“This makes sense. All universities should do this!”
The Illinois Board of Higher Education’s staff grants temporary approval for new centers and institutes and then conducts a rigorous study after five years as part of considering permanent status.
Launched in 2003, P-20 initiatives have become a unique and innovative asset for NIU. The center coordinates university-wide activities with external partners across the continuum from pre-school (P) through graduate school (20).
“Other P-20 centers exist across the country, but NIU’s center is the only one that focuses on campus-wide coordination of efforts to solve urgent problems in education. The P-20 Center connects external partners with people and resources across five colleges and many offices and centers,” says Anne Kaplan, co-director of the P-20 Center and vice president for Outreach, Engagement, and Information Technologies.
“The original concept behind this initiative was to reduce fragmentation and maximize the impact of off-campus P-20 activities by faculty, programs, departments and students,” adds Earl “Gip” Seaver, co-director of the P-20 Center and deputy provost. “We are proud of the accomplishments of the P-20 Center, which have now been recognized by IBHE.”
The P-20 Center’s activities involve students, faculty and staff from five NIU colleges and more than two dozen NIU centers and institutes. P-20 projects range across 10 counties in northern Illinois, dozens of school districts and three African countries.
In 2012-13, the P-20 Center activities engaged 1,372 NIU students; 280 NIU faculty; 2763 P-12 teachers; 46,714 P-12 students; and 11,800 community members.
A few of the innovations developed and supported by the P-20 Center include:
- STEM Outreach, which organizes the annual STEMfest, summer camps, STEM Cafés for community members and STEM Teen Read, a book club for teenagers interested in learning the science behind the fiction. STEM Outreach also delivered whiz-bang science presentations in nearly 100 schools this year, and is rapidly expanding.
- Full-body motion video games developed by multi-disciplinary teams of NIU students to teach topics as diverse as fourth grade vocabulary and science-for-survival concepts in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption.
- An online lab school where NIU students will learn to teach in the digital environment and students in fifth- through 12th-grades increase their academic skills while creating online art and sharing their writing.
- Coordination of NIU’s participation in state-level projects such as the STEM Learning Exchanges and ISLE (Illinois Shared Learning Environment), an online service that will enables individualized learning at school and at home.
- A Regional College Readiness Partnership with five community colleges to improve the preparation of incoming students.
Marilyn Bellert, who has managed NIU’s P-20 initiatives since 2003, credits the success of the center to long-term leadership by Kaplan and Seaver and to the deans of five colleges for their support.
“An exceptionally collaborative group of deans have encouraged their faculty and staff members to participate in P-20 activities and have worked together on many P-20 projects,” Bellert says.
“Deans Chris McCord, Promod Vohra, Rich Holly, LaVonne Neal and Derryl Block are consistently supportive and helpful in planning and implementing P-20 projects. With leadership from Anne Kaplan and Gip Seaver, they have established a campus-wide culture of collaboration for P-20 activities of all kinds.”
A sampling of P-20 events in June 2013 shows campus-wide involvement:
- Bright Futures held an Electricity Fair at the DeKalb Library. Nearly 100 “children of all ages” learned about electricity through hands-on activities and created electric art. Five local libraries, the Institute for Energy, Sustainability, and Environment, Time Arts, STEM Outreach and Lights 4 Learning sponsor Bright Futures.
- Camp Invention, where 50 scientists of tomorrow, now in grades K-6, dismantled cast-off machines, created up-cycled art projects from trash; and learned geo-caching. NIU students serving as counselors represented the NIU colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET) and Education (COE).
- A total of 17 summer camps were held in June with 200 campers attending academic camps delivered by CLAS External Programs, CEET, the Digital Convergence Lab and STEM Outreach; additionally, more than 400 enrolled in Huskie Athletics camps.
- “Teaching to the New Standards,” a three-day workshop where 25 faculty from NIU, community colleges and P-12 schools are integrating activities from the Common Core State Standards into NIU’s teacher preparation courses. The overall purpose is to improve the preparation of incoming students to succeed in college. Faculty from six departments in CLAS and COE attended along with instructors from five school districts and Rock Valley College
- STEM Café on “Gaming to Engage Your Mind,” drew community members to an evening of discussion on learning games created at NIU, while enjoying food and drink at Eduardo’s in downtown DeKalb. Faculty and staff from CEET and eLearning Services explained development and use of learning games in the classroom.
- “Using Children’s Literature to Teach Economics and Personal Finance,” a workshop for elementary teachers, was delivered by the NIU Center on Economic Education by faculty from COE, CLAS and the P-20 Center.
- Jon Furr, of the NIU Office of Education System Innovation, attended meetings in Ghana to plan development of a school report card modeled on the Illinois Interactive Report Card created at NIU.
For more information on the NIU Center for P-20 Engagement, call (815) 753-1403 or email P20@niu.edu.