Honors students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln can earn honors credit outside the classroom and in the community through a new initiative that allows them to bring their expertise to elementary schools across Lincoln.
The honors program began a partnership this year with Lincoln Public Schools’ Community Learning Centers. Cristina Keen, school community coordinator at Prescott Elementary School, said the partnership provides government funding for clubs and activities at elementary schools around Lincoln.
Keen said Prescott is hosting four clubs led by honors students this semester: a makerspace club that also partners with the Sumner Place rehabilitation center, a club on Nebraska wildlife, an adventure book club and a club for girls interested in coding. These after-school organizations engage a variety of age groups at no cost for the families.
The honors students succeeded in choosing club topics and presenting them in a way that elementary students find exciting, Keen said.
“All the [UNL] students, they brought so much enthusiasm into our program and just expertise from their fields,” Keen said. “They are always prepared, they do their best, [and] they are just overall doing an amazing job.”
The opportunity to interact with the Lincoln community comes with a semester of honors credit and wages, which junior English major Rose Wehrman said makes it a rewarding experience in many ways.
Wehrman leads the adventure book club at Prescott, where she introduces students to a variety of novels and designs interactive activities to match the content.
After reading that a character in the book “Bridge to Terabithia” was running, she designed an obstacle course for her club members. When a dog appeared in “The Boxcar Children,” she had her group make dog toys to donate to animal shelters.
Wehrman said she hopes her leadership inspires the kind of literary enthusiasm that she formed at an early age.
“I think a lot of my successes in life I can attribute to my love of reading and my love of writing, she said. “It’s just helped me a lot along the way. So, I just wanted to encourage that in the younger students … and help them learn that reading can be cool, as cheesy as that sounds.”
Honors courses are usually challenging, and Wehrman said leading a club of elementary students encourages a different kind of growth.
“At first, I went into it thinking this is going to be really easy, this is going to be a breeze, and it wasn’t at all,” Wehrman said. “It was so difficult. But, it challenges me in a creative way; it makes me think differently because they don’t think the same as I do, and it challenges me to always adapt.”
The program’s initial installment will end at the fall 2018 semester’s close, but Keen said Prescott Elementary plans to continue the partnership into the spring semester.
“Our hope is that we will be able to bring more [UNL] students to our schools, into our afterschool programs,” she said. “We are always looking for unique opportunities for our students, and the best way to do things is to combine the work that the [UNL] students are doing with ours.”