This past spring, junior English students from the Jones Leadership Academy (JLA) logged into Gmail and began discussing works like “To Build a Fire” and “All Summer in a Day,” with University of Findlay students 50 miles away. Both high school and university students were transported to the discussion without the need for cars or buses.
“It’s was like a virtual field experience for the students,” said Mary Munger, Ph.D., assistant professor of education. Munger was the catalyst that brought students from UF’s EDUC 311 Children’s & Adolescent Literature class together with English classes at a high school within the Toledo Public School system. She connected with JLA initially through its charismatic Assistant Principal Antonio Davis.
“I had heard Mr. Davis speak several times and he was so dynamic,” added Munger. “We got to know each other and, with his help, I eventually
connected with two JLA English teachers.” Working with teachers Meighan Richardson and Annelise Mason, Munger paired her EDUC 311 students with small groups from JLA.
This spring, UF students were expected to design instructional activities for their JLA students using strategies they have learned as part of their teacher preparation coursework. The project wrapped up in mid-April and JLA teachers scheduled a “real” field trip to the University of Findlay for a face-to-face meet and greet, a tour of campus and lunch in Henderson Dining Hall.
The outreach to JLA was intentional, according to Munger, to give her teacher candidates experience with students in an urban, public school setting. It was also an opportunity to work with adolescents and to use technology as a way to overcome constraints like distance and cost. Jones Leadership Academy is a separate gender, magnet school serving students in grades 7-12. Those interested must apply and parents must sign a contract. The school boasts smaller classrooms and a High School of Business where students can learn career skills and earn college credits.
Books used in the project included the works by London and Bradbury, along with “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson; “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calveras County” by Mark Twain; and “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemmingway. UF students designed their activities using Ohio Learning Standards, incorporating technology to share writing projects and analyzing the impact of the author’s choices regarding development of a story or drama.
When visiting the University of Findlay, JLA students watched a presentation by an admissions representative, asked questions and took a tour of campus. When asked about the best part of their visit, most had the same answer… “the ice cream machine in Henderson.