Each morning about 110 excited children climb the stairwells of Abilene Hall at Hardin-Simmons University’s Irvin School of Education to spend lazy summer days thinking like scholars. Signs are even posted in the HSU education classrooms with suggestions on how to think like a scholar, such as, “Scholars like to ponder big ideas. Scholars like to listen respectfully.”
Bonham Elementary students, kindergarten through 4th grade, catch a bus from their school each morning (provided by the Abilene Independent School District) to be a part of the inaugural full-day class of Dream Catchers.
“At this camp young scholars are participating in higher levels of thinking while making connections to a theme and generalizations. They are actively engaged in science experiments, musical and theatrical lessons, and wellness for life activities,” says Dr. Renee Collins, chair of the Department of Educational Studies and associate professor of education at HSU.
Collins says she has dreamed of such a program for years, where young scholars learn through interactive lessons developed and taught by HSU students studying to be teachers alongside of experienced teachers in the field. “Our education majors are eager to see these young scholars make connections in science, math, language arts, and fine arts. This is also a chance for our students to design motivating and challenging lesson plans that are developmentally appropriate, and to apply what they have been learning in the content and professional development classes.”
Collins, and Bonham Elementary School principal, Kathy Horner, collaborated during the 2012-2013 academic year to involve as many Bonham students and HSU education majors as possible, but the program also depends on help from many experienced AISD teachers, teachers’ aides, and professors from other disciplines at HSU, says Collins.
During the three week Dream-Catchers’ Summer Camp, Bonham students participate in individual, small group, and large group interdisciplinary instruction while targeting various concepts in science. “The interdisciplinary curriculum embeds Sandra Kaplan’s categories of depth and complexity to ensure differentiated instruction, universal themes, and generalizations. The interdisciplinary lessons include opportunities for the children to demonstrate various higher-level thinking skills and the behaviors of young scholars,” says Collins. Meanwhile, friendships develop between the university and elementary students as they learn from each other.
“For instance, Bonham scholars are touring and pondering parts of our campus, like the theatre. The students recently had a chance to see the costume rooms, where the actors rehearse and apply stage makeup. Today, the young students put on a Stomp performance of their own at the HSU football stadium using everyday objects, like colanders and cookie sheets, to build listening skills, teamwork, and an understanding of different patterns of rhythm.”
AISD provides bus transportation to and from Bonham Elementary School, daily lunches, and a lead AISD teacher to assist and mentor the HSU EC-6 teacher preparation students who prepare the daily curriculum.
The final week includes an evening of celebration for scholars and families, camp facilitators, and teachers at the HSU swimming pool.