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UW pre-college program reaches students across Wisconsin

June 18, 2021 By Fran Puleo

Bucky’s Classroom classes were conducted remotely with students from around the state. Submitted photo

Now in its sixth year, the Bucky’s Classroom program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison offers Wisconsin middle students a sneak peek at life on a college campus.

In a typical year, UW student ambassadors visit classrooms around the state to talk about college life, pre-college planning and career exploration, and the program culminates with a visit to campus for participating classrooms. During the pandemic, the program needed to be reshaped in order to allow UW student ambassadors to continue to safely engage with middle school students around the state. The revised program successfully reached almost 700 students in eight counties during the 2020-21 school year.

“We knew we had to get creative in order to continue to keep students engaged in the virtual environment,” said student Coordinator Barni Shiferaw, a senior in the College of Letters and Science. “Incorporating collaborative platforms like Kahoot and Wooclap was a fun way to continue the learning yet keep the attention of the students.”

In lieu of classrooms visiting campus, Bucky’s classroom partnered with eight different campus departments to offer virtual hands-on learning experiences. Middle school classrooms could select from a multitude of offerings, ranging from an exploration of local effigy mounds or a virtual tour of campus, to candid discussions with theater and music faculty, or scientists at the Discovery building.

A diverse pool of 20 students from various colleges around campus were trained on the lesson plans and working with younger students in the virtual environment. This virtual option made the program available to schools located more than four hours from Madison.

“Meeting other Ambassadors in collaborating on different ways to talk about our college experience has been so fun and inspiring,” said UW student ambassador Hailey Laubscher, a junior in the School of Business. “Getting to share my love for Madison and college in general has been amazing, and I look forward to more years as a Bucky’s Classroom Ambassador.”

Based on feedback from students and teachers, Bucky’s Classroom gets students thinking about college when it is something they may have not considered prior to participation in the program.

Schools that participated in the program this school year include Milwaukee Excellence Charter School, James Williams Middle School (Rhinelander), Edison Middle School (Green Bay), Cherokee Heights (Madison), Flambeau Middle School (Tony), Wright Middle School (Madison), Colby Middle School (Colby), Black Hawk Middle School (Madison), Les Paul Middle School (Waukesha), Lake Shore Middle School (Mequon) and Sennett Middle School (Madison).

Bucky’s Classroom plans to move to a hybrid model this fall when most classes will be in person. The program will continue with virtual offerings combined with in-person sessions based on the preference of the school and the availability of student ambassadors. With this combined model, the program hopes to continue to reach more students at a greater distance from Madison, while continuing to produce full impact of the program and the relationships that it fosters.

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