Alumnus, students extend learning beyond the classroom
Education specialist Tim Miller ’97 and Cal U students are helping Charleroi middle-schoolers continue learning after class.
Through an agreement with the Washington Family Center, three Cal U students spend one day a week at Charleroi Middle School, where they assist Miller with the WFC’s LEARN (Linking, Educating and Renewing Neighborhoods) after-school program.
Funded by the 21st Century Community Learning Center and part of Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services, the program offers mentoring opportunities for older students and adults.
Mentors assist LEARN teachers and help children build various skills. They assist with homework, guide hands-on activities, and strengthen students’ math, reading and computer skills.
Cal U completed its third year with the WFC’s after-school program in Charleroi and expects to take part in the program again this fall.
During the spring semester, students Amanda Andrews, Lindsey Rush and Leighann Wharton mentored LEARN students. All three also worked in the University’s Center for Volunteer Programs and Service Learning.
Under Miller’s guidance, the after-school program adopted a STEAM-based curriculum, focusing on science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
After a day of listening and learning in school, the children enjoy the hands-on activities and “engineering thought processes” the program provides.
“I’m not a guy who likes to have kids sit down and listen to me lecture them. And if you talk to my kids, they don’t enjoy that either,” Miller says.
“Put a computer or a tablet in their hands and they’ll figure out how to do something, because it comes so naturally for them. Sometimes they’re learning things I did not expect them to learn — and a lot of times, they’re teaching me!”
The Cal U mentors sometimes bring in activities of their own. Wharton, an anthropology major, once brought a plastic cast of a skeleton to teach the children about human bones.
The middle-schoolers “think the Cal U students are the coolest things in the world,” Miller says, and he enjoys talking to them about changes and activities at his alma mater.
“I wish I was still in college at times,” Miller jokes. “The Cal U mentors bring a lot of energy, really perk things up. It’s a nice connection.”
If their schedules allow, all three Cal U students will return to Charleroi and the after-school program this fall.
Andrews, a secondary education major who plans to teach math, has been working with students in grades 6-8 since fall 2015.
“I plan on student teaching, and being able to tutor these students, especially in math, really helps,” she says. “Watching their skills improve over these past two years has been rewarding.”
By Bruce Wald ’85, information writer at Cal U