A Bridge to Bright Futures

The ACTION Summer Bridge program helps prepare aspiring math and science educators to be successful college students and even better teachers.

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By Anne-Margaret Swary

For a select group of future teachers, this summer presented a rare opportunity to get an early taste of college life and start building skills that will help them be successful students and educators.

Now in its ninth year, the Science and Math Education in ACTION Summer Bridge program brings to campus 25-30 recent high school graduates who are interested in science or math teaching at the middle childhood or secondary school level. Once on campus, these students spend a month engaging in teambuilding events and academic activities all designed to help acclimate them to campus and their future career fields.

action 2“In the end, students leave with a better sense of what college is all about, get to know the other people in their cohort, and are made aware of university resources they can tap for their four years so that they hit the ground running when they arrive for classes in August,” said ACTION program director Dr. Daniel Brahier, a professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at BGSU.

They also attend mini classes throughout the Summer Bridge session to expose them to college mathematics and multiple areas of science – such as chemistry, astronomy, biology and geology – to help them discern whether they are in the right field, Brahier said.

The Summer Bridge program is just one component of the Science and Math Education in ACTION program at BGSU, which provides four-year scholarships and also offers innovative opportunities to prepare the best science and mathematics teachers in the State of Ohio. Students apply from all over the state and must go through a competitive selection process. 

Scholarships are provided through Choose Ohio First, a program established by the Ohio Department of Higher Education to keep Ohio’s best and brightest students in the state in STEM-related fields.

In addition to the Summer Bridge program, which serves as an introductory link between high school and college, ACTION students participate in professional development activities throughout their four years at BGSU, which include attending seminars and panels with keynote speakers, taking part in practicum experiences in local businesses or agencies to see how math and science are used in the real world, working on original research projects with faculty mentors, and conducting classroom teaching research with their own students while in the field.

“Through ACTION, they get these experiences that most undergraduates never get,” Brahier said. “It helps achieve our goal of increasing the number of science and mathematics education graduates and improves their effectiveness at teaching these subjects.”

Students who have taken part in ACTION are effusive about its merits.

action 3“Summer Bridge was a perfect way for me to transition between being a high school senior and being a lost college freshman,” said Emily Knollman, a senior middle childhood education major. “It allowed me to make personal relationships with many of my professors that I have had throughout my years at BGSU.”

Knollman said having multiple research projects has been a great resume booster when looking for jobs. But her favorite aspect about ACTION is that everyone in the program becomes part of a family of people who are passionate about making a difference in the world of education

“We all support each other in our dreams to become teachers,” she said. “ACTION has been the best and most rewarding experience I have had throughout my four years at BGSU.”

Jordan Truitt, who graduated in May with a degree in adolescent to young adult education with a specialization in integrated science, also extolled the positive affect that the program had on her career prospects.  

“When I began preparing for graduation and interviewing for jobs, I often found myself reflecting on my experiences in ACTION and how they set me apart from other teaching candidates,” she said. “Before even beginning freshman year, ACTION had me constantly reflecting on what it meant to be a science teacher. After four years, at the point of job interviews, I had refined my classroom beliefs more clearly than other first teachers may have without ACTION. I could draw on my research experiences in science and pedagogy to support my goals for my future classroom. ACTION helped me gain the confidence and knowledge I needed to be successful in finding a teaching job.”

Now, as Truitt prepares for her first year of teaching in the Columbus area, she said she is still thinking about ways that she can engage in research in her classroom using the tools ACTION taught her.

“ACTION shaped life as a student at BGSU and will continue to do so into my teaching career,” she said. “I feel confident in the teacher I have become due to ACTION's support and opportunities.”