Three Wyoming Schools Selected for Community Initiative
November 4, 2011 — Students in three Wyoming schools are participating in an innovative school-community engagement initiative this fall that will benefit their communities.
Pinedale High School, Worland High School and Torrington Middle School were selected after participating in a two-step application process open to districts that are members of the Wyoming School-University Partnership (WSUP). The initiative begins this fall and will continue into the next school year.
The WSUP is a collaboration that engages stakeholders at the University of Wyoming, school districts, community colleges and state government to address a variety of educational concerns.
The school-community initiative is to engage students in their communities and to learn citizenship through the experience. Students will take the lead by identifying a community improvement project. Students, teachers and UW professors will then work together to make individual projects a reality in their respective communities.
The WSUP launched the project based on successful efforts in Nebraska. UW political scientist John Anderson, who teaches two online courses, recently returned to Wyoming from Nebraska. He helped facilitate the first projects while a professor at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. The WSUP chose Anderson to facilitate the initiative.
The three Wyoming schools were chosen because their strong applications demonstrated a commitment to learning and community engagement. In Pinedale, two high school teachers will work in separate classes. Government instructor Rose DeNinno will work with her advisory class and Jasper Warembourg will assist his humanities class to identify and implement a project.
Kitsy Barnes' Worland High School biological field studies class will attempt to identify and solve an environmental problem.
The inquiry class at Torrington Middle School will begin a project with teachers Sarah Williams and Mary Werner.
After Anderson works with the classes, UW or area community college experts will then help direct the next stage of the projects.
Anderson, who lives in Pinedale, says, "I am excited to start in all three schools and their communities because you get to see a community from the inside out. Students almost always provide a unique perspective on their community's need."
The initiative offers an early college experience as university professors will meet with the students and teachers to provide help and expertise. Later students will present their work at several conferences around the state.
"Students get to learn that college professors are real people who actually like to laugh," Anderson says. "While learning that professors are people, students also will learn what it is like to work with someone who has been immersed in learning a subject and has deep insights about it."
Projects in other schools have proven to be successful. In one project, middle school students helped re-open their community movie theater. In other instances, students improved their community by designing and painting a public mural, started a new community celebration and completed a school improvement project.
The National Network for Educational Renewal, the UW Student Affairs office and participating school districts support the project.