SOE News

Middle Grades programs at UNC, N.C. Central and Duke collaborate to recognize the Month of the Young Adolescent
Service learning and partnerships are focus

Photo of students and faculty

Students and faculty from around the state gather on the terrace of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence as “S.L.A.P. Fest ’09!” begins.


Photo of NCCU delegation

The delegation from North Carolina Central University strikes a pose.


Photo of students in front of house

Participants walk to the home of UNC President Erskine Bowles for a welcoming reception, followed by dinner in the Morehead Rotunda.


Photo of Gulledge and Chapman

Suzanne Gulledge (left) and Alisha Chapman chat with students from Appalachian State University and East Carolina University at the President’s House.


Photo of students

Students demonstrate a hands-on science activity.

In recognition of the Month of the Young Adolescent, the Middle Grades programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University and the Program in Education at Duke University co-sponsored a symposium on “Service Learning and Partnerships” Oct. 1-2, 2009, in Chapel Hill and Durham. The Month of the Young Adolescent is an annual international collaborative effort of education, health and youth-oriented organizations initiated by National Middle School Association.

Suzanne Gulledge, president-elect of the North Carolina Professors of Middle Level Education, organized the event, called “S.L.A.P. Fest ’09!” Gulledge is a clinical professor of Middle Grades education at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education.

Elise Barrett, clinical assistant professor and adviser to the Carolina Collegiate Middle Level Association, and the UNC-Chapel Hill chapter officers welcomed visiting pre-service teachers who participated in leadership development sessions. The agenda reflected an effort to keep service learning and partnerships prominent in teacher education and in the careers of middle school teachers.

The event began with a reception at the home of UNC President Erskine Bowles and a dinner in the Morehead Planetarium Rotunda. “I support with all my being the purpose of your meeting ─ service learning and partnerships,” wrote President Bowles in a note to Gulledge. “Thank you so much for the enormous good you [and your colleagues] do for so many.”

Bill McDiarmid, dean of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education, welcomed the group, along with his counterparts Cecilia Steppe-Jones, dean of the NCCU School of Education, and Jan Riggsbee, chair of the Duke Program in Education. Dr. Alisha Chapman of the UNC General Administration described UNC-Tomorrow ─ an initiative of the University of North Carolina to respond proactively to the 21st century challenges facing North Carolinians ─ and the role of education in that initiative.  

More than 50 faculty and students from 11 North Carolina universities attended the symposium. Student leaders of the Collegiate Middle Level Association co-facilitated sessions with their professors to highlight a number of partnerships that reach across campuses and model how universities are extending their resources to public schools, particularly middle schools. 

Cheryl Horton, clinical assistant professor and director of the UNC-Chapel Hill Teaching Fellows Program, described the collaborative model of partnerships exemplified by science outreach activities of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Participants had the opportunity to tour Carolina’s Destiny science bus, one of the Planetarium’s outreach programs.

On Friday, students from UNC-Chapel Hill, NCCU and Duke made presentations about several collaborative initiatives with the Durham Public Schools at sessions on the campuses of NCCU and Duke. One presentation focused on Student U, a year-round academic program for middle school students in Durham who have the potential for college admission but lack skills and role models traditionally available to college-bound adolescents. A video illustrated the impact of Student U on the middle school students it serves.

Another highlighted project was “Middle Ages,” in which middle school students write, perform and sometimes film episodes of an original situation comedy about three middle school siblings and their unusual family. Inspired and coordinated by Stephen Neigher, a Hollywood screenwriter and faculty member in the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Communications Studies, this project is currently being implemented by Durham middle school students in collaboration with teachers and volunteers.

The symposium provided an opportunity for attendees to exchange ideas, consider alternative perspectives and get to know one another better.

“It was a rare opportunity for the North Carolina professors of middle level education to connect with the student members of the Collegiate Middle Level Associations as well as other colleagues who were involved because of their interest in service learning and partnerships,” said Gulledge. “We all share the goal of preparing better teachers for the future while enhancing our work with the middle school populations of the present. As an outcome of the symposium, new collaborations may emerge across universities as we continue working together toward that goal.”