Three Bennington colleges host 7th graders


BENNINGTON — After Middle School Access Day was a big hit at the Community College of Vermont in its first year in Bennington, the program was expanded this year to include two other institutions of higher learning.

Bennington College and Southern Vermont College joined in on the event, which is designed to give seventh graders a taste of college, for the first time on Thursday. Of the three seventh grade teams from Mount Anthony Union Middle School, each was able to visit two of the colleges. Last year's Access Day featured students from Manchester Elementary-Middle School.

One of those teams, Nineveh, started their day at CCV then traveled to Bennington College in the afternoon.

They were welcomed to CCV by Coordinator of Academic Services Jeannie Jenkins, who led the group in a game of Bingo. Students were asked questions about Vermont Colleges and the college application process in general, with the answers corresponding to spots on their boards. While there were some missteps ("What is the department at a college that handles student applications?" "Associates!"), the students generally displayed good awareness of the college world, although they still have a few years to go before they'll be applying and attending themselves.

After the introduction, the students split into five classrooms to sample some of the classes CCV has to offer: The Psychology of Success with Felipe Stetson; The Fine Art of Metal Work with Trish Weill; What Comes Next? Exploring Sequences in Nature with Adele Miller; Financial Reality Game with Jody Schade; and Journeying and Animal Spirits with Ananda Forest.

"One of the things I really like about what I do is not just teaching psychology," said Stetson. "It's about helping students become better students... You may not realize it, but you use (psychology) every day."

"I don't discriminate, I like all art, and I try to learn about all of it," said Weill, who proceeded to demonstrate and give the students a chance to try their hands at both the hand-stamping technique called "chasing" and how to link chainmail.

In Miller's class, she demonstrated how such series of numbers, as the Fibonacci series, appear in nature and had the students explore the numbers by arranging paper squares, the dimensions of which corresponded with Fibonacci numbers (1x1, 2x2, 3x3, 5x5, etc.) in such a way that they all formed one large rectangle, twice the size of the largest square.

In the Financial Reality Game, each student was given a card that described their profession, level of education, monthly salary, monthly taxes, and monthly student loan debt. From there, students watched in horror as more and more of their monthly Monopoly money was taken away for food, utilities, rent, and other expenses.

Finally, Forest talked about some of the differences between how Europeans and Native Americans passed down knowledge between generations, with the help of a drum. At one point, while discussing how important shamans and dream interpretations were to many Native American cultures, he said, "What would you do if the president woke up one morning and said, 'I had a dream, I saw what we're going to do in Syria!' You'd be a little concerned."

After lunch, the students headed to Bennington College, where they were greeted by President Mariko Silver and professor Susan Sgorbati. Silver said that no matter what a student's interests, there are classes that can match them, and Bennington College tries to work with students to create unique courses of study on what they want to study. After the introduction, the students split up into smaller groups and were given guided tours of campus by current Bennington students.

"The main reason I went to Bennington College was that Bennington College asked me what I wanted to do," said one of the student guides. "All of the other colleges I looked at had very specific standards, you have to take this many math courses, and that's not what I wanted. I wanted to study what I wanted to study."

Afterwards, the students wrote down some of what they learned during the tours. "I learned that I could study anything I want!" wrote one. "I learned that Bennington College is really cool!" said another.

One student summed up the day fairly well when they wrote, "There is more to school than I thought!"

Derek Carson can be reached at, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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