Mini-university builds educational interest in fourth-graders

Fort Worth area fourth-graders gathered at TCU on Saturday to learn math and science in a fun and interesting way, said Linda Taylor, an administrative assistant.Mini-university, now in its sixth year, was developed to only teach fourth-graders because it is the age when they begin to lose interest in math and science, said Janet Kelly, an associate professor of education and creator of the annual event.

Administrative assistant Tanya Wilkinson said 518 fourth-graders registered for the mini-university.

The Institute of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education sponsors the event through a grant from the Sid Richardson Foundation, Kelly said.

Part of the reason the focus is on math and science is because there are not many mathematicians and scientists, Kelly said.

“We have a depleted pipeline of mathematicians and scientists in this country,” Kelly said. “So this is a good way to support and further student interest at an early age.”

Lorena Leon, a senior mechanical engineering major, said the students are taught “really cool things,” which are then related to math and science.

Students attended three 50-minute workshops of 34 possible selections, including fossil fun, mystery goo and sniff and sniff, sniff – do you smell that?

While their children were in the workshops, parents could attend two informational sessions.

Ray Brown, dean of undergraduate admissions, said parents need to start preparing for their children’s college education.

“Your kids are all precocious,” Brown said. “That’s why they are here today. They are a cut above the rest.”

Wes Waggoner, director of freshman admission, explained how parents can teach their children to build a r‚sum‚ to be more competitive in the college application process.

“We are looking at applicants and how they are in their environment,” Waggoner said.

Denise Winston, a parent of a mini-university student, said she does not remember the application process to college. She said she needs to be prepared.

Winston said she enjoyed the college informational session, even though she had brought a book just in case.

“It’s kind of cool,” Winston said.

Mike Czuchry, a TCU research scientist, taught the parents the “Uncle Victor cork trick.”

Czuchry used the seemingly impossible task to teach the parents about the learning process. He said the cork trick was simple once it was taught step by step.

Czuchry said parents need to balance between being too overbearing and neglecting their children. He said children sometimes need to experience things on their own.

“Experience matters,” Czuchry said.

Fourth-graders attended the mini-university from Coppell, Corsicana, Crowley, Fort Worth and Keller, among other cities, Kelly said.

The workshops were held in the Bass Building, Sid Richardson Building, Tucker Technology Center and Winton-Scott Hall.