Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders from Dundee Elementary School in Tunica County visited the Oxford campus Wednesday (Nov. 30) as guests of the university's Center for Excellence in Literary Instruction. The 78 students toured the football Indoor Practice Facility (where they took a run on to the field), the Lyceum, Civil Rights Monument, J.D. Williams Library, Department of Chemistry and the Center for Manufacturing Excellence. They also met Chancellor Dan Jones and Provost Morris Stocks, as well as other UM faculty and staff.
"This was the first time many of these children ever set foot on a college or university campus," said Ashley Parker, UM instructor of curriculum and instruction. "These students are bright enough to successfully pursue professions in the hard sciences, but they first have to be made aware of what is available to them in terms of educational opportunities here."
From the moment they set foot on the grounds until they boarded school buses for the return trip home, the students, ages 9 to 11, were mesmerized.
"I'm already thinking about coming to Ole Miss," said Makayla Carlisle, a 10-year-old fourth-grader. "The buildings are so beautiful, especially the science lab and the library. When I grow up, I want to come here and stay until I get married. I also want to become a teacher and a professional medical doctor."
"I'm thinking about becoming either a professional football or basketball player," said William Smith, another fourth-grader. "I like seeing the laboratory where they froze a banana and a balloon (using liquid nitrogen). The pictures I saw in the library were nice, too."
At the Center for Manufacturing Excellence, students were divided into three teams and challenged to put together a puzzle in 10 minutes or less. Although they remained polite, they were also enthusiastic and competitive about completing the puzzle first in order to win a prize.
"We wanted to show them in the simplest way possible how manufacturing works," said Ryan Miller, CME project manager. "They had fun, but they also had to use teamwork, creativity, strategy, problem-solving and communications skills in order to be successful. That's all a part of what we're about here and in the manufacturing industry."
Besides the tour, students enjoyed a picnic lunch in the School of Education, compliments of Dean David Rock.
CELI personnel have worked with Dundee Elementary in Tunica County for three years. Parker and colleague Tamara Hillmer deliver professional development, work with the school's literacy leadership team and mentor about 10 teachers.
Through teamwork, strategic planning and a concentrated effort to improve, Dundee moved up in the rankings this year, making it one of 65 Star schools in the state and the only one in the Mississippi Delta. MDE officials annually evaluate K-12 school systems throughout the state. Rising to higher expectations for student achievement, all teachers in grades 3-5 exceeded the state average on the MCT 2 tests in language arts and math. Three teachers achieved Star performing status for having a Quality of Distribution Index score of 200 and above.
"It is very affirming to know that we have played some small part in changing children's lives because we know what happens to children who are not academically successful in the foundational early years," said Angela Rutherford, UM associate professor of curriculum and instruction and CELI director. "They become statistics of dropout, crime and low wages, and low life expectancy. We love our work at Dundee and are so excited about our continued work."
For more information about CELI, go to olemiss.edu/celi.