Open for Business: Merion Hall Houses Education Programs

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Though the fall semester isn’t set to begin until August 29, the lights remain on in Merion Hall on the James J. Maguire ’58 campus this summer.  Inside, graphics flash across Smart Boards, hands fly up, and pens dash across paper as Saint Joseph’s education majors and students from various elementary and middle schools in the area participate in one of three educational enrichment summer programs.

The SJU Summer Reading Clinic, led by Mary DeKonty Applegate, Ed.D., professor of education, guides graduate students who provide kindergarten to seventh grade students an interactive curriculum to improve literacy with an emphasis on higher-level thinking.  Instructors, who are Saint Joseph’s graduate students pursuing a master’s in education, use recent literacy research to design lessons and activities aimed at improving the 97 participating students’ fluency, language skills, vocabulary, and comprehension. Applegate has designed the program so that students work collaboratively in small groups with half the day spent on literature and half on content, utilizing technology for writing activities.  “We are firm believers in the constructivist theory, in which students actively construct their own concepts,” says Applegate.  Lessons are taped, and students’ test scores are used later for research and evaluation.

Fifty-seven seventh and eighth grade students from Camden and Philadelphia are participating in the six-week summer program provided by Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia, a six-year academic program for high-achieving, high-need students.  According to Jessica Hoagland, site director for Breakthrough at Saint Joseph’s, the students participate in four academic core courses – literature, writing, science and mathematics – in addition to a club activity to help prepare them for higher education. “Classes are skills-based and prepare students for high school and beyond.  Our goal for them is to gain admission into a college preparatory high school and then go on to complete a four-year college education,” says Hoagland.  College students from around the country work as intern teachers, creating lesson plans for their students, and receive feedback from teacher coaches.

Teaching Fellows from the Alliance for Catholic Education at Saint Joseph’s University (ACESJU), a two-year graduate education program in which participants work towards a Master’s degree in elementary education while teaching in Philadelphia Catholic urban schools, attended the ACE Advocates Summer Forum, an opening summer retreat and professional development opportunity in collaboration with the ACE program at the University of Notre Dame, from July 6-10.  The Forum kicked off a five-week intensive summer course program at SJU.  According to Michael O’Connor, assistant director of programs for ACESJU, Fellows spend their days in classes, working at the Belmont Charter School for practicum experience, and participating in community and spirituality formation opportunities.  The Fellows are also collaborating with Need In Deed, a program committed to connecting the classroom to the community, on ways to incorporate service learning and community engagement into their lesson plans and activities.  

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