The Gevirtz Graduate School of Education teamed up with a local school district last week to create the Harding University Partnership School to accelerate elementary school learning.

The graduate school signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the Santa Barbara School District last Friday at Corwin Pavilion. The ceremony attracted all 600 Harding Elementary School students, as well as nearly 200 faculty and staff, to celebrate the intergenerational alliance between the two campuses. The resulting alliance, which constitutes an International Baccalaureate Program at Harding, will incorporate UCSB faculty, graduate students and perhaps undergrads, as well as community members, into the teaching and tutoring staff at Harding.

Preceding the signing of the MOU, the event featured a presentation in Spanish by UCSB alumnus Dr. Bob Nunez, speeches from UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang and Santa Barbara School District Superintendent Dr. Brian Sarvis, as well as insight into the Gevirtz School perspective from Dean of Gevirtz, Jane Close Conoley.

Yang said the new collaborative focus is evidence of the university’s support for the local school system and that he hopes it will drive young students to pursue a future in education.

“Our partnership is a visible and concrete example of UC Santa Barbara’s longstanding commitment to pre-K through 12 education in our region, and is supported by work done across our university,” Yang said in an e-mail.

With the guidance of UCSB students, the children partook in an all-day field trip complete with grade-specific activities following the presentation in Corwin Pavilion.

“They played with snakes, learned about penguins and went to the REEF touch tank,” Conoley said. “I heard only good things and lots of amazement from the children and their families. [Many of them] live close to campus, but had never been here and had no idea how welcoming and exciting it is to be at UCSB.”

According to Harding school administrators, a student from the second grade class even asked his mother to get an application packet so he could apply.

After failing to meet federal standards for two consecutive years, Harding Elementary School was forced to revamp its curriculum, which inspired the cooperative measure with UCSB to establish an IB Program. According to Conoley, very few elementary schools in the country have integrated IB into their curriculums, and those who do carry the program are mostly private or affluent.

Nearly 95 percent of Harding students are Hispanic.

Dr. Sally Kingston, principal of Harding Elementary, hopes the relationship formed between the schools will foster growth and broaden perspectives, making the dream of attending a four-year university more tangible.

“I think it will give them a concrete way to think about their future,” she said. “I mean, to actually go and have their feet on campus made a real-life connection. I foresee the partnership broadening their world, giving them a new sense [of] time and space and granting them the opportunity to grow in an expansive learning environment.”