The value of a Texas Wesleyan University education shone brightly from nearly 350 young faces last week as child refugees from around the world descended on campus for the 16th annual First Day of College: Science and Reading Days.
The kids, ages 8 to 10, are enrolled in the Fort Worth ISD’s Second Language Center and are now living in town courtesy of the United Nations: Fort Worth is one of just seven U.N. Refugee Relocation Centers in the U.S. The students, who speak 102 different native languages and come from across the globe, are enrolled in the Second Language Center until their English is proficient enough to join regular classrooms.
The day’s events included hands-on learning about ocean currents and the physics of rollercoasters, reading and comprehension exercises and a very popular tour of the campus. The library was a favorite, leaving many awestruck at the sight of so many books. Others were delighted to watch divers practicing in the Sid Richardson Center.
Organizer RJ Wilson, professor of education, says while the event takes months to prepare, the joy on the students’ faces — both the kids and the 63 Texas Wesleyan education majors who participated — makes it all worthwhile.
One particular moment stood out: “During the tour, some Wesleyan students from the Middle East heard the kids speaking and came over to the group to talk to them in their native language,” Wilson says. “It was completely unplanned and so pretty cool.”
Prior to the event, 26 teachers from the Second Language Center attended a two-day training session so that they could incorporate the lessons into the curriculum they are currently teaching in their classrooms. The Texas Wesleyan students, most of whom are training to be elementary school or bilingual teachers, also received the training. You can see the training video here.
The chance to work with multilingual students for a whole day was a great opportunity for the soon-to-be teachers, Wilson says, adding that they all earned professional development hours toward graduation.
“There were many positive outcomes,” he says. “Our students got to teach these kids in small groups and learned what it’s like to manage students at different levels of proficiency in both learning and English. And the kids got an exciting day at college as they practiced science and reading.”
After the event, education students learning about incorporating technology into the classroom produced a video and slideshow of the event. See it here.
The young students all went home with two new books, courtesy of Half Price Books, who donated 600 books for the event. For many, these were the first books they have ever owned. And significantly, it was literally the first day of school for one girl from Afghanistan and only the third day of school for two Syrian children.
The kids also took home a certificate for their first day of college, a Texas Wesleyan pennant for their classrooms and a Texas Wesleyan pencil.