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School's staff, students have college on brain

PART OF THE program during Star Center’s Camp College lock-in was an area simulating not just a dorm but what a student will look like after high school. That’s second-grader Zach Lindbloom standing behind a cutout, on a ladder, next to his mother, Elizabeth.

June 08, 2011 | 09:04 AM
Bloomfield — Star Center third-grade teacher Rebecca Hyde said recently that some of her students were discussing what they want to be when they grow up and what college they want to attend.

Thanks to their teachers and school staff, Star Center students have college on the brain. At the start of the year, each classroom adopted a college to study. They backed their universities this fall during a college-style pep rally. They even got into the sports rivalries and dug into the histories and facts of their universities throughout the year, all of which culminated with the recent Camp College lock-in.

But for Hyde and her students, she said an important lesson came out of this discussion between her students. She said they asked her why she didn't go to Stanford for her teaching degree. She told them the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater was a good teaching school.

She said after she explained this to her students, their minds opened up to a crucial fact about college.

Each school has its own strengths, and which one is best depends on what a person wants to do for a career.

"It's not just about one college or one state or one mascot," Hyde said. "It's really about what they want to be."

According to Hyde and Principal Betsy Schroeder, that's part of the theme which has guided so much of the activities and lessons of the 2010-11 school year — lifelong learning. Schroeder credited Hyde for spearheading the effort, for which work began in the spring of 2010, after an inspirational visit from Damen Lopez, author of "No Excuses University."

"We took his idea of college readiness," Schroeder said.

Past years at Star Center involved other commendable themes, of which Schroeder said were successful. This one, however, involved so much work from Hyde and the entire staff that it will be next year's theme as well.

"My hope is that it will continue because I see a real interest — first with the staff, and now with the students," Schroeder said.

"Lifelong learning is their goal. What I think is most impressive is last year, on our staff work day, Rebecca had 19 staff members who gave up their day to come and work on this."

Hyde said there was more community involvement in this theme, but there are numbers to back up the claims of success.

To attend the lock-in, second- to fifth-graders were required to meet math and reading goals. According to Schroeder, 94 percent of these students met the goals.

"I think it speaks volumes that 239 students met their goals," Hyde said.

Camp College

Aside from college being a major focus this year, what could have elementary-aged students so interested in college? Hyde and Schroeder said there was a full slate of activities combining aspects of "college" as well as "camp."

"It was a culmination and a celebration of what these kids have done throughout the school year," Schroeder said.

Hyde said it began with staff members lined up wearing caps and gowns while "Pomp and Circumstance" played in the background.

"This was the children's entry into Camp College," she said, adding it was meant to simulate high school graduation.

What followed included simulations of college life and some summer camp-styled fun.

In the school lobby, a mock dorm room was set up to provide children with a hands-on feel for what it would be like to stay on campus.

There also were virtual campus tours via the school's SMART boards; a pizza dinner; the Star Center Parent-Teacher Organization's book fair featuring "flashing reading;" and a special arts-and-crafts/Q-and-A session where students could create a college pennant while they listened to real college students from UW-Whitewater and Northern Illinois University talk about campus life.

Schroeder said Star Center fourth-graders also should their college projects to Corey Thompson, a professor from Cardinal Stritch. According to Schroeder, these research projects covered such topics as majors, financial aid and how to pay for a college education.

But it wasn't all serious. Hyde said a caricature artist helped memorialize students on the "Wall of Gain" by drawing each student.

There also was a good old-fashioned game of flashlight tag and a viewing of the movie "College Road Trip" starring Martin Lawrence.

"After they did all these activities, we had s'mores, then we went outside and had a bonfire," Hyde said.

About tomorrow

As she said shortly after the college pep rally, the main intention behind this theme is to open up children's minds to the concept of continually learning throughout life.

Schroeder said several parents within the Star Center community supported the cause.

"We have a lot of parents now who are going to college," she said.

"These parents are lifelong learners."

Hyde said she and other teachers tried this year to make college more "concrete" for children. That's why other activities throughout the school year involved tours of the campuses at UW-Whitewater and UW-Milwaukee.

If anything, this effort prompted a first from the Star Center PTO which may help one child actually go to college. Schroeder said the PTO started a $500 scholarship program, available to any student who at least attended fifth grade at Star Center.

She said in the future, she expects to hear from students about what colleges they will go to as a result of this effort. That's likely a factor in why the theme will continue.

Hyde seemed pleased to hear it.

"I think everyone realizes this is not about today," Hyde said. "It's about tomorrow."

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