May 8, 2008
Nineteen fifth-graders graduated to college Thursday — at least for a day.
Their hosts included Sugar the Angus calf and Apple Blossom, a 7-month-old pot-belly pig.
Their curriculum included computer aided drafting, horticulture, sports and science.
Their activities included bottle feeding Sugar, handing Apple Blossom her share of baby carrots, planting flowers in a pot, making nylon thread, shooting hoops, and designing a single-story house with a porch, vinyl siding and a gable roof.
The Washington Elementary School children also tested the knowledge of the grownups on the State Fair Community College campus — all as part of an effort to plant the seed of higher education early.
At the end of it all, 10-year-old Clay Brown said it was the “funnest time I have ever had it my life.”
Clay stole the show during the SFCC version of “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” with his quick wit and victory dance. But he learned more than improv during his day-long visit on campus.
“I liked building a house in the CAD lab,” said Clay, who wants to be an architect. “It was really fun.”
The youngster said he had been to the Multipurpose Center at the college and had seen movies in the theater, but Thursday was his first chance to take a tour of SFCC. “I think it has a lot to offer,” he said.
The boy said the campus is small enough to maneuver without getting lost and is void of the bullies that taunted him in grade school.
Mark L. Carter, director of admissions for the college, was hoping for such an assessment. “We want to show them that education is not (boring). You have fun in education,” he said.
Fifth-graders may have years before college, but still are ripe for recruitment, Carter said.
“These kids are making decisions quickly, and the streets are grabbing up our students faster than we can,” he said.
Kevin Haulotte, coordinator of the computed aided drafting program, gave a group of eager learners a crash course in using a sophisticated software and a mouse to create a drawing of a home. As he coached, the fifth-graders drew in windows and doors in their homes.
By the end of the 20-minute session, each youngster had his own color printout of the home he created.
The mission for Haulotte was simple:
“I hope they can take an interest in engineering and design,” Haulotte said. “There is a huge demand for engineers.” A graduate of his two-year program can start making $40,000 annually, he said.
“I really look forward to having one or two of these students graduate with me from here,” he said. “These young people, when we can touch them right off the bat, it will open their eyes to this.”
Haulotte said he hopes to dispel the notion that CAD is a bore. “It’s a lot of fun, when you see the 3-D software and what you can do with it. It’s not just crunching numbers.”
Fifth-grader Ashley Arnold said the highlight of her day took place in the college greenhouse. “It was planting the flowers,” said the girl, who wants to become a math teacher. SFCC instructor Steve Galloway escorted the students as they met a pot-belly pig and a bottle calf, both of which were pets of SFCC students.
Rebecca Heisterberg, the Washington school counselor, said she was pleased with how “jam-packed our day has been.”
Heisterberg, who attended SFCC as a student, said she wants to show her students the “options and choices they have, and this is one of them.”
The fifth-graders battled SFCC administrators, students and staff in a game of “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” and answered questions such as, How many years are there in a term for U.S. representatives? (two); What is the largest country by area in South America? (Brazil); andHow many sides does a trapezoid have? (four).
For their efforts, the students received a victory in the game, accolades from Carter and a certificate declaring them honorary college students.
“You have proved yourself worthy of being college material,” he declared.