Planets, snakes, and scavenger hunts, oh my! Estabrook elementary students enjoy special field trip to Eastern Michigan University

Visit arises out of College of Education’s deep collaboration with Ypsilanti school

Estabrook students walk to EMU for a field trip.
Students from Estabrook Elementary walk to campus for a special field trip.

YPSILANTI – Dr. LaRose wants some French fries. Where should she go?

What floor is the Kiva Room on? What shape is the Kiva Room?

(Music teacher) Mr. Rindo wants to play music in the Student Center – where is the piano?

That’s a sampling of scavenger hunt questions posed to a group of about 65 second graders from Estabrook Elementary who visited Eastern Michigan University for a special field trip on Monday, June 3.

The Student Center scavenger hunt was just part of an action-packed itinerary that included a campus tour, a visit to the EMU Planetarium, a book-finding visit at Halle Library, the chance to check out some big snakes, a Quirk Theater teaching session, and lunch in the Porter Building.

The day began with the students, EMU student chaperones and Estabrook staff making the pleasant neighborhood walk to Eastern on a clear, crisp spring morning. After arriving on campus, the students were broken into groups as they navigated the active schedule.

Among the highlights was the visit to the Science Complex Planetarium, overseen by Norbert Vance, director of the Sherzer Observatory and the public voice of EMU astronomy.

The lights dimmed and the excitement grew.

“Waterfall, waterfall,” came the calls from chaperones.

The students knew what meant.

“Ssssssshhhhh,” the group said in chorus.

Vance took the groups on a quick tour of our summer night sky, pinpointing such mainstays as the Big Dipper and the North Star. Vance drew “oohs” and “ahs” when he zoomed into two objects in the night sky, to the amazingly colored planets of Jupiter and Saturn, the “wow” planet, as Vance called it.

Vance noted an important understanding in asking what animals need the night and darkness to flourish.

Owls? Yes.

Insects? Yes.

But the night is very important to humans, too, to enable sleep and rest. Vance illustrated the point by turning on a disruptive, unshaded light – you sure can’t sleep with that, he said.

The visit to the Science Complex also included a visit to the lab of EMU biology professor Chiron Graves, who showed off his collection of snakes, including an albino python. Asked what their favorite moment of the day was, several students answered, “I got to pet a snake.”

The visit stemmed from the EMU College of Education’s year-long immersion in Estabrook. The effort, led by Jackie LaRose, a professor of teacher education and this year’s Porter Chair, is part of a deep and mutual collaboration between the faculty, principal and staff of Estabrook Elementary School and the COE.

The Porter award, which carries a $50,000 budget, is designed to actively expand the University’s role in school districts in Michigan, with an emphasis on school-community partnerships.

As part of the collaboration, 20 Eastern teacher education students are imbedded in the school as they take curriculum and practicum courses. This fall, Graves will teach a teaching methods class at Estabrook, and Gabriela Dumitrascu, a professor of mathematics education, will bring her Math 381 students to work with Estabrook students on several occasions.

Estabrook is located at 1555 West Cross Street in Ypsilanti, several blocks from the Eastern campus.

LaRose noted the benefits of such a campus trip for the young students, as well as how Eastern staff and students have truly become parts of the Estabrook community.  

 “It’s important (these students) are able to see themselves on a campus, and maybe as future Eastern students,” she said.

Rachel Miller, a second grade teacher and a recent Eastern graduate, was among the teachers supervising groups Monday. Miller noted the role such a trip can play in expanding young students’ understanding of their world.

“It’s important to get out in the community,” she said. “And at Eastern, they see the diversity of the students and staff, and see people like themselves. It’s never too early to show students what they can do, and show that anything is possible.”

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

June 05, 2019

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom