Reflections on Outreach Project
By Julie Nusser, BHA Freshman and outreach participant, December 2000

To be a sixth grader again.

When I worked with the Cardinal Wright students, I was reminded of what it feels like to be an eleven-year-old sixth grader, frustrated and uncertain about my talents and my dreams. In working one-on-one with the students, I realized that is incredibly important that students have a support system of family, teachers, and mentors to encourage their students to think about future success in the real world. And I realized that the best way to help the students overcome their academic doubts and frustrations and believe in themselves is through interdisciplinary work, the work of our shared future.

As we worked with the scope-on-a-rope, I could easily recall my own feelings of frustration during middle school, when I loved to write but didn't believe that I could ever do anything real or valuable by writing, when I had no idea how useful writing is to many people. I saw the same frustrations in students who loved to write poetry to express their feelings but disliked the rigid structure of the classroom. I understood the boy who loved to draw but hated science, believing that he wasn't good at it. The best part of using the scope-on-the-rope was the spark in the students' eyes as they realized that art can be science, and that science can be art. There is really nothing like seeing a person's eyes light up the first time they realize that their talents of writing or drawing or mechanical ability, are real and valuable. The realization that dreams are not just childhood fantasies but that talents are real and can be used in many different fields is wonderful to witness.

Despite the fun activity of new interdisciplinary work, it was often frustrating when students held preconceived notions of what schoolwork was supposed to be, and I realized that parents, teachers, and mentors need to become more educated about interdisciplinary work. Work that connects the arts and sciences must begin at a middle-school level so that students can realize how powerful it is to connect things like art or science, drama with writing, or music with poetry. And when teachers, family, and mentors work together with students, middle-schoolers should no longer be frustrated and bored by school. Instead, they should look forward to music class so that they can learn about rhythms, which will help them in writing poetry. Likewise, the boy who can draw well should realize that science itself is a form of art. More interdisciplinary projects need to occur with students at all age levels, but particularly at the middle school level, so that students will learn about vast possibilities before giving up on subject material that is hard, boring, or frustrating. And when students learn to connect disciplines, we'll be able to work together in the future, and perhaps that is the best promise of the scope-on-a-rope project.