ACES project update — Caswell County

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Suzanne Gulledge is a faculty member in the UNC School of Education and a CCP small grant recipient working in Caswell County.

The CCP grant to support the Carolina ACES (Academic Curriculum Enrichment Students) project is taking root and branching out to include more participants on both the university and the middle school campuses (project description here).  UNC-Chapel Hill students travel weekly to  N.L. Dillard Middle School in Yanceyville, NC, where they work as mentors and tutors in sixth, seventh and eighth grade math, science, social studies and language arts classrooms. Weekly class meetings take place in the van during the drive to and from campus to Yanceyville.

Professor Gulledge reports that class sessions are “focused and lively – more energetic than any seminar I have ever led!”   Graduate student Adam Jordan drives the van and has the opportunity to listen and reflect on the discourse.  He confirms that the conversation in the van effectively serves to prepare students for their classroom experiences.  They talk about things they have had the opportunity to “process” and reflect on for a week.  But on the ride away from the school the conversation has a different tone.  Members of the class de-brief the experiences they just had at the middle school.  “The immediacy of the opportunity to discuss the experiences and the intimacy of the van – with no distractions of a notebook or computer in front of us- makes the class sessions very rich and very spontaneous.  The ride out and the ride back are quite different and both are important educational experiences,” reports Gulledge.  “In terms of pedagogical strategies and teaching opportunities, I find that this is one of the most exciting opportunities of my career.”

Indications are that Carolina students enhance the academic work of Dillard Middle School students whose teachers assign them to work with a Carolina student.  As they apply the tutoring skills they received in AVID training, ACES scholars help middle school students with their research skills in the library, with understanding math fundamentals like converting fractions to decimals, or with finding correct answers for questions they missed on a science test, for example.  Often the students needing help have had school absences or are new students trying to catch up.  The need to keep middle school students “on track” for academic success at a particularly formative period in their development has been impressed on the service learning students by the Dillard teachers.  They have taken the time and offered special opportunities to talk to the college students to enhance insight and understanding of the purpose and importance of their work.

As the relationships between the Dillard school community and the Carolina ACES project participants become stronger, the number of additional opportunities and connections between campuses is growing as well.  Professional opportunities for teachers, enrichment opportunities for youngsters that are available on the Carolina campus, and ideas for research and service for university students and faculty are emerging through the CCP Carolina and Caswell initiative.

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