Bethel Education majors talk with Brown students during lunch at Bethel College as part of College for a Day.

Bethel Education majors talk with Brown students during lunch at Bethel College as part of College for a Day.

During the spring semester, about 50 sixth graders from Brown Intermediate School in South Bend visited Bethel College for College for a Day. Bethel has been doing this for two years now, as part of the Diversity in the Classroom course. The day is designed to give middle school students, who may not even be thinking about going to college, a taste of college life.

For this visit, Brown students and teachers attended two classes taught by Bethel education majors, had lunch on campus and took a campus tour. At lunch, Bethel students spoke with Brown students in small groups, answering questions about why education is important and how they need to begin thinking about college now.

“It’s a wonderful experience for our students,” says Joe Somers, principal at Brown.

This is just one element of the partnership Bethel has built with Brown over the past three years – something Diane Myers, assistant professor of education, and Jeff Stueve, Ph.D., associate professor of education, have been instrumental in forming.

They call it the “Bison-Pilot Project,” referring to Brown’s and Bethel’s mascots, respectively.

A key component is the methods block course that Myers and Stueve team supervise, where students spend 150 hours in Brown classrooms, including a 2-week immersion experience. Paired with Brown teachers, students help as needed, collaborating on assignments and even teaching lessons.

Brown’s urban-situated location within the Keller Park neighborhood makes it an ideal choice for this course, since it exposes Bethel students to classroom diversity, as well as challenges they may face as teachers.

“It’s a stretching experience that helps students move beyond their comfort zone and really prepares them for student teaching,” Myers says.

Though the fieldwork gives Bethel students invaluable experience, Somers says the real beneficiaries are the Brown students.

“It’s an authentic experience for Bethel students, but the students at Brown really benefit from the pre-service teachers,” he says. “They bring a fresh energy to the classroom.”

Myers would argue that her Bethel students are reaping the rewards, but agrees that they are as glad to be there as Brown is glad to have them. Both she and Somers look forward to the partnership continuing for years to come.

“Every year it gets better,” Somers says. “It’s a really wonderful experience for all.”

Additionally, Bethel students have served Brown through student teaching, doing service learning projects at the school and tutoring in the Keller Park community.