A summer learning program on the UC Merced Campus is helping children and providing career insight for UC students.
For Florence, it all clicked into place when she saw a student’s eyes light up after grasping a concept in the classroom.
“I never worked with children,” she said. “So when I could tell they really got it, it was a real sense of achievement.”
Florence, a UC Merced Sociology major, is one of the intern presenters at an enrichment program taking place on the campus this summer.
On the surface, this summer school class looks like any other enrichment program. Children from kindergarten through fifth grade are getting help with social skills, learning strategies, and fun activities through the curriculum.
But with a closer look, it’s apparent the elementary and middle school students are not the only ones learning.
This is the Summer Enrichment Program of the Harvest Park Educational Center sponsored by the Valley Harvest Church.
The Center is partnering with UC Merced to offer the program for young learners. This program includes internship opportunities for UC Merced students like Florence and her two colleagues Rose and Diana.
“They are educators, not credentialed teachers” said Harvest Park Managing Director Gloria Morris when talking about the UC Merced students.
“They present some of the sessions, serve as classroom facilitators, and help keep the classes moving.”
The program is running for five weeks during the summer for three days each week.
Classes begin after eight in the morning, and the class is dismissed shortly after noon.
For the other UC Merced students serving as interns in the program, this is one of the first exposures they have working directly with children.
Rose, a psychology major, presented sessions on English Language Arts (ELA) and found the summer enrichment program to be an eye-opening experience.
“The hands-on work with the students has been helpful,” she said. “Students learn in different ways so we work a strategy to explain concepts at their level.”
Diana is a sociology major with a minor in psychology.
She presented sessions on the human brain. That topic may seem a little heavy for this age group, but Diana worked with Director Gloria to tailor the program for the specific audience.
“When I explained something to the whole class, I was worried I might not be reaching them,” Diana said. “But we moved into small groups based on their ages, and working with their interns and internees, we were able to connect the material to them.”
With the help of a classroom assistant known as Ms. V, videos are selected to illustrate lessons on improving learning outcomes.
On the day I visited, a video explaining a five-step problem-solving process was shown to the class. The video was followed with a hands-on application of the process.
The video’s five steps are:
- Identify the problem
- Strategize on how to solve
- Set-up a way to solve
- Solve the problem
- Check the work.
Ms. V provides other program support such as nutrition identification and working directly with the students.
The program embodies the vision of Gloria, a professional psychologist who has authored a book on Principle-Based Lifestyle Training. The expected result from successful Principle-Based Lifestyle Training is the preservation and development of human capital.
“The primary outcome is closing gaps in the academic achievement of our students,” Gloria said. “We do this through the learning going on thanks to our UC Merced interns, and through our focus on helping the children better understand their emotional behavior.”
The enrichment program has been a great opportunity for the UC Merced interns and internees who are trying out new potential career paths. They may become educators, or they may use the experience to help them in whatever line of work they choose after graduation.
For this column, I visited the class on the day of a presentation on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
I was given a seat at the front of the room. From the front of the room, I could see the anxious hands raise up as the young people took advantage of the opportunity to participate.
I could see those faces of children as they responded to questions. I saw eyes brighten as they connected the lesson plan with their own thoughts and ideas.
The real winners from this special summertime experience are the children.
For a few hours a day, a few days each week this summer, they have been immersed in an educational environment that recognizes emotional well-being is just as important as embracing successful learning skills.
The expected results are best expressed with the mission statement found on the website for Principle-Based Lifestyle Training (www.pblt.org):
All students on the Honor roll!
Steve Newvine lives in Merced.
His latest book, California Back Roads, is available at Lulu.com