5th graders & freshmen. Why elementary school students should be engaged on postsecondary campuses.On February 10, 2019 by Heather
To some of our students, a postsecondary campus is as elusive as Narnia. It can easily seem like a mythical place where you need a special door to access all that it has to offer. It can feel out of reach.
We can change this and make a powerful difference for students starting in elementary school.
Wait? Elementary school? Really?
Absolutely and emphatically yes.
The first step is to do everything in our power to get elementary students engaged on postsecondary campuses.
What is the rush to visit colleges and campuses? Why so early?
The benefits are countless, but here are my top five reasons to invest early in postsecondary engagement and readiness…
- Stepping on a postsecondary campus and believing you are worthy of this opportunity is POWERFUL! Elementary students will engage with college students who look like them (this is so important and must be a part of the experience!). They will hear success stories from college students with similar backgrounds represented on campus. In turn, students will be able to visualize themselves taking their education in new and exciting directions from an early age. This is critical, especially for first-generation college students. The anxiety is real to visit somewhere unknown or “prestigious”. We have the power to alleviate these worries and equip our students with connections, confidence and a beautiful vision of what is possible.
- Students immediately explore and learn about in-demand careers in their community. Do your students know that your local community college offers dual-enrollment classes in their high school which fast-track them to obtain degrees and local careers in mechatronics and nursing? Do your students know that your local technical college has tuition-free welding and auto-mechanics programs and boast a 90% job placement rate? Do your students know that your local four-year university aviation program just developed a new partnership with Delta Airlines? Knowledge is power and our students and community benefit when we connect the dots between education pathways and the local workforce.
- Elementary students deserve to understand the impact of the choices they will make in middle school. Middle school students select exploratory classes (STEAM, drama, choir, band, robotics, broadcasting), join sports teams, or apply for leadership roles (BETA, student government, club memberships). All of these opportunities can help mold and shape a student’s trajectory and self-confidence. In addition, middle school students choose a pathway for high school courses. This pathway may lead to industry certifications, college dual-enrollment, or CTE programs. Every student should be able to preview these classes and pathways and understand how they align with postsecondary opportunities and potential careers. It is heartbreaking to hear of students who did not know about special classes or who blindly selected a pathway. Our students deserve to make informed decisions with an end goal in mind.
- Student’s can’t wait until middle school to develop a positive self-efficacy. Every child deserves to explore his/her gifts and talents early and develop big dreams. Let’s be honest, middle school can be amazing, but it can also be brutal. A student without goals and a vision of the future can get lost in middle school and struggle with self-worth and motivation.
- Families benefit when students learn about postsecondary opportunities early. Our families deserve to gain access to postsecondary basics and resources early and often. Some families may be unaware of educational opportunities, the financial aid processes, or how to plan ahead. Community college is free in our state? Technical college tuition is covered if I met requirements and I only have to pay for books or tools? Night classes are offered at our local university if I want to go back to school? Multiple generations can benefit when families gain early awareness of postsecondary programs and financial aid resources.
Why am I so passionate about engaging elementary students in postsecondary exploration? Hear from my students the incredible impact a campus visit can make.
My students and I have toured numerous colleges, technical schools, and military bases together. I have been amazed at how this has changed my students’ views of themselves and of their world. Here are some statements from my
“These field trips help us plan our future because it gives us options for college and lets us compare each college to make us think “Hhhhhmmmmmmm. do I want to go here after high school?”.
“The fields trips helped me plan my future because it gave me the feel of a real college and it could of made me want to do a different job instead of the job thought i wanted. Over all it was an amazing trip.”
“The field trips help me plan my future by knowing more options for college. I would love to go to another college again.”
“These field trips help our future because we might
“This helped me because i learned about new path way choices for me and where I can go for collage.”
“These field trips help plan my future because I can start getting my degree for free and get good jobs.” (referencing lottery scholarships)
“My career was i want to be in the Military. I want to be in-charge of the helicopters. I also want to help build the planes so the military can fly them. And last but not least I also want to fly.”
“I enjoyed visiting the Air Base most. They’re different because Technical college does robotics and the Air Base worked on helping people around the world. They’re the same because they’re both putting knowledge into peoples brains.”
“Some advantages for the technical college training are that there is a Nissan close by and if you end up working at Nissan you will get payed a lot.”
“it helps me go to college because
These statements are so powerful! The majority of these students could not name a postsecondary option prior to the tours. The growth, confidence
Watching my elementary students explore a campus is so exciting. I know I am helping them plan their future and navigate pathways with increased confidence, vision, and enthusiasm.
Elementary students are sponges ready to dream big and explore their futures. We need to act early to help them gain access to postsecondary campuses, connect the dots, and start paving a pathway which leads to success.
Interested in taking your students to visit a postsecondary campus? I encourage you to put the wheels in motion today.
Making this happen at your school may mean asking for donations, writing grants, or hosting a fundraiser to afford travel expenses. It may mean making countless phone calls to arrange tours (and finding the best entry point and tour guides for elementary students). It usually requires filling out pages of requests and permission forms.
The benefits will always outweigh the challenges.
If you are considering taking your elementary students to a postsecondary campus, I am cheering for you and your students! It will be a rewarding experience for you and life-changing for the kids and families you serve. Best wishes to you all and keep making a difference for students!