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Helping kids see themselves at college

University Business, April 2018
BUDDING LEARNERS—Lab-k program kindergartners sport their Bethel College pride for an event on campus.
BUDDING LEARNERS—Lab-k program kindergartners sport their Bethel College pride for an event on campus.

There’s a new kind of nontraditional college student in America, with elementary school kids being seen increasingly on American higher ed campuses. Many universities give children and their parents tours to instill the importance of higher ed early on—and some even host full-time, on-campus kindergarten classrooms.

Learning from learners on campus

Bethel College in Indiana partners with the city of Mishawaka for a public kindergarten program launched in 2015. Lab-k, located in the Miller-Moore Academic Center, is considered part of the Battell Elementary School, and Battell teachers run the classroom.

“We try to emphasize the uniqueness of our program, as the number of teacher candidates providing assistance brings the student-to-teacher ratio down,” says Jim Bennett, chairman of the college’s education department. “The increased interaction with teachers is a big draw.”

Bethel shares program information on Facebook and during local kindergarten registration.

The fully-functioning kindergarten classroom is equipped with microphones and a one-way mirror, and education students as well as professors can observe and analyze lessons.

Early exposure to college

For more than 20 years, Rice University has offered early education orientation sessions and campus tours to elementary and middle-school student groups.

With an increasing demand for tours (175 in 2017) and fewer field trip days due to standardized test prep, promotional kits are also now available, by request, says Director of University Relations Greg Marshall.

Packets include souvenirs, Rice facts and information on the importance of college. Last year, more than 370,000 promotional items were sent directly to schools.

“We emphasize the importance of college, any college, whether it is a junior college, a two-year specialized college or a four-year university,” says Seraphina Van, manager of Rice’s Welcome Center.

“Our student tour guides express the many opportunities available for students who put their minds to getting into college and advise students not to let obstacles make them believe they can’t.”