Through Outreach and Partnerships, Monmouth College’s Educational Studies Department is Moving Learning and Literacy Forward


While Monmouth College’s educational studies department makes great use of the school’s educational farm, it has no use for a silo. Over the past several months, the department has increased its partnerships with local schools and community organizations, working together with them to help educate the next generation of students.

In 2019, Monmouth faculty and students traveled to Wyoming to learn more about place-based learning through the Teton Science Schools. Place-based education immerses students in the ecology, economy and culture of their area before they study more distant parts of the globe.

Initially, teachers at Monmouth’s Central Intermediate School followed the College’s lead in implementing place-based learning. During the past year, Monmouth’s Lincoln Early Childhood School and Harding Primary School have joined in, and educational studies professor Craig Vivian said talks with Monmouth-Roseville Junior High School are ongoing.

The innovative style of learning has also caught the attention of Spectrum Progressive School in Rockford, Illinois.

“They contacted us last spring to discuss a partnership for practicums with our teacher education students,” said Vivian’s department colleague, Tammy La Prad.

La Prad has also been part of the College’s partnership with Harding and its neighbor, the Jamieson Community Center. In particular, she developed with two Harding teachers a literacy cohort practicum that incorporated place-based science/literacy at Jamieson’s garden.

Another member of the educational studies department, Brad Rowe, implemented “Typewriter Tuesdays” at the Jamieson Center’s afterschool tutoring program.

“Students used typewriters for journaling, for play, and for other literacy-based activities – activities that were facilitated by a team of student volunteers from our educational studies department,” said Rowe. “It was a wildly successful program.”

In addition to that outreach, the educational studies department has a partnership with the Recharge Teen Center, an organization in downtown Monmouth that provides after-school programming for teens. Future plans, said Vivian, include adding raised beds for gardening in the vacant parking lot north of the center. An experienced beekeeper, Vivian said that element might be added, as well.

Vivian already keeps bees at the Monmouth College Educational Farm, and that site continues to be a learning wonderland for local students, especially as it ties into placed-based and hands-on learning.

“We hosted about 90 kids and parents at the farm earlier this summer, introducing them to our nature curriculum,” said Vivian, who has plans to enhance such experiences with a classroom on site at the farm.

Some of the plans that Vivian and the department have rely on new sources of funding. The department has a partnership with Future Forward, which serves school districts, education organizations, and out-of-school-time providers with a customized, individualized, one-on-one tutoring and family engagement program for K-3 students. Future Forward recently received its third award in 10 years from the U.S. Department of Education’s “Education Innovation and Research” (EIR) program.

A Community Arts Access grant supported both a “Multilingual Families Night at the Farm” art project and a portion of the Lincoln School Identity project. AmeriCorps fellow Cammy Davis, now the children’s librarian at the Warren County Public Library, was part of both projects. She led multilingual students in drawing, painting and labeling multilingual signs to be hung around the Educational Farm and Garden.

For the Lincoln project, Davis collected into two books self-portraits and poems created by K-1 students from four different classes. The books are now housed at the public library for all children and their families to read. The project was supported by a grant from the Buchanan Center for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council Agency and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Through Future Forward, another member of the educational studies department, Jenni Dickens, worked with Monmouth-Roseville Director of Multilingual Learners and Grants Amy Gustaf Freitag – a 2007 Monmouth College graduate – on an English-language learner (ELL) program in the district.

Another ongoing partnership is the College’s relationship with the Rural Schools Collaborative. The partnership is so strong, in fact, that the collaborative has a staff of four people working on the second floor of the College’s Wallace Hall. Future plans are to upgrade the space into a Gary Funk Suite, named for the collaborative’s recently retired founder, who Vivian said took the organization “from zero to hero” in just five years’ time.

***Courtesy of Monmouth College***

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