When Ed Adams first began teaching PE at Dearborn Park Elementary School in Seattle, he asked the kids what they did on their visits to local colleges and universities. The reports were often less enthusiastic than hoped: “We walked around, sat in a boring class, and heard all about who built every single building.”
This was not inspiring feedback for a program designed to get students excited about envisioning themselves as college bound. Ed went home and talked with his wife Ruth Adams, now the vice president for academic affairs, about whether the students might visit SPU, and a collaboration with the School of Education was born.
This year Dearborn Park completed its 11th visit. On January 22, nearly 60 eager fifth graders experienced life on the SPU campus through a carefully planned day of activities. Students participated in a science lesson and an interactive research activity related to their social studies curriculum, and enjoyed skills-building games led by Health and Human Performance students in Royal Brougham. They learned how to set goals for getting into college and enjoyed lunch in Gwinn — a perennial highlight. Students especially enjoyed their tour of the lower campus and playing tag in Tiffany Loop.
What made this year unique was the unparalleled level of SPU student participation. Normally around 25 hosts are recruited through the Young Educators Club and other campus service and outreach groups. This year, two undergraduate professors brought their entire classes, which resulted in over 50 hosts, and ensured that almost every Dearborn Park fifth grader had an SPU student as a guide and mentor all day long.
SPU students wrote reflections detailing their experiences and considering how this experience impacted their vocational journey. One student wrote, “I gained a lot of motivation and inspiration from this activity ... I only spoke with 20 or so of the children, but their differences were outstanding and I was humbled by the variety of people I think they’ll become.” Another student said, “Because I want to become a teacher, it was great to get the chance to work with the students the whole day.”
Because this program has become such a tradition, both schools experience the energy of the day in meaningful ways. SPU faculty, students and staff wave to the students throughout the day as they move from activity to activity. SPU students look out for the brightly colored shirts while the fifth graders swarm the pizza station in Gwinn Commons. And after years of seeing their classmates’ photos in the school hallways, Dearborn Park students know right where to line up for their treasured group photo on the steps of Peterson Hall.
Envisioning themselves as college bound helps students begin to realize the importance of decisions they make now, and guides them in selecting sixth grade or middle school courses that open an academic path toward college. In a community so impacted by poverty, students will remember positive experiences such as this when they plan for their future.
The School of Education is delighted to support this program, and is now gearing up for the first of two visits by 100 kindergarteners in the spring!