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Education major develops to connect elementary and middle school students

When Daniel Chadwick was a freshman at Lansdale Catholic High School, he never imagined that the mentor program that paired him with a high school senior would be an inspiration many years later. Chadwick, a Penn State Berks senior graduating with a bachelor's degree in Elementary and Kindergarten Education, developed a similar program to help elementary school students make the transition to middle school.

Chadwick completed his student teaching at 13th and Green Elementary School this spring, but while he was there he developed the PEPP Connect Program, a pen pal program designed to bridge the gap between the two educational worlds of elementary and middle school.

PEPP Connect is designed to help fifth-grade students at 13th and Green Elementary School be prepared for their transition to North East Middle School next year. Chadwick assisted the fifth graders in writing letters to North East Middle School students in the Penn State Educational Partnership Program (PEPP). The fifth graders asked questions about middle school, and the middle school students, along with help from their PEPP mentors, responded to the questions, giving the elementary students advice and guidance. The pen pal process continued throughout the year, with the hope that the fifth grade students will have a collection of useful skills and strategies for sixth grade, as well as a new friend by the end of the year.

Chadwick, who began student teaching at 13th and Green Elementary School in August 2008, is an adult learner at Penn State Berks. He wanted young students to hear firsthand about the middle school experience.

"I wanted my students to see another view of what middle school is like, rather than hearing about it second hand from siblings, cousins, and friends who may only speak about the worst parts of school."

Chadwick also explained that when the fifth graders reach middle school, they will already know at least one middle school student in a higher grade, which can make them feel more confident about being in a new school.

The PEPP Connect Program has been a success in its initial year according to Chadwick.

"Both my students and the North East students have enjoyed the letters and always look forward to hearing from their pen pals. The North East students have discussed a great deal about how to get ready for middle school and we then discuss these things in class."

PEPP is an educational partnership, under the auspice of the Penn State College of Education. The program encourages academically underrepresented youth to pursue their full academic potential. Offered at no cost to participants, PEPP plans, develops, and implements education-related programs and activities for middle school and high school students. PEPP's core goal is to prepare its participants for higher education.
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