Thursday, September 13, 2007

Little Man on Campus

Over the summer, my six year old went to college. No, he’s not that kind of a super-genius – keep in mind that this is the kid who, just this very minute, shouted from his bathtub, “Mommy! I just made my armpit fart!” He participated in a program run by our local community college that offers enrichment courses for elementary school kids on the college campus.

I first heard of this program through AJ’s school’s gifted teacher, who recommended it and was one of the program’s ffounders. After third grade, the programs are limited to kids who have been defined as gifted either by their schools or through formal testing. But for younger kids like AJ, the programs are open to all who are interested, which I think is great. For one thing, testing is expensive and of dubious value. And for another thing, why shouldn’t any kid have a chance to pursue his or her curiosity about something?

The college for kids offers a variety of courses, most of which, for AJ’s age group at least, seem to be centered around science topics. We saw that there was one about space, AJ’s favorite subject, and signed up for it right away. It was the first thing on our summer schedule.

For four days, AJ spent three hours with three other kids and a teacher talking and learning about space. Three hours is a long time, even for graduate students. I dread the day I have to teach a three hour seminar. I’m not sure I have the attention span. But space is AJ’s favorite subject and as far as I can tell, three hours is not enough. He comes home still asking questions, wanting to look things up and begging to watch his favorite space videos.

The teacher seemed to have tailored the class for the interests and abilities of the kids who showed up. They played games, did art and did research. They were each assigned two planets to research and had several worksheets with questions they had to find the answers to. They were given books and several recommended websites and more or less turned loose to see what they could find. AJ learned a lot, not so much about space, but about how to find out the answers to things he didn’t know. That’s something a lot of kids don’t get in school until much later. The teacher treated it like a treasure hunt and they loved it. AJ learned to love the process of finding things out, not just the end result.

Currently AJ is busy with first grade and football and friends. He doesn’t have as much time to do research with 30 minutes of homework a night. But I know there’s more research in his future because the to-do list on his desk reads:

1. Do reading log.
2. Write to pen pal.
3. Research chromosomes.

3 comments:

FreshHell said...

I wish they had a similar program here, though how Dusty'd get there I haven't a clue. We have our intro meeting with the G&T teachers on Tuesday night. I'm anxious to hear about the program and their plan. Stay tuned.

Harriet said...

I never would have known about this program if our school's gifted teacher hadn't told us about it -- she was one of the founders. It's poorly advertised and consequently poorly attended. But the teacher who works with AJ's age group is really enthusiastic and really inspired AJ. I can't believe that it would be all that difficult to get a program like this going if you had a teacher who was motivated and a school willing to donate space and resources. I can't wait to hear about Dusty's program either. I hope you'll blog about it here. I'd be interested in seeing several different types of educational experiences chronicled here. I wonder if I could track down any other writers. Hmm.

Freshhell said...

I will do that. The school system participates in a program called Odyssey of the Mind (www.odysseyofthemind.com) that a friend of mine's daughter participated in for years. It's "creative problem solving" which....is kind of a broad description. I don't know if Dusty will participate this year because it sounds like there's a lot of parental involvement but it might be good for her down the line.