Johns Hopkins University
Fall/Winter 2006
Vol. 4, No. 1

TEACHING

> Tutoring Project to Celebrate Golden Anniversary

[THOSE WHO CAN, TEACH]
A Conversation with Trina Schroer, professor of Biology

[TECH TOOLS]
Putting Biology Field Work
on a Map

[CLASSROOM ENCOUNTERS]
Looking at Art with a "Period Eye"


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Tutoring Project to Celebrate Golden Anniversary

Tutor with studentIt’s not unusual for children who are involved in the Johns Hopkins Tutorial Project to greet their college-age tutors with smiles and hugs. Since 1958, Baltimore City schoolchildren have been coming to the Homewood campus after school for one-on-one tutoring from Johns Hopkins undergraduates. The Hopkins volunteers help the kids to develop better reading, math, or geography skills, but they also develop something else, says the project’s director Ann Forno: relationships.

“Many students say it’s the best thing they did while they were here, Forno says, “and considering that they’re students at a place like Johns Hopkins, that’s quite a statement.”

The tutoring project is the longest-running program of its kind in Baltimore. Over the years it has served more than 5,000 children from the city’s challenged public schools. Each semester, more than 100 elementary-age students come twice a week for 90-minute sessions—often a combination of activities and games—that focus on basic academic skills. Tutors are free to individualize the curriculum and delve into other areas that may interest their young charges.

 

“The essence of the Tutorial Project is that the tutors and the kids come together, establish relationships and they’re both changed by it. Not only do the children gain academic skills but they have somebody who becomes a positive voice for them, an influence who’s saying to them, ‘I know you can do this. You can conquer this, and I’m here to help you do it.’”

— ANNE FORNO, Director
JHU Tutorial Project

“(My tutee) is a great reader, so we work more on math,” says Hopkins’ Jasmine Ainetchian. “But he also likes to write poetry and give speeches, so we’re going to work on that.”

Tutors receive training throughout the semester from a full-time professional educator, who helps them individualize instruction for each child based on an assessment done early on. Tutors also have access to an on-site computer lab and a children’s library to help in their planning.

The project, originally founded under the auspices of the Chaplain’s Office by then-Chaplain Chester Wickwire, is now part of the Johns Hopkins Center for Social Concern, headed by Bill Tiefenwerth. He says that many Hopkins students have altered their life plans based on the impact of their tutoring experiences. For example, aspiring doctors have chosen to go into pediatrics, public health majors have chosen urban health, or student leaders have chosen to take up the cause of juvenile justice, says Tiefenwerth. His involvement in the Tutorial Project dates back to 1979.

To celebrate the project’s 50th anniversary in 2008, the center is planning a picnic to bring back some tutors and former students, as well as raise funds. About three years ago, Baltimore City stopped donating the use of a schoolbus, so raising endowment funds to provide for a bus year after year would “take care of that one nagging thing,” according to Tiefenwerth.

When the project first started, it was more of a Big Brother/Big Sister program, Tiefenwerth says, but over the years it’s evolved to have an academic focus. Still, he says, relationship-building remains paramount.

Forno notes, “The essence of the Tutorial Project is that the tutors and the kids come together, establish relationships and they’re both changed by it. Not only do the children gain academic skills but they have somebody who becomes a positive voice for them, an influence who’s saying to them, ‘I know you can do this. You can conquer this, and I’m here to help you do it.’”

(For information about the 50th anniversary reunion, visit www.jhu.edu/csc/tutorialproject)