MISHAWAKA — The youngest students on the Bethel College campus seat themselves on a colorful rug that has the letters of the alphabet marking the border.
They readily follow teacher Ariana Grabill’s request for quiet as they prepare to compete in a mathematics game.
These aren’t college freshmen. They are squirmy, giggly, energetic kindergartners enrolled in Lab-K, the kindergarten classroom that is a partnership between the college and School City of Mishawaka.
The program, now in its second year, gives children the chance to attend school daily on a college campus. And it gives Bethel education majors regular opportunities to visit, assist and observe schoolchildren just steps from their own college classrooms.
“The kindergartners here get a lot of one-on-one attention,” said Grabill, a 2013 Bethel graduate. She taught for several years in the Niles Community Schools before becoming the Lab-K teacher last fall.
As soon as she heard about the opening, she knew she wanted to apply. She said she’s loving the experience.
Grabill’s classroom has an instructional aide in the mornings and another in the afternoons, in addition to regular visits by Bethel education majors.
Lab-K is tucked in a back corner of Miller-Moore Academic Center. It’s a fully equipped kindergarten classroom, with colorful learning tools decorating the walls and a fenced outdoor play area with pint-sized playground equipment just outside the south door.
The classroom served 15 students in 2016-2017 and has the same number this year. The class can enroll up to 22 children, and Mishawaka school administrators are seeking to get close to that number for next fall.
It’s a Mishawaka public school kindergarten. It’s funded by the school district and Grabill is a Mishawaka teacher. It’s considered part of Battell Elementary School, which is about a five-minute drive away.