A unique collaborative project between Red Deer College and Poplar Ridge Elementary School saw students of both institutions meet for the first time Tuesday, after three months of corresponding with each other.
In September, Grade 5 and 6 Poplar Ridge students began logging journal entries addressed to fourth-year education students in the University of Alberta’s middle years program at Red Deer College.
In the same journal, university students then provided comments, before journals were returned to the younger students.
That process occurred weekly, and culminated when both groups of students met Tuesday.
“It’s worked out really well,” said Barb Hanson, instructor of the university class. “It’s been hugely successful.” She was formerly principal at Poplar Ridge.
Hanson explained that the younger students updated their university ‘buddies’ every week on novels they had chosen to read for the project.
Buddies then put their teaching skills into practice by attempting to engage younger students in their texts, through feedback they provided.
The project required the younger students to explain to their buddies different aspects of the novels. They provided information on characters, authors and other things they found interesting.
The entire process allowed them to understand and appreciate the value of reading and writing, according to Poplar Ridge vice-principal Claire Funk.
“They found that reading and writing can be fun,” she said. “This gave them a purpose and a meaning for their writing, and they were always so excited to get their journals back to hear what their buddies had said.”
Funk felt skills and knowledge the students acquired from the program will benefit them in the long term.
“They learned so much about themselves and what they’re capable of,” she said. “It’s just been a great experience.”
On Tuesday, both groups of students met for the first time, and together in the school gym displayed archaeology projects related to the novels they read.
According to Hanson, the experience allowed the university students to experience one-on-one student interaction before they begin their teaching careers.
“It’s important that my students learn how to connect with kids through building a relationship,” she said. “That lends itself to student success, and that’s the main initiative.”
The project also allowed prospective teachers to learn more about improving a child’s reading and writing abilities, and gear their teaching strategies toward a particular student’s interests, she added.
Collaboration between the institutions is a new one, and was formed out of the RDC program’s desire to get students involved in collaborative community projects.
Fourth-year student Deanna Kofin enjoyed participating in the project and working with Poplar Ridge student Donavan Nichols.
“It’s just been incredible to see the creativity and to get to know him, as well,” she said.
Nichols said he enjoyed hearing back from Kofin each week, and was happy to meet her in person.
Parents, friends and guests explored the students’ archaeology projects in the school gym.
The journals, completed by both groups of students, were also displayed.