GEAR-UP Students Learn From Cal Poly Pomona Students

GEAR-UP Students Learn From Cal Poly Pomona Students
Rebecca Tribble, a sophomore animal health science student, shows off a piglet to GEAR-UP middle school students.
More GEAR-UP students from Lassalette and Sparks middle school students visit the swine unit.

Forty-two Cal Poly Pomona education students had the opportunity to experience hands-on learning as teachers this summer for three groups of GEAR-UP students from the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District.

For four days, each group of about 35 middle schoolers, toured Cal Poly Pomona, learned about college and participated in 15 educational and fun workshops.

“We promised them no tests, but we told them they would learn and have fun at the same time,” said Christina Hale-Nardi, program services coordinator for GEAR-UP and adjunct professor of education.

GEAR-UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness through Undergraduate Programs) is a federally funded program that is designed to increase college going rates among low-income youths.

“We have several objectives. One is to build college knowledge among students and parents,” Hale-Nardi says. “We also try to improve academic achievement through summer enrichment classes that stimulate critical thinking and build academic skills in a fun environment.”

As a nation-wide program GEAR-UP has been operating since 1998. The Cal Poly Pomona / Hacienda La Puente GEAR-UP partnership grant is in its last year of a five-year grant.  

This summer was the first time the whole four-day Summer Enrichment Program was held at the university, says Stefanie Saccoman, adjunct professor in Teacher Education.

The students from Lassalette and Sparks middle schools toured the Equine Research Center, Mediavision and the farm. Physics department technicians also presented “Physics is Phun” for the students, which scored high in the children's survey about the program.

Cal Poly Pomona teacher preparation students developed and ran the workshops. Saccoman gave them topics to teach such as Mayan art history, Egyptian hieroglyphics and human memory.

While one Pedagogical Foundations student taught a workshop, others would observe and gather data on student engagement. They were able to learn how to engage young learners and develop their abilities to design and deliver purposeful lessons.

The student engagement data was then entered into a new online research tool by LearningFramework, which Saccoman is piloting in her pedagogy class. LearningFramework's aim is to help credentialing students develop action research abilities that enhance the quality of their teaching.

“It's very important for the students to work with children and learn how to engage them in meaningful ways so that the learner achieves long-term memory of the material,” Saccoman says.