A week of wonderful learning

Jennifer Bernitt '95 leads a class of WOW students. A former WOW student aide, Bernitt now works as a teacher for the program.

By Frank Radosevich II
June 28, 2012

A class devoted to learning about all things chocolate would be popular on any college campus and Bradley was no exception. Unfortunately for the University’s students, course enrollment was limited to second and third graders.

The “Chocolatier” class was just one of dozens offered last week by Bradley’s 29th annual World of Wonder program. The weeklong program provides hands-on learning for some 250 Peoria-area kids as well as a place for bright elementary students to shine.

“At World of Wonder it’s OK and encouraged to be smart and use every part of your brain,” said Jon Neidy, associate director of Bradley’s Continuing Education and Professional Development office, which runs WOW. “For some kids, this is the first or only time they are around others who are their intellectual peers.”

WOW offers a series of classes designed to provide a variety of learning options for young students. Some classes, like “Dear Diary…” aim to help children with their writing skills and story telling. Others, like “Weird Science” and “Ghostbusters,” teach children about the stranger side of science and the paranormal.

“All the classes are thematically based. For example, we might take the theme of rockets and explore everything there is about rockets,” Neidy said. “Each class is 10 hours and the students really get to talk about and dig into the topic.”

Neidy said WOW encourages bright students to explore their interests and follow their curiosities. It also gives Bradley undergraduate students, who work as student aides during WOW, real-world experience with elementary students and teachers. The students, typically education majors, supervise the gifted students, run activities and observe area educators in the classroom.

“They’re learning classroom management skills,” Neidy said of the six student helpers. “They are learning how to plan classes, instruct students or how to group them.”

T.J. Klockenga, a senior in elementary education, has helped out with WOW since 2010 but his first brush with the program occurred about a decade ago when he was a student at WOW. Klockenga said what keeps him coming back is the chance to be with students and teachers in a classroom setting.

“The teachers that we employ are really great role models. It’s nice to watch them interact with students,” said the Metamora, Ill., native. “And it’s also good practice for me to be interacting with students.”

Klockenga hopes to follow a career in education with a focus on mathematics. He said WOW has also helped him network with area teachers and principals for future job opportunities.

WOW’s final session will run from Aug. 6-10. Limited registration is available until July 30 by calling 309-677-2374.