Crabby suggests a way to find out what a wolverine is…
To start easing young kids into an acquaintance with the idea of “college,” teachers should consider the many varieties of college mascots–animal, vegetable and, possibly, mineral as well as humanoid– that exist. While letting kids draw their own pennants might be fun (even pennants for their own schools or classrooms), I’ve also suggested that classes with younger kids “adopt” college mascots (especially if they’re animals) and find out what they are (badgers, wolverines, banana slugs, etc.), then write stories about them throughout the year. Maybe even have the class decide on its own mascot–lots of possibilities, talk about what they want to represent about the class,what local icons might work or what animals might be good, and build a series of stories around them. If every class has a mascot, maybe some friendly competition to create a mural or a costume, etc. If the school already has a mascot, find out what its qualities are, whether they and their teams represent it well, and what it takes to keep it strong.
When I worked with an elementary/middle school and their college aspirations I brought in stuffed mascots I’d collected on college visits over the years and showed how they could be used as inspirations for the kids. (Not just the ubiquitous bears in college shirts, but actual mascot animals. They’re not too expensive, maybe $12-15.00.) At that level, kids are excited to learn about animals, write stories about its adventures, and so on. If the mascot is a reasonable animal (probably not a tiger or a banana slug), maybe the class could have a live one to take care of.
My motto is, “By indirection/Find direction out”: There’s more long-term educational value in these activities since they draw on writing, imagination, cooperative work, research, and so on; they also plant the academic/intellectual/motivational seed of “college” for the kids in an age-appropriate fashion. It’s fun for them to create and to read what they come up with. I think it can also inspire some kids who may not always be the most responsive in the class. I’m also pretty certain you’ll come up with some amazing results that students will remember much more than a campus trip, and carry with them more significantly.