They spread out across the school cafeteria, huddled in pairs affixed to the screen on the laptops in front of them. One senior and one fifth-grader — students in Tricia Miller’s senior honor’s English class and Shelley Feltenberger’s fifth-grade class, respectively. The two classes joined up to collaborate on a new online portfolio program being rolled out at Penns Valley Area School District called “Live It.” Think of it as a LinkedIn for students.
Miller summed up the Live It experience as a “way to allow students, beginning when they’re younger, to create a relevant connection between what they’re doing in classes, activities, sports and communities to their college and career readiness. It allows our students to track and monitor their progress toward college and career goals, culminating in a useable portfolio to share with employers and colleges. It’s not just about listing experiences, this program allows our students to reflect and describe the impact these experiences have on their growth and development.”
Students from Miller’s senior honor’s English class crossed the street from Penns Valley High School to Penns Valley Intermediate to help the fifth-graders of Feltenberger’s class gain an understanding of what the tool could do and how they should start to build their own. What they didn’t realize is how much they would benefit from the collaboration.
What started as a way for the upperclassmen to mentor the elementary students quickly shifted to a two-way exchange of ideas. On one hand, the high school students were able to show real life examples of ways they got involved both in and out of school. Martha Dunkelberger, one of the senior mentors, noticed an interesting trend in how the fifth-graders related to the older students.
“In our portfolios, we showcase what we do and how we’re involved,” Dunkelberger said. “They were amazed. One said, ‘I didn’t know we had a dance club.’ But how would they, they’re only in fifth grade.”
Fellow senior Marcus Woodford agreed.
“They seemed really interested in what we were involved in,” he said. “It opened their eyes as to what they could do in high school.”
On the other hand, the seniors were surprised with the feedback they received from the fifth-graders.
“I was surprised at how tech savvy they were. They showed up with iPads and were giving us real-time feedback and logging it for us to use. They don’t remember a world where Smartphones didn’t exist,” Dunkelberger said.
Feltenberger lauded her students’ abilities to provide usable feedback.
“They offer a different set of eyes,” she said. “They would ask questions like, ‘You say you were a coach, but why don’t you have any pictures to show what you did?’ They were able to ask questions to make the seniors think about what they were posting.”
Miller said the collaboration developed as staff looked for a way to incorporate the new platform into the elementary school.
“They are the perfect audience and they need to know what kind of choices they potentially have,” she said. “They need to realize they have to get involved in the community outside of school, as well.”
Although it may have started as a way for students to teach other students about how to use another digital tool, the most important part of the meeting was having role models give the younger students a picture of what they can aspire to be, and how they can tell their own story while doing it.
So what did the fifth-graders think about having their idols come on over to share with them? Julianna Lovallo was wowed by the community service.
“It can be about donating food and clothing. It shows you can do just about anything. The profiles didn’t just need to be about school,” she said.
Josh Lieb echoed her excitement saying, “They do really cool things for the community. I had no idea you could do so much.”
Madyson Butler recapped her experience like this: “They (the seniors) were proud of themselves having this place where they could show their accomplishments. It made me proud that we have people doing these things … things I can do one day, too.”
Nate Althouse is the community relations director at Penns Valley Area School District.
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