Harding students Ricardo and Isaac during their field trip to UCSB organized by the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education
Magali Gauthier

Since forging a collaborative alliance with UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education in 2010, Harding University Partnership School has gone out of its way to introduce its students to the wonders of higher education.

Last Friday, Harding’s 400-plus pre-school through sixth grade students took a field trip to UCSB, where they spent the day engaging in a wide range of educational activities. Specifically tailored to suit the appropriate academic standards for each grade level, these activities varied widely but shared a common goal: to encourage each and every youngster to put college in his or her future.

“This is the fourth year that UCSB, led by the Gevirtz School, has had the wonderful opportunity to bring all of the Harding University Partnership School to the UCSB campus,” said Gevirtz’s Communications Coordinator, George Yatchisin. “We see this event as an essential way to bridge the town-and-gown gap many often feel, but more importantly to give the pre-K through sixth graders at Harding the chance to see that college isn’t just nearby, it’s within their reach.”

According to Yatchisin, opportunities like this give each child at Harding a sense of possibility. Inviting the students to UCSB’s bustling campus to interact with higher learning coursework in new and exciting ways, these field trips show young students that “college” is not some abstract, unattainable concept, but rather an actual place where they can go to enjoy themselves while enriching their minds.

What’s more, Friday’s activities — which included a visit to the Marine Science Institute’s state-of-the-art touch tanks, nature walks for Harding’s budding botanists, and thrilling, hands-on science experiments — were overseen by UCSB professors and esteemed Santa Barbara figures. Danielle Harlow, an assistant professor of science education at Gevirtz, elicited a chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” from around 30 third graders when she mixed Mentos and Diet Coke, creating a reaction that shot geysers of cola 20 feet into the air.

Elsewhere, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Chryss Yost lent her talents to a poetry-writing workshop, presiding over small groups of fourth graders as they worked together to craft short poems and pair them with their own nature photography. When finished, the students’ work was compiled into an e-book, which will soon be published on Gevirtz’s website and sent to Harding School.

Throughout Friday’s field trip, students of all ages donned T-shirts proudly proclaiming, “I’m going to college!” and were visibly elated at the prospect of taking their education to new heights. When asked what she would take away from the day’s activities, one fourth grade girl said rather succinctly, “You learn a lot of stuff from UCSB. You have fun, but you learn.”


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