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Fifth graders visit campus

Irena Zajickova | Friday, April 24, 2009

Younger kids are a rare site on campus, but two education classes hosted fifth graders from a local public school Thursday to give them a glimpse of college life.

The classes, “Education, Schooling and Society” and “Coloring Outside the Lines,” both taught by Professor Joyce Long, have been exchanging letters with students from Brown Intermediate Center all semester.

The two classes visited their pen pals at Brown earlier in the semester, but Thursday was the first time the fifth graders came to Notre Dame.

Long said the visit benefited both groups of students. The elementary school students got a taste of what college life is like, something that many of them had never experienced before.

“We know from their letters that the only thing they know about Notre Dame is football. Coming onto campus, they’re actually going to see what Notre Dame is like,” Long said. “One of the things we hope they’ll get out of it is that this could be the end product of them engaging themselves in their studies.”

Another key purpose of this visit was to show the pen pals that attending college is possible for anyone, Long said.

“Mainly, [the visit was] for motivational purposes and a glimpse of what is possible,” Long said.

During their visit, the students went to the digital movie theater in Jordan Hall for an interactive science lesson. They also spent time with their individual pen pals and ate a meal at South Dining Hall.

Melissa Cowell, a sophomore who plans to pursue a career in education, said she enjoyed spending time with her pen pal Ariel.

“It was a lot of fun,” Cowell said. “It was cool to see the kids’ reactions to the campus.”

During her visit with Ariel, Cowell took her on a campus tour.

Cowell said the fifth graders gained a sense of what college will entail from what they saw today.

“I think a lot of them, even though they live so close to Notre Dame, they don’t have a concept of what the school is like or what it’s like to be in college,” she said. “So we’re showing them what it’s like to be here.”

Cowell said a key part of the pen pal project was making an impact in the community, which is sometimes difficult to do while living in the “Notre Dame bubble.”

“I think [the project] emphasizes the need to reach out to these kids in our community,” she said. “We live so close to them and they live so close to this great University, so we need to take advantage of that.”

Long said the education classes hope that the fifth graders will remember the visit and emerge from the experience with a more comprehensive picture of what college entails.

“For many of them, they have no idea what college means,” Long said. “When they get back to their own school, they can compare what they saw and have a more enlarged view of what campus is like.”