Fairmount Park Elementary students peer into a microscope during the Bridge to Success science camp with the help of Dr. Heather Judkins.

First College of Education Bridge to Success science camp a big success

More than 30 students from Fairmount Park Elementary School in St. Petersburg are wrapping up a six-week science camp at USF St. Petersburg this week that grew out of a partnership between the school and the College of Education.

The students peered into microscopes in a biology lab, toured a marine science research vessel, learned about shells during a trip to Fort De Soto Park, went kayaking and sailing from the USFSP Waterfront, snorkeled at Lassing Park and had a close encounter with birds of prey courtesy of the Audubon Society.

They also took swimming lessons, wrote in their journals, spent two hours a day working on math and science lessons and had fun along the way.

Many of them had never been on a boat before and most were not proficient swimmers. “The camp allows these students to have hands-on experiences they wouldn’t get at school or at home,” said Tiffani Vinson, Fairmount Park’s science coach, who earned a master’s degree at USFSP.

Our students doing science in the park

Our students doing science in the park

USFSP students worked as camp counselors and Fairmount Park teachers joined them as coaches.

The goal of the “Bridge to Success” camp is to keep the rising fourth and fifth grade students’ minds engaged with science and math during the long summer break so they will be ready when the fall semester begins next month.

It also showed the students what a university is like, said camp director Fred Bennett.

“It gives them the idea that college is possible, it’s not too far-fetched,” said Bennett.

Many of the students’ families have little experience with higher education. “They’re not necessarily thinking about college,” said Khana Riley, a Fairmount Park fourth-grade teacher. “I think this is doing a real good job of putting it in their minds.”

Fairmount Park Elementary students having fun during the Bridge to Success science camp.

Fairmount Park Elementary students having fun during the Bridge to Success science camp.

It also teaches the students leadership skills, including how to speak in public and behave in ways that set examples for other students, said Casey Maker, a 2012 USFSP graduate and third grade teacher at Fairmount Park. “We hope we are making some academic leaders here,” he said.

The USFSP education students who work as camp counselors also benefit, said Nikita Shivers, a fifth grade teacher at Fairmount who graduated from USFSP in 2008. “I think it’s a great collaboration,” she said.

And the Fairmount Park teachers benefit, too.

“These college students remind me of why I went into teaching in the first place,” said Sam Mincey, a fifth-grade Fairmount teacher. “It re-energizes me.”

Fairmount Park Elementary is considered one of Pinellas County’s most challenging schools because of high poverty rates and low FCAT scores. The USFSP College of Education worked closely with teachers and administrators at the school this year, sending faculty, staff and students to volunteer as tutors and coaches.

“We have become part of the Fairmount Park Elementary School family and look forward to continuing our collaborative partnership with the school during the forthcoming year as well as subsequent years,” said College of Education Dean Bill Heller “The partnership has really been very beneficial to both sides and it has been particularly great for our teacher education students and other students across the university as well.”

A few of the kids and I on our boat trip to coffee pot island!

“Ms. L Got No Swag”

Working full time at a high needs elementary school and now a summer camp I knew I was in trouble with my lack of “swag”. I am an education major and I have the pleasure of being surrounded by children year round. But I thought being 19, and in my opinion, pretty cool would have no problem being the cool adult the kids want to hang out with.

It wasn’t until I experienced my first summer camp ever, here at USFSP, and I was a counselor, that I realized what I was in store for. These kids have been the hardest to handle while keeping my sanity with forty hours a week and twelve credit hours.

Regardless of the stress and lack of sleep our kids cheer me up with our in house Dancing with the Stars competition between groups.

I tried to dance with the kids and they asked me to stop. I swear I wasn’t that bad! But apparently I have no “swag”. After hearing them chant that I have no swag it was on!

I spent all weekend practicing my moves to show off for the kids. I worked on my dougie and cat daddy and tried to do all those fancy foot steps the kids like to do. Then Monday came and I was ready to blow these kids out of the water.

We had a mini dance off and it was the moment of truth, I had to face my small group of kids and dance like my life counted on it.

After showing off my dance moves I have now become the “Swag Queen”!

That’s right, redemption, it feels so sweet.

Until next time,

Miss L.

Pinellas legislators met at the University Student Center.

Pinellas legislators hear support for College of Business, SunBay Digital Math

The Pinellas County Legislative Delegation met at the University Student Center Wednesday and heard strong support for the construction of a building for the College of Business and continued funding for SunBay Digital Mathematics.

Interim Regional Chancellor Bill Hogarth welcomed the lawmakers to their first delegation meeting at the University Student Center. He said it has been an important addition to the campus that would not have been possible without the support of lawmakers. He also asked the legislators for their support for a building for the College of Business, the No. 1 new building priority for the USF System. The college is now spread across six buildings, he pointed out, which hampers communication and collaboration.

Two College of Business students, Lazar Anderson and Josh Moushon, also urged lawmakers to support a College of Business building.

“The building would be a point of pride for the university, as the USC has become,” said Moushon, a senior majoring in Finance. “It’s the next step for USFSP to keep moving forward and to drive education.”


Anderson echoed those sentiments. “Looking back on our academic careers, I think we can all remember a small handful of professors who really inspired us to be who we are today,” he said. “They were the type with open doors, happy to have us come in any time and ask for help on anything. Something about the culture of USFSP really brings in those especially inspiring types to teach. Unfortunately, instead of a collection of their minds working together to shape ours, those open doors are scattered across campus, and often hard to find.”

Chris Steinocher, president of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber’s top two legislative priorities are the College of Business building and continued funding for Sunbay Digital Mathematics.

Sunbay Digital Mathematics is a collaboration among USFSP, SRI International, the Pinellas County School District, the Helios Education Foundation, and the Pinellas Education Foundation that is studying new ways to teach math to middle school students.

Chris Steinocher

St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce President Chris Steinocher

“The College of Business is to us a cornerstone of a commitment that this community is focused on business,” Steinocher said. “The business community would see itself reflected in that building. It also is reflective of our interest in making sure we have the kind of workforce that businesses in our community are going to need.”

Finally, he said, it would give the business community “a place to interact with the students to work and grow together.”

Likewise, SunBay Digital Mathematics “is a reflection of priorities,” Steinocher said. “It is a statement about what matters most and it’s about ensuring that we’re doing everything we can so students can learn.”

Holocaust Museum tour

Education students take eye-opening tour at the Florida Holocaust Museum

Students in a graduate reading class in the College of Education toured the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg on Saturday, Nov. 10, as as a way to bring to life concepts they have been discussing this semester.

The overarching theme for the course, Vocabulary and Word Study, is how the literature and content used in the K-12 classroom should be undergirded with social justice, said AnnMarie Alberton Gunn, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Reading and Literacy. The class has been reading and discussing Night, the autobiography of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

Most of the students are teachers and the rest are working toward their teaching certificate.

During the tour, the students learned about the teaching trunks the museum has put together and how the contents can be used in the  classroom. “The trunks are an amazing resource,” said Dr. Gunn. “Inside the trunks are class sets of books, movies, DVD’s, posters all sorts of literacy tools. Teachers can check out these trunks and take them to their classrooms.”

The tour had a big impact, she said. “All the students talked about what a great experience it was,” Dr. Gunn said. “I think it definitely will influence how they look at literature and how they infuse it in the classroom.”

She said she plans to interview the students in a year to gauge the impact the class has had on their teaching.