Monday, January 22, 2007

Getting to Know My Downtown in the Third Grade

3rd-grade pupils to learn about city
Monday, January 22, 2007
The city schools found an innovative way to meet state education standards.



YOUNGSTOWN — Some 600 third-graders in the Youngstown City Schools will be getting guided tours of the city's downtown area this fall in a program designed to give kids some knowledge and ownership of their community.

"Getting to Know My Downtown in the Third Grade" is a joint effort involving the city schools, the city, Youngstown CityScape, Youngstown State University, Ronald Cornell Faniro Architect Inc. and the American Architectural Foundation, all of whom are putting in either money or services to launch the $17,000 effort.

It's all part of finding an innovative way to implement state academic content standards for the third grade, said Pat Bradley, supervisor of social studies K-12 and kindergarten for the city schools.

Part of those standards directs that third-graders must be educated about their communities — past and present, near and far.

In Youngstown's case, that involves learning about the city's history and becoming familiar with the downtown district, its architecture, physical features, its government and more, Bradley said.

Understanding community

"Third grade is a good time to begin understanding their community," she said, adding that it helps them know who they are and where they come from.

"We looked for what we could do to help kids learn about and learn to love downtown," said Holly Burnett-Hanley, a research associate with YSU's Center for Urban and Regional Studies, who is helping design the program.

The project will look back 200 years to Youngstown's beginnings as a river town and explain how it grew and changed to what it is today, Burnett-Hanley said.

Youngstown's program will take an interdisciplinary approach, Bradley said.

It won't be just social studies but will involve work in the language arts, math, art, science and technology.

The effort is being aided by Matt Farragher of Youngstown, a Ball State University graduate student who is assisting with developing the program standards and teacher guide for his doctoral thesis.

Rather than just talking about the community in the classroom, the program will be a "hands-on project," Bradley said.

The children will build models of the downtown and get "trip-tiks" (similar to the AAA travel guide TripTiks) for a guided tour of the downtown to look at landmarks and building architecture and visit places such as city hall and the county courthouse to learn where government is located and how it works.

Connecting past, future

The third-graders will not only get a sense of what the buildings look like today and how they are used, but a look at their history and their future under Youngstown's 2010 revitalization plan, Bradley said.

They will also visit places such as Powers Auditorium and The Butler Institute of American Art to help get a broader sense of their community.

Faniro will build a 3-D model of the downtown district for use by the pupils as well as participate in developing the program materials.

A committee of third-grade teachers representing each city elementary school is involved in drafting the teacher guides for the program, which is to be implemented in the fall.

It's all designed to give the children some perspective about where Youngstown is coming from and where it is going.

They are the future of the city and knowing about their community will help them become responsible citizens, Bradley said.

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