UD's education students begin their first service learning experience this fall, mentoring children at Wilmington's Latin American Community Center and Fraim Boys and Girls Club.

Service learning

Education students learn mentoring skills at Wilmington centers


9:09 a.m., Sept. 5, 2014--Thirty-five elementary school students will stream into the Fraim Boys and Girls Club in Wilmington to meet their University of Delaware mentors on Monday, Sept. 8. 

Every semester, approximately 80 UD elementary teacher education students begin their first experience service learning by mentoring at the Latin American Community Center (LACC) or the Fraim Boys and Girls Club, both in the city. 

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As part of their course requirements for Human Development: Grades K-8 (EDUC 205), freshmen and sophomores mentor one or two children a week for an hour. Together they will work on homework, play board games, create arts and crafts or play in the gym.

Coursework, coupled with service learning, provides students the opportunity to analyze the physical, linguistic, cognitive and socio-emotional development of children and adolescents in classrooms and other settings. They also acquire a better understanding of the role families, peers, and schools play in influencing healthy development. 

UD professors and on-site facilitators help students connect what they have learned about teacher language and children’s engagement, while guiding their interactions during the field study. Students have found the practical experience to be very beneficial. 

“Mentoring went hand in hand with class content. Every time we’d learn something new, I was able to easily apply it to a situation I faced at LACC,” said Danielle Levy, currently a junior in elementary teacher education. “The relationship is structured to help build each child’s self-esteem, teach life and academic skills and encourage the avoidance of negative behavior. 

“The children I worked with seemed to benefit from the mentoring, as they were able to complete homework, practice skills such as reading, writing, but most importantly, gain a peer mentor. I have enjoyed getting to know my mentee and had a lot of fun working with him. Plus, I was able to put into practice the developmentally-appropriate actions and activities I learned in class,” said Alex Buckingham, a UD alumna and Honors Program student who majored in anthropology with an educational studies minor.

The community centers also value the partnership that has been established over the years.

“It’s not just about helping with homework,” explains Carol Ann Schumann, UD’s site facilitator at Fraim. “The mentors build strong relationships with our students. Often the children ask me about their mentors from past semesters and talk about some of the projects they did together.”

“We have found that our children are more willing to open up to their mentors, who are able to spend one on one time with them,” explained Rachel Muhlenforth, facilitator at LACC. “Our parents appreciate the help their children receive, especially with their reading skills, because for many of them, English is not their primary language.” 

Throughout the semester, students keep a journal reflecting on each mentoring session and relating it to a topic discussed in class. This way, they are able to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts being developed in class.

Allie Lonchar, an elementary teacher education sophomore, shared this about one of her mentoring sessions: “I was helping my mentee with her math homework. It was very challenging, but she showed great determination trying to figure out the correct answer. I did not want to give her the answer but rather guide her thinking. When she finally came up with the answer, she looked me in the eye, and sincerely asked, ‘Don’t you love that feeling when you work so hard on a problem and then finally figure it out?’ I was so proud of her. As a future teacher, this taught me that I am not only there to teach my students the basic curriculum but to guide my students to become productive citizens.” 

Article by Alison Burris

Photos by Evan Krape

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