Willow Bend fourth-graders tour LCU

Willow Bend Elementary School fourth-graders got a taste of university life during a tour of Lubbock Christian University on Nov. 2.

Fourth-grade teachers guided their students onto buses headed for Lubbock Christian University after Friday morning announcements.

Students started off the day by learning about LCU’s mascot, the Chaparral. They were eager to make the hand sign for Chaps, which looks a bit like the OK hand sign, to visitors throughout the day.

Although they took tours and learned about university life, the Willow Bend students also sat in LCU classrooms at the Maddox-Pugh Educational Center and did the same class work they normally do at Willow Bend with their teachers.

Jessica Neitsch handed out mathematics worksheets for a review on multiplication and division, and students raced to finish several problems in four minutes, a drill Neitsch runs to prepare students for a Four-Minute Final students were due to take on Monday.

While the students’ pencils scratched answers onto the worksheets, Neitsch talked about how Willow Bend is focusing on educating students about attending college in the future.

The school’s motto this year, Neitsch said, is “Willow Bend Today, College Tomorrow.”

Teachers at all grade levels have been talking about dorms and mascots, but also about grade point averages and setting goals, Neitsch said. She said the teachers are emphasizing setting realistic goals.

“We talk about the difference between a dream and a goal,” she said.

Each teacher’s classroom at Willow Bend is decorated with paraphernalia from a different college, as well as facts about that college.

“We have a college-ready club that they can be a part of,” Neitsch said. To be a part of the club, students need to be on the A or B honor roll, have good attendance and behavior, score well on Four-Minute Finals and meet their Accelerated Reader goals.

Because Willow Bend faculty were already brainstorming about how to talk about college in classrooms, when the fourth-grade teachers sat down to talk about where to go for a field trip, a college field trip seemed to be a good fit. A plus was the ability to keep up with class work on the trip, Neitsch said.

“We’re not losing a whole day of instruction,” she said.

Neitsch and Tara Swick, another Willow Bend fourth-grade teacher, said they weren’t sure fourth-grade students really grasp the idea that they will someday be leaving their parents to attend college.

But students seemed to grasp that there is more freedom at college, Swick said.

“Your teacher doesn’t always walk with you everywhere,” she said.

The most impressive part of the day from the students’ perspective seemed to be the choices available in the cafeteria.

At Willow Bend, students are not allowed to go back for seconds and must pay $1 extra for a treat at lunchtime.

The all-you-can-eat cafeteria at LCU, where students could line up for multiple helpings and hit the ice cream machine as an included treat, was a hit. Students were also allowed to sit where they pleased, and that’s a big change for elementary school students used to sitting only with their classmates.

Neitsch said she thought she might have to drag students away from that ice cream machine.

“They were in awe” of the cafeteria, Swick said.

It was that awe of the cafeteria that had two members of LCU’s education department talking about what they might show young students of future trips. They are used to getting high school students who want to tour LCU, but they don’t often have fourth-graders.

Annette Mahan said students were really interested in learning about college life, and university teachers might keep that in mind in the future.

“We’re hoping we can take them to the dorms and to the rec center,” Mahan said, adding that students had specifically asked those places.

Jennifer Hardin said trips to colleges do help students to make choices about their educational future. It was on a trip to LCU years ago that she decided the school would be her choice.

Colleges encourage students to visit to see where they would fit in best, Mahan said. It doesn’t do anyone any good for freshmen to leave after one semester.

Neitsch said just being on a college campus is helpful to students.

“Some of the kids have never even been on a college campus, or know how it works,” she said. “We’re just trying to give them as many college experiences as possible.”

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