NCAN Announces New Middle Grades Early Awareness Toolkit

June 27, 2016

 By Liz Glaser, Graduate Research Assistant 

Over the past year, our graduate research assistant Liz Glaser has been researching and collecting information about early awareness strategies and programs. Early awareness programs typically begin in middle school and start the college conversation early, so students can make the right choices before high school that will lead them to the college of their choice. Through research, interviews, and collaboration with early awareness program administrators across the country, it became clear that early awareness practices were increasing, but access to the tools to develop those programs was not. NCAN decided to take on that gap and connect college access programs with the tools they need to develop or enhance early awareness strategies.

We created a new toolkit specifically pertaining to early awareness resources, which expands on our previous collection of resources for grades 9 and 10, and includes resources for the middle grades. The toolkit contains three aspects: a list of resources, descriptions of the resources, and a table of information regarding more comprehensive early awareness programs. The first list of resources links to the tool in question, and indicates the target grade level and audience. The second table provides brief descriptions of each tool, along with a link to the source. The third and final table references programs like GEAR UP and AVID, which are scaled programs that schools and districts can utilize.

The resources cover a broad range of material, from individual activities to classroom lesson plans. Each resource on the list links to a full PDF or website of the resource, which will be immediately available for your use. Liz reached out to a variety of program leaders for input as well as pulled resources from a variety of organizations and school districts across the country.

As early awareness expands its reach, these materials can expand the curriculum that goes along with it. These resources may be used to improve upon a program you currently run, or to provide a baseline level of knowledge for a program you’d like to start. Each activity revolves around similar themes of career planning, financial planning, and setting goals, and they are designed for middle school students to easily interact with and learn from.

We’ve also included a list of more comprehensive services that require a contract with a specific organization. These services are part of programs that run nationally, and schools or school districts are more than welcome to contract with those service providers. Each has been listed with a brief description for your review if you’re interested in developing a program.

These resources provide engaging and interesting content that helps middle school students connect to the process of planning for college. Creating a college-going culture starts early, and these materials will give you the skills and supplies to start those conversations with your class or student.

Our hope is that college access groups nationwide can use this toolkit to expand or create early awareness strategies in their own programs. Each resource can be used as a one-time activities or lessons, but many can be combined to create a comprehensive curriculum. Many of these resources were collected from school districts or college programs across the country, or were pulled from online databases of resources. We aim to be the central list resources of strong curriculum that any college access program can use, and we want to thank the administrators who collaborated and worked with us as we created it.

You can find the toolkit here.

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