Houghton College recently welcomed more than 130 local elementary school students to campus for its second annual Literacy Day.
The event is designed to promote the exploration and celebration of literacy among first and second graders, while also offering Houghton students valuable hands-on learning, according to Dr. Sunshine Sullivan, associate professor of education. Following the success of last year’s inaugural Literacy Day, the event has grown significantly in size to include all first and second graders from Fillmore and all second graders from Belfast.
Third-year education majors are responsible for planning and leading the day’s activities, including interactive writing sessions, small group reading, and word study centers. Junior Emily Grundtisch says organizing an event of this size and preparing lessons that would work for all types of learners was a challenging but rewarding experience. “Each student has unique needs and interests, so I spent a lot of time coming up with activities that engage every child that I would encounter during the day,” remarks Grundtisch.
For many of the elementary students in attendance, Literacy Day is also their first exposure to higher education. Knowing that they have the opportunity to give the children a lasting positive impression of college, the Houghton juniors in charge of planning the event incorporate elements of the college experience into their lesson plans. “By writing a story about the first day of college and touring the campus, a college education becomes that much more real to these young students,” says Grundtisch.
While literacy among first and second grade students remains the primary focus of the event, Sullivan says that her passion for empowering rural teachers also contributed its creation. “It is important to me that Houghton is a space where students and teachers from different districts can come together and learn from one another,” she remarks. “Rural teachers often find themselves feeling isolated, which makes trying new things challenging and sometimes worrisome. They were able to use the opportunity to share with each other their frustrations and their celebrations and connect with each other across the school districts, broadening and deepening their professional learning community.”