(Editor's Note: Victoria Kisling is a senior at North Plainfield High School and an intern with TAPinto North Plainfield.) 

NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Fifth graders from homerooms 306 and 307 at North Plainfield’s Somerset Intermediate School, along with teacher Janet Darvin, went on a field trip to the Rutgers University last month. There, the students learned firsthand from graduate and undergraduate students about the different fields they could pursue in biology and physics as well as met with student athletes and saw where they train, play, and study.

“Through our partnership with Rutgers, Somerset fifth graders see, firsthand, what it will be like for them as they set college as a goal for their lives,” said Darvin. “They engage with college students and student-athletes who explain their own journeys, including challenges they faced in achieving their goals.”

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Darvin has been taking her students on the Rutgers field trip for the past 15 years; initially it was offered to fourth graders as part of a reading incentive program when Darvin worked at East End Elementary School. Back then, Darvin was looking for a new way for older students to celebrate Read Across America and, the result was a partnership with Rutgers and its athletic advisors involved in such sports as crew, fencing, softball, and gymnastics. Through this partnership, the student-athletes from Rutgers came to read to and with the elementary school students and a pen-pal program with the university’s men’s basketball team was also initiated.

“Each year we exchange letters with the team and correspond about good study habits, the value of hard work, and perseverance to reach our goals,” said Darvin.

This year’s field trip to Rutgers started off in the university’s Math and Science Learning Center where Somerset students got to work with current graduate and undergraduate students to conduct experiments, develop and test hypotheses, and try out some physics models designed and built by the college students.

Somerset students became “Skeleton Detectives” and learned how to measure and identify parts of the skull. With this new information, they were able to identify how old the skull was and if it belonged to a male or female. The fifth graders also became “CDC Experts” and learned how to identify the health concerns associated with certain parasites, fungi, bacteria, and viruses.

“Our Somerset students were intrigued by the physics models they tested in small groups with the guidance of undergraduate physics students. We explored a variety of models including Stereo Hearing, Spinning Stool, Bernoulli’s Levitator, Bernoulli’s Airplane Wing, and Soap Bubble Prisms,” said Darvin.

During their visit, North Plainfield fifth graders also went to the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC). There, they met their pen-pals, visited the training room and learned how student-athletes receive physical therapy. The students also had the opportunity to meet two baseball players, check out weight and equipment rooms, and stop in the computer lab, where they got to see student-athletes working on course assignments. Additionally, they also met men's basketball coach Steve Pikiell, who spoke about playing a sport at the highest level and working hard to develop one’s talent.

“He reminded us that academic ‘strengthening’ is also key to a student-athlete’s success,” said Darvin.

Before the Somerset students leaded to the buses and back to North Plainfield, they were given a complementary Rutgers bag, poster, and magnet.

“I am delighted to open the world to my students! Through out partnership with Rutgers, Somerset fifth graders see, first-hand, what it will be like for them as they set college as a goal for their lives,” said Darvin. “They engage with college students and student-athletes who explain their own journeys, including challenges they faced in achieving their goals.”

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