WILSON, N.C. — Creativity thrives when academic partners are passionate about bringing positive change to the classroom and funding is made available to support these innovative educational endeavors. The Golden LEAF Foundation recently approved a $375,000 grant proposal submitted by Barton College to support the Hearne-Barton Partnership School Project, an unprecedented Wilson neighborhood partnership that has already begun to energize students and faculty at both educational institutions.

“Golden LEAF is proud to help Barton College in its efforts to grow the talent, knowledge and skills of our youth,” said Dan Gerlach, Golden LEAF President. “Raising educational achievement will help level the playing field for economic success in our rural communities.”

This three-year Hearne-Barton Partnership School Project has formalized Barton’s partnership with Margaret Hearne Elementary School while providing a comprehensive program to help improve: 1) Margaret Hearne’s student achievement in mathematics, reading, and science at the elementary level, 2) to address health education needs in the elementary school, and 3) to provide mentoring and internship opportunities to Barton College students. Golden LEAF funds from this grant will be used primarily for personnel, books/supplies/materials, curriculum materials, training, and classroom support.

“Barton College is pleased and gratified that the Golden LEAF Foundation recognized the worthiness of this neighborhood partnership with Margaret Hearne Elementary School,” said Dr. Norval C. Kneten, president of Barton College. “Barton has been in dialogue with Wilson County Schools for several years and Superintendent Bulson has been most supportive of this project. We know from early results of piloted programming that this initiative is indeed making a significant impact on the students and faculty of Margaret Hearne as well as Barton’s undergraduate and graduate students and our School of Education faculty.”

Barton College, Margaret Hearne, and the Wilson County Schools administrative teams have worked together to develop a plan that all participants agree is likely to improve the academic success of the students at Margaret Hearne, promote healthy living for the Margaret Hearne students, and encourage participation of parents and the community in school-based activities. The plan’s emphasis on basic skill development in grades K-5 for the students at Margaret Hearne is designed to promote the specific development of basic skills in reading, mathematics, and science, and to help promote the students’ chances for successful completion of high school and readiness for future employment.

“The grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation will make a huge impact,” shared Jackie Ennis, dean of the School of Education at Barton College. “I am very pleased that Barton College has the opportunity to work in partnership with the Golden LEAF Foundation and Wilson County Schools to create opportunities that will benefit the students and teachers at Margaret Hearne Elementary School, as well as the neighboring community. In addition, Barton College’s teacher candidates will gain skills that will have a positive impact on their teaching and will impact their future students. The far-reaching influence of this grant is impossible for me to fathom.”

One of the first initiatives implemented this past year was the “Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale,” a survey developed by Anita Woolfolk Hoy and administered to Margaret Hearne faculty by Barton elementary education major Courtney Jernigan. This exercise, designed and implemented by Jernigan and overseen by Dr. Ennis as part of Barton’s Undergraduate Student/Faculty Scholarship Collaboration, helped to determine how the Hearne Elementary School teachers view the climate and their sense of empowerment at the school. These survey results will be used to identify topics for professional development sessions provided to empower teachers at Margaret Hearne to increase their effectiveness in the classroom. At the end of the three-year project, the survey will be re-administered to the teachers to gauge their increased confidence in classroom management skills, use of instructional strategies, and their ability to engage students in the learning process.

Response to early piloting of some of the partnership’s activities has been very favorable. Pilot activities during the 2011-2012 academic year included the “Summer Bulldog Academy” in July 2011 when Barton’s elementary education graduate students designed lessons and provided free instruction to 75 students for a weeklong summer program. Students were invited by Margaret Hearne principal Jenny Hayes to participate in the “Summer Bulldog Academy” that focused on literacy for students in grades K-2 and science for students who had completed grades 3-4. The elementary school students thrived during this session of engaging and creative activities, demonstrating growth in their academic areas of focus. Barton’s graduate students, all licensed teachers with previous experience in the classroom, appreciated the opportunity to expand their own knowledge base as they developed innovative strategies for teaching that they could take back to their respective classrooms.

On the heels of that successful venture, Barton and Margaret Hearne planned other collaborative activities last fall that included “Science on the Go,” welcoming 75 fifth-grade students to the Barton campus for science lessons offered through the School of Education on four separate occasions during fall semester 2011, and “Math Carnival,” held at Margaret Hearne with approximately 90 students and family members (approximately 225 people) participating. In addition, science lessons were offered through the Department of Science and Mathematics in October 2011 for 68 fourth-grade students visiting the Barton campus; the “Literacy Alive” program was launched this past year with emphases on providing additional books for the school’s library and its students as well as fostering students’ love of reading; and routine health screenings for students in selected grade levels were begun this past year.

The collaboration between the School of Nursing and the School of Education at Barton College will also offer the opportunity to implement evidence-based practice projects that are focused on identified health care needs of the community. For example, one activity includes the screening of early elementary students followed by interventions to teach measurement skills for breakfast cereals. This hands-on learning experience for Margaret Hearne students will allow them to be part of food and nutrition choices that will impact their math, measurement, and calculation skills. Students will also be taught to read nutrition labels, select healthy snacks, and engage in effective indoor and outdoor physical activities while being safe. These activities will promote healthier lifestyles for the students, and, in turn, healthier lifestyles will encourage a more effective learning experience.

Barton students look forward to serving as tutors this upcoming year to help individuals and small groups of students at Margaret Hearne to improve their achievement in mathematics and reading. And, two Barton faculty members will be on site to work directly with Margaret Hearne teachers, providing instructional support and overseeing professional development programming.

“I am very excited about all of the possibilities afforded our students through the Golden LEAF grant,” shared Jenny Hayes, principal of Margaret Hearne Elementary School. “Through the grant, we will have increased opportunities for staff development as well as staff support. Our students thoroughly enjoy every opportunity they get to go over to Barton and, with this grant, they will have even more opportunities to participate in exciting learning experiences. It is our goal that every student who leaves Hearne understands that college is an option for them. We welcome the exposure to the college scene that Barton has to offer our students.”

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Questions? Please contact Kathy Daughety, director of public relations at Barton College, at 252-399-6529 or email: kdaughety@barton.edu.

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