By Kim Walter
Dr. Teresa Masiello, assessment coordinator at Shenandoah University, knew that Partnership in Community Day was a success when a student told her that he had "no idea learning could be so much fun."
Masiello, along with several of the college's students and faculty members, traveled to Orchard View Elementary School in Frederick County on Thursday to help fourth graders with their math skills. The event took place because of Partnership in Community Day, which is part of the Frederick County Public Schools' character trait of citizenship program.
The elementary students were split up into small groups and they learned a variety of new approaches to rounding, fractions, math vocabulary and other skills required of them by the state's math Standards of Learning.
For the past month, the SU students have been researching Virginia's fourth grade math SOL criteria. They also met with teachers at the elementary school to learn what specific remediation was needed.
The college students varied in age and major, but chose as a group to focus on math, since students across the country struggled with the more rigorous and intense SOL testing last year.
"My students were really surprised that the SOLs were written at such a challenging level," Masiello said. "But when they started working with the kids, they were pleasantly surprised by how they stepped up to the plate and accepted the challenge."
Activities were set up in classrooms, the cafeteria and even outside. Masiello said it was important for the SU students to use different methods of teaching - some involving competition and puzzles, while other stations used art and music.
"That's part of the research that my students did, was how children learn and why it's important to take that into consideration," she said.
Lucinda Erbach, a fourth grade teacher at Orchard View, said she welcomed the extra help. As an elementary school teacher, Erbach is expected to educate children on a variety of topics - not just math.
"It's so great that people who have had the time to just focus on math were willing to work with our students," she said.
Erbach explained that fourth grade students in particular had trouble with the new math SOLs because basic skills weren't the only things covered.
"There are so many new things added in fourth grade," she said. "Math [is] a spiraling curriculum, and when you add in the more advanced questions ... it makes sense why everyone had trouble with the test."
The use of small groups was also beneficial, Erbach added, especially due to the large class sizes at the school.
Erbach watched as her students listened to an SU professor go over fractions. She said the activity used wasn't really teaching her students anything new, but instead gave them a new way of looking at the math skill.
"They're so focused," she said, smiling. "I think, though, that in any subject, if you can get a mentor or a tutor with a new voice and perspective, it will help."
Students were taken outside for the last activity and they sorted themselves into groups according to their birth month. From there, they made pie graphs and bar graphs, and discussed fractions.
"I can see them making the connections," Erbach said. "We're really blessed to have this connection with Shenandoah."
One student volunteer, Ciara Crowder, is a 21-year-old senior majoring in kinesiology. She chose to make a "rounding rap" which she taught to students, who were then instructed to teach it to their peers.
Crowder admitted she didn't know what to expect before working with the kids, but was pleased she decided to do it.
"The rap was pretty simple to me, but they got it, and I think they had fun," she said. "Plus, after we went over the lesson, it was nice to just talk and get to know the kids. They're so sweet and they were really willing to learn."
The experience made Crowder realize that she might like to teach. Masiello said that was the goal of Partnership in Community Day - "both sets of students should walk away from this having learned something new."
Crowder said she would be happy to participate in something like the event again.
"It actually kind of touched me, how quickly the kids caught on," Crowder said. "Everybody benefited from it."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org