Making the transition from middle school to high school can be scary for some students – and their parents. Moving from a familiar educational environment to an unfamiliar one can cause anxiety, especially if the new school’s curriculum is nontraditional. To ease those worries, the Marysville Early College High School in Union County offers a two-day summer bridge program to help incoming students find their footing, meet future classmates and get a taste of the curriculum. To tell us about the program at Marysville ECHS, we contacted Principal Kathy McKinniss.
Q: Tell us about your school, its particular emphasis and philosophy.
A: We opened two years ago with a founding freshmen class. Each year we have added an additional cohort of freshmen. We have three broad pathways: Informational Technology; Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering; and Health Sciences. In each of these pathways, students choose their entrance and exit points based on their career and college goals. If a student leaves a pathway, he can enter another one or take more college courses in primarily math and science. With our partner, Columbus State Community College, our students have the opportunity to acquire up to an associate’s degree along with their high school coursework. A STEM pedagogy of design thinking, problem-based learning and inquiry are embedded into all of our classes and work.
Q: What is the summer bridge program, and what prompted you to offer it?
A: All of our rising freshmen are invited to attend. While it is not required, we always have high attendance rates. We are a school of choice in our district and do not have admission requirements so students really want to be here and are excited to have a summer program. Students are introduced to our design-thinking model (identify, plan, create and communicate) and our habits of mind flexibility, outside-the-box thinking, resilience, self-sufficiency, collaboration and communication.
Q: What information/experiences are offered?
A: Students are presented with a few small design challenges and meet with their nucleus student groups, which include an advisor. Our older students mentor them and run sessions on mastery learning, expectations and the design process. They then spend a day developing a larger design prototype. This year the challenge is “How can you make donating fun?” We will have the director of the Humane Society come and speak about its needs, and then students will devise a collection device that would promote donations for the Humane Society. The winning prototype will be further developed and will spend a month rotating among local businesses.
Q: Are the school’s community partners involved?
A: Each year we try to involve either a partner or a local business or agency in the design challenge. Our first year, we partnered with Honda Marysville to have students devise a way to take a group picture (before selfie sticks) without using an app or timer. Honda Marysville loaned us cars, and students then took photos of their group with the cars and created mock ads that were presented on their final day. The students stay at the school for the program, and parents are invited to attend the final afternoon so that they, too, are introduced to the attributes of our school.
Q: What is the goal of the bridge program?
A: We want students to be excited about the type of learning that goes on here and feel comfortable in the school and with our structures prior to the beginning of classes. I do know that when we run a shorter make-up session in August, students indicate they wish they could have been present for the longer session.
Q: Would you recommend this kind of program to other STEM schools?
A: Absolutely. Students are not only more confident about what to expect, but they also have met other students and staff, become familiar with expectations and look forward to coming to school in August.