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Middle-schoolers get campus close-up thanks to service-learning partnership

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The assignment involved a combination of creativity, ingenuity and collaboration: Produce a documentary about college.

So, in teams of three, the Hart County middle-schoolers took to the University of Georgia campus with the help of undergraduates in Gretchen Thomas' EDIT 2000 class, "Teaching with Technology," to capture footage and interview other UGA students about their experiences. After a day of lessons, tours and a bit of football-related sightseeing, the 20 campus visitors returned home for the next step in their assignment.

The visit, coordinated by the Archway Partnership and the UGA Office of Service-Learning, partnered with Thomas' service-learning class, which also benefitted from the trip. Thomas is an instructor in the College of Education's Department of Career and Information Studies, and her class teaches students to connect technology-supported communication, collaboration and creativity.

"We put groups of my students together with groups of eighth-graders, and the UGA students took the eighth-graders around campus to capture relevant footage and interview my students about the topic," said Thomas. The students also took a campus tour, ate at the Tate Center and got a tour of Grady Newsource led by journalism professor David Hazinski.

Colin Barber, a senior communications major and former punter for the Bulldog football team, led the campus tour, including some of the athletic facilities.

"It's always great to try and be a good example, positive role model to kids and show kids what they want to see," Barber said. "When I was little, I loved to come here and tour a big-time university and learn everything about the school and how things work."

As an Archway Partnership community, Hart County is one of eight communities working with the outreach service to address community and economic development issues. This trip served to not only to give students footage for their projects, but also helped them experience life on a college campus.

After returning to Hart County, the students reviewed their footage and sent additional questions and requests for B-roll footage to Thomas' class, she said. The plan is for Thomas' students to next travel to Hart County before the end of the semester to watch the finished products.

A 2013 Service-Learning Fellow, Thomas has worked on several projects with the Archway Partnership.

"It's just bringing so much opportunity to our kids," said Kelley Gaines, the Hart County Middle School teacher who brought the group to Athens. "Some of these kids, they don't get out of our county. They don't have opportunity or means to get out. So when the program comes to us and allows us the opportunity to come over here ... it's just making those connections for students that they may not get otherwise."

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