By Lisa Capobianco
Katherine Drechsler and Morgan Duling of DePaolo Middle School recently made a public service announcement (PSA) video called, “Be a Buddy…Not a Bully.” Besides displaying recent facts about bullying nationwide, the video also featured school administrators, faculty and other students holding up signs to share the PSA’s message of anti-bullying with music in the background.
During a recent Board of Education meeting, Katherine and Morgan presented their project—a project made available through an enrichment program developed through the partnership of Southington Public Schools and Middlesex Community College in Meriden. Approximately 44 sixth graders from the district participated in the grant-funded program, which took place during five consecutive Saturdays from March 15 through April 12.
“This enrichment program has completely changed my knowledge about computers and everything that is going on in technology,” Morgan told school board members.
Kim Kalat, a seventh grade social studies teacher at DePaolo who took the project under her wings, said all sixth graders in the district were invited to participate in the partnership, which gave students an opportunity to take free college-level courses. On the last day of the program, students received a certificate of completion after presenting their projects to each other and to parents.
“They were so creative,” said Kalat, who is also a teacher candidate going for an administrative certificate. “This showed them a birds-eye view of what it would be like in a college classroom.”
Approx. 22 students signed up for two different sessions, which were taught by two professors with an understanding and enthusiasm for the content area. During session one, students used the New York Times for critical reading and thinking and the second half of session one was creating animation and video games using the program called “Scratch,” which MIT students put together.
Trevor Messina of Kennedy Middle School, who signed up for the first session, shared his essay on why students should get paid for getting good grades.
“It was enjoyable, and I really hope I get the opportunity again next year,” said Trevor, who was able to use a state-of-the-art computer lab on campus. “The scratch animations were really fun, [and] I liked the professors…they helped me and they guided me on what to do.”
Kalat said Session Two was an introduction to video production and make your own website, which Morgan and Katherine took part in. At the end of the program, students gave ideas for future sessions, including music, theater and art, entrepreneurship, nature and outdoor learning and graphic design.
“The enthusiasm was just infectious,” said Kalat, adding that she also received positive feedback from parents. “It was amazing to see their final products.”
During the meeting, Tami Christopher, the director of Middlesex Community College in Meriden, said a great group of instructors were chosen to teach each session before the students were selected.
“We created an RFP proposal and we sent it out to our faculty at Middlesex Community College but also some colleagues we work with at other colleges in the area and also some professionals at local businesses,” said Christopher. “After the proposals are received, they are reviewed by the Dean of Academics, and those are put forward to the administration of the district we’re working with at the time to make the decision.”
Christopher added that despite the credentials of each professor, candidates are selected based on their understanding and enthusiasm for teaching children.
“We really make sure the professors we choose really have an understanding of what is required as far as diversifying experience and doing hands-on activities with the students,” said Christopher, adding that the enthusiasm of Southington students shined through the program.