had opportunities to try things new things, such as trying lychee Jell-O (Chinese fruit) and learning a Korean song. In addition, they were able to get small group instruction, which enhanced their learning and allowed teachers to check for understanding, especially when doing science experiments.
Master of Arts in Teaching graduate students who taught the camp are listed below, along with their hometowns.
Anna Covington of Allen, Texas;
Nicole Gilliam of Denison, Texas;
Meaghan Gomm of Houston, Texas;
Ashley Johnson of Cedar Park, Texas;
Priscilla Lo of Plano, Texas;
Lauren Northrup of Bedford, Texas;
Chelsea Parker of Quinlan, Texas;
Lisa Tillett of Van Alstyne, Texas;
Sarah Underwood of McKinney, Texas.
ATP students prepare the summer curriculum, which incorporates higher level thinking skills and aligns with state curriculum standards. The students have full responsibility for preparing the lessons, pulling together the resources, and determining how each team, divided by grade level, coordinates the day. The ATP students further prepare for the sessions with exploration of teaching methods. At the close of each day’s session at Jefferson, the ATP students discuss the morning’s classes and apply their own classroom learning to the actual experiences with the students. Shahid and the Jefferson teachers involved, who observe each session, evaluate the learning experience, and provide feedback to the student teachers.
“This camp is like no other teaching experience I have ever had,” said Chelsea Parker. “It has been filled with fun, hands-on activities that kept the students on the edge of their seats. There is nothing more memorable than learning by using all of your senses. The students, and teachers, had the opportunity to do this every day.”
The Austin College Teacher Program is a five-year program that introduces students interested in teaching to experiences in the classroom early in their education. By the time students complete the program, they already have spent considerable time in teaching situations. Students at Austin College major in a subject of their choice then complete a Master of Arts in Teaching in the fifth year. The primary goal of teacher education at Austin College is to prepare teachers who will have the breadth and depth of intellectual development achieved through a rigorous undergraduate liberal arts education. The ATP is fully accredited through the Texas State Board for Educator Certification.
Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the college is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges that Change Lives.