Connecting with our Area Schools

What started as student-teaching opportunities has grown into strong collaborative partnerships, impacting students of all ages. 

Known as a great name in shaping the educator workforce, naturally SHSU has a long history of collaborating with area schools through preservice field experiences and student-teaching.

While the mutually-beneficial partnership continues to provide valuable experiences, today the university’s engagement mission has expanded to include students and faculty from a variety of colleges, across academic disciplines. From students in ACE courses presenting theatre productions and health fairs for area children, to middle school students visiting the SHSU campus for a glimpse of their future college life—Sam Houston State is fostering lasting alliances with
our community schools.

Building Health Awareness

Students in Community Health classes are sharing the importance of health among elementary level students through a health fair. Physical fitness, nutrition, mental health, bully prevention and safety are explored in fun ways to engage young learners. Collaborating with Huntsville ISD physical education instructors, SHSU students host the fair by creating stations related to various health topics along with interactive games and activities to reinforce the concept. 

“This method of health education has been a part of the Community Health curriculum for many years. It is always the highlight of the course,” instructor Suzie Stone said. “The students love the idea of putting their knowledge into action. They also enjoy observing the responses of the audience. It appears to be a win-win for all.”

Traveling Theatre

Students in Theatre Production for Youth create plays related to cultures outside of Texas (Northwest Indian myths, China’s Monkey King myths, South Asia/Pacific Island myths, West African Anansi myths). They take the show on the road, visiting Huntsville area elementary schools. Last spring they presented their production of “Anansi: Africa’s Trickster Spider!”  

Athletes Reach Out

As part of leadership development, the Division of Athletics requires student athletes to find ways to be engaged in the community and provides numerous opportunities to work closely with long-standing, local non-profit partners. Athletes, in consultation with the school counselors, engage in many ways through mentoring children, organizing sports activities, tutoring and raising funds and donations for school supplies. Stressing the importance of community service to her student-athletes, Associate Athletic Director, Chris Thompson established the Bearkat Mentor Program, which requires all freshman student-athletes to mentor students in the public school system. 

Collaborative Creatures 

Foundations in Digital Arts is an ACE course that gives art students experience in working with some of the toughest critics—children. “Monsters” is a collaborative project in which SHSU students work with first-grade students to create an illustration. Professor Chuck Drumm has worked on this project since 2003, collaborating with Willis ISD for the past five years. 

“I work with Willis specifically because their elementary schools do not have a dedicated Visual Arts teacher or program,” Drumm said. 

The process begins with first-graders hearing a monster story followed by instructions to draw their own original monster. The SHSU art students then use the drawings to create detailed and elaborate digital paintings, while maintaining the visual intent of the originals. Textures, lighting, and environments are added to create a finished illustration.

To reveal the final work, university students visit the elementary school for a surprise presentation. Announcing to the audience the first-graders’ drawings that were chosen, SHSU students share their illustrations. At the end, the first-graders meet the art students who created their monsters and discuss the project.

“University and elementary school students benefit from this experience,” Drumm said. “The children get a chance to see how their original concepts can be developed into refined art. University students are challenged to develop an illustration based on a child’s drawing.”

Ecosystem Exploration

Centerville ISD elementary students explore organisms while learning and discussing how to protect the ecosystem at the SHSU Center for Biological Field Studies in Huntsville. 

“Students in my Environmental Science course create learning materials in several different areas of biology (plants, birds, fish, habitats, etc.) and then lead the CISD students in looking for different organisms. The students also talk to them about environmental science and sustainability themes,” associate professor Jeff Wozniak said. 

Physical Fun

The Department of Kinesiology offers a unique program that benefits both students and local special needs children. The Physical Education – Teacher Education (PETE) program certifies and prepares students to be professionally competent and culturally sensitive physical education teachers in PK-12 schools.

The Sports and Movement (SAM) Camp allows special needs children to socialize with others in a fun, physically active way. These interactions help the children to learn different sports and make new friends. The class, facilitated by Min Kim, assistant professor of Kinesiology, aims to address the shortage of programs available to the Huntsville special needs community.

“The main issue is the lack of physical activity due to lack of resources, facilities and programs,” Kim said. “We are providing opportunities for them to participate in programs where they can be physically active and can learn something new each class.”

The experience allows SHSU students to develop personalized, adapted physical education plans for all special needs children and youth in local school districts and work with them to address physical education needs. Nationally, there is a shortage of physical education teachers. This program intends to spread awareness of the importance of physical education for all children and show the rewarding career of physical education teaching, especially with special needs children.


 The importance of storytelling is a lesson assistant professor Amanda Nowlin-O’Banion teaches future authors in her writing classes. Through a National Book Foundation program called BookUp, she is extending that lesson to Walker County youth. BookUp is an after-school initiative designed to motivate sixth through eighth-grade youth from underserved communities to stay involved with reading. The program provides free books to participating children and offers them an opportunity to engage in those books through fun, interactive activities. 

 “Any booklover knows that opening up a book means opening up the world,” she said. “Find a good novel that expands your understanding of what’s possible in the world, and you’ve just exponentially blown up the possibilities for a person’s life. If you don’t know what’s available for someone like you, you don’t know where to set your goals,” Nowlin-O’Banion said.

Wild About Science

Through a longstanding, seven year partnership with the Huntsville Boys and Girls Club, honors Zoology students are getting Huntsville-area children excited about science. Biology students work in groups to create interactive presentations, games and craft activities to engage children on “weird animals” like sea cucumbers, pangolins and sponges. 

Looking Ahead

For many years, SHSU has worked with area schools to introduce young students to college campus life.
Regular tours of the campus encourage local high school students to consider SHSU as a future home.
A new “college pipeline” program began to evolve in 2015 when The Center for Community Engagement met with Huntsville Intermediate School counselors about a career exploration initiative. Together, they developed a survey asking sixth graders about their hopes and plans for the future. Soon, the “Believe in Possibilities” collaborative began in which all sixth grade area students visit the campus, meet with college students, observe classes, and take a tour of the campus—getting them to think about possibilities for their future education and careers.

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