School of Education holds writing camps for elementary students

Although not even in high school, some area school children got to experience a small taste of life as a university student last Friday.

About 60 fourth grade students from George C. Clarke Elementary in the Forth Worth Independent School District participated in a writing camp held by the College of Education in preparation for the upcoming Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills writing test in March.

The writing camps, an initiative of the College of Education’s Center for Urban Education, are part of an annual program that targets schools in the Fort Worth area that might not have resources available to hold a similar TAKS preparedness event, said Jennifer Brooks, director of the Center for Urban Education.

Brooks said the writing camps not only provided students with skills to help prepare them for the writing portion of the TAKS test, but also gave students who may not have previously thought about going to college an opportunity to gain first-hand experience of life at a university.

“It’s a great opportunity for (the students) to have a day off campus, and to come where they’re learning in a different environment,” Brooks said. “And whether or not they come to TCU in the future, we can plant the seed that college can be in their future…It’s kind of a two-fold thing, we certainly want them to focus on writing and the skills they will need to be successful, but we also want to plant that seed that this is something that someday (they) can do.”

Throughout the day, the students attended instructional sessions focused on the writing process, ate lunch on campus and toured the university.

Several students said they enjoyed taking the campus tour and going inside some of the buildings, including the University Recreation Center and Brown-Lupton University Union.

Tony Martinez, principal of George C. Clarke Elementary and university alumnus, said the writing camp was important for the his students because, although the university is only a few miles away from his school, Friday was the first time many of the children had been on a college campus.

Martinez said he recognized the importance of allowing the students, most of whom do not have relatives who attended college, to be able to set foot on a college campus at a young age to start building aspirations of a college experience.

“We try to talk to our students about going to college and tell them stories about college,” Martinez said. “But it makes a huge difference for them to actually be able to walk around a college campus and experience it for themselves.”

Gayle Hefner, literacy coach for George C. Clarke Elementary, noted the positive effects of the writing camps and said she noticed students in previous years discussing the possibilities of attending a school like the university after the event.

“For most of (the students), it’s just an exposure they haven’t had yet; they haven’t heard a lot of talk about college at home,” Hefner said. “I think it’s a really positive experience all the way around – I don’t see anything negative about it.”

Martinez said he hopes his school’s performance in the TAKS this year will earn it exemplary status from the Texas Education Agency, which would require a 90 percent passing rate among students in all subjects.