Two schools strengthen their longstanding partnership


Hamline Elementary and Hamline University Connection

Felipe Vasquez (left) is a freshman at Hamline University majoring in education/psychology. He is one of more than 90 HU students who tutor at Hamline Elementary, tailoring instruction to small groups and lowering adult to student ratios. Fifth grader Isabella Martinez Rodriguez (right) practiced her reading.(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)[/caption]


There’s only one thing that separates Hamline Elementary and Hamline University, and that’s Snelling Avenue.

Last year, the two neighboring schools agreed to expand an educational partnership they began in 1991 (the partnership actually began over 100 years ago but became official in 1991).

Dozens of Hamline University students are in Hamline Elementary classrooms every week working as tutors, mentors, and student teachers. Hamline Elementary students regularly engage in enrichment activities offered at Hamline University, such as all 4th and 5th graders learning to swim in the campus pool.

The result is an innovative model that brings best practices in educational theory, research, and direct experience to students in both institutions.

Hamline Elementary is called a Collaborative Learning University School. Principal Kristin Reilly said, “There isn’t another school like ours in the state. We are building the program in the two schools simultaneously. We share a tremendous learning synergy.”

Hamline Elementary Principal Kristin Reilly in front of one of the “Wonder Walls” seen throughout the school. In the inquiry-based model, students begin with the phrase, “I wonder,” and follow a process of discovery toward learning. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)[/caption]

How did this all come about?

Reilly said, “When Hamline Elementary changed from a language academy to a community school a few years ago, our enrollment decreased. We were in that place of needing to find a new identity. Our staff, our parent group, and community members had many conversations about how to increase enrollment. We decided to deepen what already existed: our longstanding partnership with Hamline University.”

She continued, “The new Hamline Elementary program builds on an Inquiry-Based Learning Model rooted in curiosity, asking questions, and following an active path toward learning. School staff and all of the education partners at Hamline University use this model to help students meet their individual learning styles and needs.

“Everything happening in this building has to do with strengthening relationships and maximizing community connectedness.”

The partnership model

Last year a fifth grade teacher gave his class an assignment: to design a functional tennis shoe. Working in pairs, students learned basic design elements, how to make form match function, and how to create an advertising and marketing campaign. College students from the digital media arts department at HU taught the elementary school students how to develop and print a 3-D model of their designs.

Reilly said, “This project illustrates how we’re two campuses, but we’re connected. Because of our connection, elementary school students know how to navigate a college campus (with their teachers.) It’s normal for our students to be there, and many of them are from families where college was not part of their experience. Another advantage for our students is that many of the education partners at Hamline University are people of color, which allows our students to see themselves as college students. The majority of our staff at Hamline Elementary is white.”

Inquiry-based teachers

Hamline University Literacy Professor Maggie Struck (center) in a de-briefing session with graduate students in the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. The partnership with Hamline Elementary gives HU students experience in an inquiry-based learning environment. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)[/caption]

All student teachers at Hamline Elementary now come from the education department at Hamline University. The student teachers have studied and experienced the model of Inquiry-Based Learning firsthand. They have likely spent significant amounts of time tutoring or mentoring at Hamline Elementary before becoming student teachers.

Education grads right out of college sometimes struggle to get their first fulltime job. Reilly said, “We had three student teachers last year, and they were all hired for permanent positions in the district. The feedback I got from the hiring principals was that these new teachers were very well-prepared – that they were, and I quote, ‘completely different educators.’ That’s because we trained them from the beginning. They left our school understanding what inquiry-based teaching was, and how they could use it to help all children succeed.”

Hamline Elementary is part of the St. Paul Public School system, and is located at 1599 Englewood Ave. For more information or to schedule a visit, call the front office at 651.293.8715.


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