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October 25, 2013
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

SRU education volunteers help Butler second graders read better

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Give 15 Slippery Rock University freshmen education majors the chance to help second graders with their school work and you get a bundle of hand-on games that are building reading skills for struggling students at Butler's Emily Brittain School.

Jeremy Lynch, SRU assistant professor of special education, came up with the idea and asked for volunteers. "The students jumped at the opportunity," he said. They now spent 45 minutes each Tuesday at the school organizing and running an after-school reading skills development program.

"The SRU students quickly realized that simply adding another hour to the day's formal instruction, after a full day of school work, would not work for the second graders. So, they set about devising educational games that would involve play, with the learning part buried in the fun," he said. "The SRU students have been working over the past month to develop targeted instructional activities that engage their young learners and make learning fun."

"I had spent time last spring talking with the school's principal, Jeff Mathieson, and he agreed to have his school join in the program," Lynch said.

The school identified 17 second-graders who needed extra work in the language arts, he said. The skill-building program is mostly related to language arts and reading skills.

"We did not want to do the traditional program of helping the students with their homework, so we tried to come up with a new way to approach learning. The SRU volunteers devised activities that get the second graders up and moving. They adapted a version of the game Twister and a version of Candy Land. All of the learning is interactive and fun," he said.

For Brian Welsh, an early childhood and special education major from Freeport, volunteering was an easy decision. "I am working with Dr. Lynch as part of the College of Education Professor Protégé program so it was just natural to take advantage of this opportunity. My ultimate goal is to become a teacher, and this project just exposes me to another facet of teaching. I thought this would be a great experience and benefit."

"I just got back from working with the students on reading comprehension and with working with them on consonants and vowels; we were concentrating on 'long-e' words by using an innovative game so we could have fun while learning the materials," he said.

Jesse Lincoln, a secondary education and biology major from Coudersport, also joined the program as a volunteer. "My friend Brian [Welsh] got me involved. I am trying to help the students improve their reading level. We are concentrating on reading comprehension and understanding and identifying vowels."

"I've been with the project for a couple of weeks, and I plan to stick with it. I think it is a lot of fun - and also educational to the youngsters involved as we make games that are interactive. It will help me when I get out there to teach as a career," he said.

The SRU student volunteers have agreed to a six-week program, but Lynch said he hopes to be able to expand and extend the project further in the school year.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.