When it comes to service through education, several Hendrix professors have focused on partnerships with public schools in Arkansas in attempt to raise the achievement of elementary and secondary students.
Hendrix College’s Early Literacy Program – a partnership between Hendrix College and Sallie Cone Elementary School in Conway – was created in 2004 by Dr. Susan Perry as an intervention program at the elementary school, allowing Hendrix students to work with children who need extra help reading or writing. The program began in grades K-2 but quickly expanded into third and forth grades soon after it was first implemented.
The program has continued and remains an interactive learning tool for education students enrolled at Hendrix College. Through HELP, Hendrix students begin working with small groups of children on a weekly basis throughout the spring semester of their sophomore year when they enroll in a course titled “Children's Literature.” During the experience, Hendrix students are expected to incorporate children's literature into all of their weekly lessons which include a variety of instructional techniques, including readers' theatre, interactive reading aloud, storytelling, puppetry, and other innovative lessons. Students continue working in the program during their junior years as they enroll in the upper-level education courses at Hendrix.
As Hendrix students work with their small groups of children, they are coached by the instructor of the course. Lessons are video-taped and critiqued by classmates and instructors on a weekly basis so Hendrix students can improve their teaching techniques, skills, and strategies. Hendrix students guide all of their instruction using a variety of assessments they administer to their children at the beginning and middle of the semester. All assessment information is shared with each child's teacher.
The program has been so successful it is used as a model by other institution and recently received the Innovation in Teacher Education Award from the Southeastern Regional Association of Teacher Educators (SRATE).
Above the Line
The Above the Line Project, funded by Hendrix College Odyssey program and designed by Dr. James Jennings, an associate professor of education and history at Hendrix, studied 22 third graders in the Forrest City School District who previously scored “below” or “below basic” on the Arkansas Benchmark Exam, a state-sponsored testing program designed to grade the educational aptitude of public school students. Following three weeks of intensive remedial studies utilizing the Above the Line Project curriculum, a majority of students improved their test scores in a number of subject areas.
The Above the Line Project also aims to use strategies to improve parental attitudes toward education and involvement by providing parental support skills, as measured by pre- and post-attitudinal surveys and periodic implementation surveys. All 20 parents surveyed as a part of the recent Above the Line Project at Forrest City answered “Yes” when asked “If the Above the Line Project could be offered as an after-school program at your school, would you be interested in enrolling your child?”, while only one of the parents said they would not be interested in attending a special monthly class for parents designed to provide parenting skills associated with learning at home.
Feedback from the Forrest City parents was wholly positive.
“During this project it allowed me to really evaluate myself as a parent,” one parent wrote on the anonymous survey. “I thought I was active with my child because I was present with him. But I can see that if I slack off of him any he will slack off also. So it’s my responsibility to make sure that he’s performing at a level where he needs to be by any means necessary.”
Ridin’ Dirty with Science
Science was made fun this past summer for a group of public school students in Conway. A team of Hendrix College students, led by Hendrix associate chemistry professor Dr. Liz Gron, hosted “Ridin’ Dirty with Science,” a free two-day camp for students in grades 4-7. The Hendrix students teamed with the Faulkner County Boys and Girls Club for the project in attempt to foster an interest in science in elementary and middle school students.
The camp included three main lab experiments. The first was “The Invisible: What grows on water fountains, doorknobs, and telephones?” The second experiment was “Caught Dirty Handed: Are your hands clean after washing them?” The final experiment was “Cleaning with Oranges: How to make cleaning products from orange peels and dry ice.”
Faulkner County Boys and Girls Club program director, Marie Abrams, believes this is a great opportunity for the kids to learn. “Most of the children now want to be scientists after ‘Ridin’ Dirty with Science.’”
Camp participants aren’t the only ones who learned from this project. “The Hendrix students organizing this activity learned about translating science to other students, how to organize and manage a large project and how to network with the larger Conway community,” said Gron.