Collaboration Creates Community That Works

By Brenda Lange

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Photo credit: Brenda Lange

A group of sixth graders at Nitschmann Middle School are getting an early dose of college life. Through a partnership with Moravian College, one team of 11 and 12-year olds are now known as “Team Moravian.”
“Initially, our principal, Jacqueline Santanasto, shared her idea for the four teams in sixth grade to pick a local college as a mascot, where they would decorate their classrooms and so forth,” explains Bryce Stewart, one of the team teachers participating in the collaboration. “And then the idea grew into an educational partnership.”
Two of the team’s four teachers are Moravian graduates, and Moravian’s education department has been excited to be a part of the alliance.
“Moravian’s education department has a long-standing partnership with Nitschmann through the many students placed there for field experiences,” says Camie Modjadidi, director of field experiences for the education department. “This expanded partnership with the college is exciting because it gives us the opportunity to show 6th graders what possibilities are open to them after high school. It was so moving to see the delight on the 6th grade students’ faces during the fall kick-off event at Nitschmann and the campus visit.”

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Photo credit: Brenda Lange

Additional events include a Nitschmann track and field event on January 29 and another visit to Moravian’s campus in February.
“Our Moravian/Nitschmann partnership has already had a positive, meaningful impact on everyone involved and we have just started,” Modjadidi adds.
Being so close to campus has had its benefits as well, as the students have had the opportunity to walk to campus and visit, getting a taste of what it will be like to someday live away from home.
“When the kids were on campus, they were incredulous, wide-eyed,” says Stewart. “Most of them had never been to a college campus, and none of them had been to Moravian. They discovered a bigger world beyond their house, neighborhood and school. It was eye-opening for them.”

Getting this peek into their futures is just one of the benefits of the program. Last fall, the Nitschmann students studied electricity and sustainability—Moravian’s In Focus theme—and came up with an idea to lower energy usage in and around the school’s community of West Bethlehem.
They partnered with the Philadelphia Zoo, which offered tickets to the children for projecting ways to lower the city’s carbon footprint through lower electricity use, as they learn about power plants and electricity generation.
Representatives from PPL also visited the school to present an energy-saving program to the parents and community members. They distributed CFL bulbs and had participants complete surveys about energy usage. The turnout of more than 100 earned the schoolchildren a grant from PPL that funded buses to take the students on that visit to the zoo.
“In a year where budgets are tight, this type of collaboration is good for everyone involved,” adds Stewart.

This article was orginally published in the Moravian College Newsletter, InCommon