College of Charleston’s Literacy Outreach Initiative aims to inspire love of learning, college ambition
About a half-dozen fifth-graders crowded around a makeshift track to see how far the toads and frogs would hop.
Their assignment at the College of Charleston on Monday was to figure out the best jumper, but educators hoped students would remember much more than the academic lesson.
“We want them to have a better sense of college and feel like this is a place for them,” said Trisha Folds-Bennett, associate dean of the Honors College.
The elementary school students’ visit to campus is part of the college’s third annual Literacy Outreach Initiative. The goal is to engage college students in the community around literacy and expose elementary students to the college.
The college has a partnership with Charleston County schools, and it sends Honors College students into seven high-poverty schools for about a month to work with elementary students. Grade-school students later visit the college and do activities related to their classroom instruction.
Last year, the program involved fourth-graders and history lessons. This year, organizers decided to continue working with the now-fifth-graders while adding a new crop of fourth-graders, essentially doubling the program’s reach. They also focused on a new subject: science.
“We wanted to do something different,” said Andrea DeSantis, Literacy Outreach Initiative program manager. “We did history last year, so (we thought) doing science would be exciting.”
Students received copies of “The Frog Scientist,” a book about African-American biologist and South Carolina native Tyrone Hayes.
College officials and district teachers developed an elementary curriculum based on the book written by Pamela S. Turner, and classroom teachers used that with students prior to Monday’s field trip.
Bus problems delayed some schools and frustrated organizers. But once the roughly 400 fifth-graders arrived, they were immersed in an hour and a half of structured activities.
They tested amphibians’ jumping skills and, in the process, held and touched them. Some were reticent to do so, while others couldn’t wait.
“See I know how to hold a frog!” Mitchell Elementary fifth-grader Timothy Thompson told his classmates.
He later described the frogs as “slippery” and the toads as “nice and soft.” He would’ve held the baby alligator an educator from the South Carolina Aquarium brought to the day’s program, but that wasn’t allowed.
Thompson said this wasn’t his first trip to the college, and he’s thinking about enrolling there once he finishes high school.
“When I grow up and become famous, I’m going to donate so much money to this school,” he said.
His classmate Bradley Mobley used his cellphone to take pictures of everything he saw — from the staircase of the college’s new School of Sciences and Mathematics Building to the fossils in the Natural History Museum he toured.
“I think this is a fascinating place to go, and I think you can learn lots of fantastic things,” he said.
His favorite part, he said, was seeing the “giant jaw of the shark” because, simply put, “I love sharks.”