After-school programs generally offer extra educational and enrichment activities for students to build academic confidence. Students from Millikin University's School of Education and English Language Center (ELC) recently collaborated with a local elementary school to launch an after-school program that explores culture, language and literacy.
Throughout the fall semester, Millikin students and faculty worked with bilingual students at Johns Hill Magnet School, in Decatur, Ill., to develop social and academic confidence through activities that focused on linguistic skills, cultural awareness and academic achievement.
Millikin assistant professors of Education, Dr. Hee Young Choi, coordinator of the ELC, and Dr. Joyce Bezdicek, say the program helped Johns Hill students learn about the diverse cultures and people in their community.
"Millikin students from the School of Education and ELC planned activities to explore some aspect of culture and build the children's identity," said Dr. Bezdicek. "We were there to assist, but the students led the program."
Among the successful activities were an around-the-world hopscotch game and a cooking day where Millikin students cooked individual pizzas, made Spanish cookies, and sushi.
"We held an activity called 'Mind Map' where the students talked about their past, present and future," Dr. Choi said. "The students would use pictures to describe their past history, a present story, and then a future dream. It was an activity the students did on the first day of the program as a way to introduce themselves."
The program integrates research, teaching and service with focus on promoting innovation, enhancing social mobility and improving quality of life. The Johns Hill students are able to demonstrate forms of communicative skills through meaningful social interactions.
"It's a program that increases awareness of other cultures," said Meredith Crook, a senior Early Childhood Education major from Monticello, Ill. "We tried to plan activities in a way that the children could show us their culture."
"We made an impact on the children from a social perspective."
One of the important goals of the program was for the Millikin Education and ELC students to work together on developing the activities. "The ELC students brought different perspectives and ideas to the program, and they introduced us to some of their cultural things," said Sydni Good, a senior Early Childhood Education major from Clinton, Ill. "We were able to network and meet once a week to plan ideas for the program."
Millikin Education students have been working with children, one-on-one, at Johns Hill over the last few years as part of a teacher training program. This is the first time they've collaborated on an after-school program.
"Johns Hill has been very supportive throughout the process and it's one way to give back to the community," said Dr. Bezdicek. "From a Performance Learning standpoint, the Millikin students are applying what they are learning in their culture course."
Looking back on the program, Sydni Good says the Millikin students "learned a lot about themselves by planning for the different cultures and we made an impact on the children from a social perspective."
Dr. Choi sees the program as a great learning experience for the Millikin international students. "It's a well-organized situation where the students actively plan and communicate. They are gaining confidence as well." He noted that the program will continue in the spring semester with hopes of expansion in the future.
Millikin international student Shuhei Nagata, from Saitama, Japan said, "It was a great chance to learn about the American education system. I was able to improve my English by teaching and working with the children. It gave me a new perspective and an opportunity to practice communication."