he fourth graders and the collegestudents made a circle around the cir-cumference of the classroom, and all of ustook turns introducing ourselves with aninteresting piece of information. Our rootsgrew deep from Kosovo to Mexico, Indiato Egypt, Somalia to Vietnam, andHouston to New York City. Some of uswanted to be teachers or pediatricians orengineers when we grew up. Some of uswere still thinking about it.When it came time to introduce myself,I looked around the room at my students—all of my students—the fourth grade writersand the college writers. “Some of you knowme as Ms. Susan,” I said, “and some of youknow me as Dr. Bernstein or Dr. Susan.”After two years of planning, two worlds of writers had finally collided—my WITSwriters and my college writers.My WITS collaborating teachers,their principal, and I had first discussed avisit to University of Houston,Downtown, when Mina and her class-mates were in second grade. But theschool was in the West HISD district, toofar away from downtown for a group of second graders to travel by public transit,especially with all of the constructionnear the University. Two springs later, thesecond graders were fourth graders—andthe Metro Light Rail was completed.University of Houston, Downtown wasthe last stop. The fourth grade teacherand I decided that it was finally time toplan our adventure.After introductions, Teresa, a collegestudent, agreed to read aloud to the group.The book we had chosen for this occasionwas
I Dream of a World
, written and illus-trated by the Gifted and Talented Studentsof Pershing Accelerated School inUniversity City, Missouri (Scholastic Inc,2001). The book presents a series of writ-ings and drawings that focus on what chil-dren and adults can do to make the world abetter place or, as a fourth grade studentwrote, “To save the Earth.” At the end, thebook provided templates for students toimagine their own visions of “We Dream of a World.” I invited the students to writeand draw their own book together.The college students and the fourthgraders divided into groups to plan theirsection of the book. The college studentslent the fourth graders colored pens andhelped them to define difficult words. Thefourth grade students shared their owninterpretations of the book. Togethereveryone drafted and revised their pagesfor the final copy.We Dream of a World…With more protection to save lives.With no violence to stop crime and hate.With nobody going hungry becauseeverybody needs to eat.Where everyone is treated equally andfairly because everyone deserves it.
Group 1, fourth graders and collegewriting students
After each group shared their work, thecollege students left for their other classesand the fourth graders went on a tour of theUniversity. The fourth graders first visitedmy office, complete with their drawings andpoems hanging on the walls. Then westopped for lunch at the cafeteria, took pic-tures on the outside deck with a view of downtown’s skyline as background, touredthe library and the college advising center,and visited the bookstore for candy bars, keychains, and other souvenirs. All too soon, itwas time for the fourth grade to take thelight rail back to their bus stop in order tocatch their bus back to the West Side.But the collaboration between thefourth grade and the college students didnot end that day. Some of the studentsbegan to correspond as pen pals. Then, afew weeks later, several of the college stu-dents volunteered to chaperone The MenilCollection field trip. For some of thecollege students, visiting The Menil wasa new experience. Other students remem-bered previous visits to The Menil, includingone college student who mentioned herown WITS trip five years before as amiddle school student. She shared a poemthat she had written that day:
How did clouds get the name cloud?Does anybody know?Or did a cloud drop a paper that said“Call us clouds?”Did Adam and Eve go around givingstrange names to everything?Were our ancestors clouds and whenthey went to heaven their souls are inthe sky?Were clouds meant to be loud?Or was it that God wanted it to be?
Barbara, written as an 8th grader,now a first-year college student
“We dream of a world,” the studentshad written, “where everyone is treatedequally and fairly because everyonedeserves it.” In those moments of writingand drawing and sharing, the studentsbegan to discover, across race, ethnicity,social class, gender, and age, how the land-scape might look in this world that theydreamed together.
GOES TO COLLEGE
by Susan Naomi Bernstein
4 th gr ade
WITS students work with University of Houston,Downtown students on the creation of the book,
We Dream of a World
WITS students learn about college life and meetwriting role models on a trip to the University of Houston,Downtown.
Wow! What a University! I never knew itwould be so big. Everything I expected wasall wrong. I expected that there were about40 students in a class. Well, I was wrong.I never knew that Ms. Susan’sstudents were so nice. I hope Iwill enter a University like that.
Mina, 4th grade student commenting on her field trip to the University of Houston,Downtown