Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 6:41 PM on Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Elementary students get one-day taste of college

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Students from West Homer Elementary and Chapman schools got their first taste of the college experience Friday. The day, complete with four classes, was part of "I'm Going To College," co-sponsored by the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Southeast, Northwest Education Loan Association and the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education.

The 75 students — sixth-graders from WHES and fifth- and sixth-graders from Chapman — were divided into groups and rotated between four classes offered at Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage.

"The students were very excited about the program and the opportunity to experience a day of 'college,'" said WHES teacher Melissa Cloud. "This is the first year we've had the chance to participate in the program so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was very happy with the experience."

Debbie Boege-Tobin, Kachemak Bay Campus science professor, gave an introduction to marine biology, complete with a hands-on introduction to samples and dissections of squid, shark and sea otter. Michael Hawfield, a history and political science professor at KBC, guided the students through an exercise using electronic maps to compare the routes of Alaska explorers with the students' travels around the state. Working in small groups, the youngsters were introduced to geo-political maps and the development of historical data.

Using familiar games of chance as a tool, math professor Sara Reinert taught students how to use mathematics to estimate the probabilities of different outcomes. Psychology professor Brian Partridge offered a class in "the magic of the mind." Through observing videos and participating in various exercises, the college visitors learned how the body's senses are less than foolproof.

"Without exception, my class came back more jazzed about college than they had been before we left," said Cloud.

"Kids especially liked the psychology presentation. I think it was the first time some of them had been exposed to how the brain operates and makes sense of our world."

Thirteen campuses across the state, including KBC, take part in "I'm Going To College." This is the first year KBC has participated.

"(KBC Director) Carol Swartz heard about the program and said, 'Let's look into this.' We knew it was a really good thing for kids to experience as they're making decisions about whether to go to college or not," said Kim Frost, KBC student and enrollment services coordinator. "This is the age when they have those first thoughts about it."

Prior to the event, students worked through an activity book that explored different types of post-secondary education, financial aid and careers. They also were given a survey that assessed their familiarity with college.

In the wrap-up program following their day at KBC, the students completed a post-survey that included questions asking students to describe their favorite part of the one-day program, the campus, other impressions and their career goals. Shelly Morgan, with the Alaska Commission on Post Secondary Education since January, will take the data from the two surveys and compare it to see how the students' thoughts have changed as a result of the program.

"So far, from the one campus I've done, there definitely was a change, with students wanting to go to college," said Morgan.

In addition to the introduction to college, the students also went home with some new items.

"The college gave them nice certificates, new backpacks and a piggy bank with their first $1 toward college, so everyone returned to school with big smiles on their faces," said Cloud. "It was a great day."