CHANCELL-ING: Educating the Community

Woman sits at desk with young student.
Olivia Haass, then working toward a teaching credential with the School of Education, works as a student teacher in a sixth-grade class in Vacaville in 2021. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Many of you share with me the positive impact UC Davis has throughout Davis, from the vibrancy and cosmopolitan feel our students bring, to the support for community that our faculty, staff and students carry forward in myriad ways. 

Blue graphic of Chancellor Gary S. May with text: Gary May Chancell-ing. A town-gown newspaper column.

Another benefit is the university’s positive influence in K-12 schools. Our focus on learning and mentoring is demonstrated regularly through educational field trip opportunities to our campus and UC Davis student-teachers assisting in local classrooms.

You’ll find UC Davis connections on nearly every K-12 campus in Davis. From Birch Lane Elementary, to Emerson Junior High and Davis High School, nearly three dozen teaching credential candidates from the UC Davis School of Education are in the classroom. They student-teach through the entire academic year, working under the guidance of the classroom’s resident teacher and supervised by a School of Education faculty member. And of course, they’re enrolled in classes at UC Davis as they work towards qualifying for their California teaching credential.  

Making an impact in many fields

Alumni from the UC Davis School of Education are also making a difference. At Marguerite Montgomery Elementary in South Davis, which offers a two-way bilingual immersion program, two-thirds of the teachers received their credential training at UC Davis. Given the shortage of bilingual teachers around the state, UC Davis is having a solid impact at that school alone.

The UC Davis College of Engineering also helps enrich the programming at local schools. We are home to the UC Davis Drone Academy, where local students learn principles in aerospace engineering and aviation. The College of Engineering also offers competitions and camps for K-12 students in robotics and computing through its C-STEM (Computing, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Center. 

In another program through C-STEM, the Ujima Girls in Robotics Leadership Project provides mentors that address the significant challenges of inclusion and equity for Black and African American middle school and high school girls in STEM. One of the ways it works is that students learn hands-on coding and robotics in a fun environment and build confidence in their STEM abilities while being mentored by UC Davis students. These middle and high school students then have opportunities to become mentors to their peers. 

A unique field trip destination

In addition to our STEM outreach, K-12 students can learn about world class artistry at UC Davis. Each year, caravans of school buses pull up near the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts for a series of school matinees. For the 2022-23 season, these events have included Mexican folkloric dance and Japanese Taiko drumming. 

These events fill every seat in Jackson Hall. They inspire young minds and expose them to diverse artistry, all while reflecting California Arts Standards about interpreting their meanings and connecting them with history.

Speaking of the Mondavi Center, it’s also home to “Words Take Wing: Honoring Diversity in Children’s Literature.” This program from the UC Davis School of Education has been attended by more than 18,000 students from the greater Sacramento area since its inception nearly two decades ago. “Words Take Wing” features a children’s author sharing stories that reflect a variety of cultures. 

Other favorite outings for area students are the Kids in Garden Spring Field Trips. The field trips are geared for kindergarten through fifth-grade students and hosted by UC Davis’ Agricultural Sustainability Institute. With our own UC Davis students and staff leading the way, our young visitors learn more about ecology and growing food through hands-on activities like harvesting carrots and inspecting them for beneficial insects.

The free events at our Bohart Museum of Entomolgy are also a hit with kids, helping further their curiosity in science. The museum offers free open houses on weekends. Recent events were dedicated to beetles and “many-legged wonders” including scorpions and millipedes. It’s only here that you can experience a tarantula crawling on your palm while learning more about what makes these creatures so unique.

Finally, Picnic Day is a campus-wide classroom for every age to enjoy, where visitors can learn from UC Davis experts while getting hands-on with our animals, insects and plants. 

As you might imagine, these activities and programs are just a few examples that connect the rich educational experience of UC Davis to students in Davis. There are many others that span across our entire institution.

I hope this has inspired you to find ways to explore your curiosity. As we move more fully into spring, we remain committed to these connections between the university and our neighbors. 

Chancellor Gary S. May’s monthly column is published in The Davis Enterprise and Dateline UC Davis.

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