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California State University, Sacramento child development faculty linked local elementary schools with the university to foster academic competency in children from diverse backgrounds; to encourage students from under-represented populations eventually to consider attending the CSU; and to support the development of aspiring teachers. Undergraduate mentors worked with schoolchildren on short-term game-like activities and longer-term projects involving sustained engagement in complex and difficult literacy tasks.

The elementary school partners provide space, computers, and opportunities for undergraduates to work with children. The university provides coursework grounded in sociocultural theories of development intended to help undergraduates work with children in productive ways.

The community partners and the faculty researcher collaborate to ensure that the research improves understanding of the teaching-learning experience. The project includes ethnographic and discourse analytic studies of cognitive development, motivational processes, and collaborative learning. Findings from these studies are shared with all participants.

The project benefits local community participants in the mentoring that many elementary-school children receive. These experiences promote the development of complex thinking, problem-solving ability, and literacy skills and strategies. Additionally, local schools benefit from recognizing that informal learning can contribute to children’s intellectual development. The undergraduates learn the connection between theory and practice in teaching/learning events. Finally, the faculty and the university strengthen ties to the local community.

Two important lessons learned are that administrative support with collaborating partners is essential, and that the social organization of learning in informal settings promotes self-directed learning and motivation in complex ways.

Lynda Stone, Child Development
California State University, Sacramento

Jacqueline Hotchkiss & Ana Garcia-Nevarez, California State University, Sacramento

Key words: literacy, Sacramento, K-6 schools, teacher education, child development, mentoring, Northern California

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Last Updated: May 06, 2016