Running on the Ball State football field. Listening to a story in Bracken Library. Lying down head-to-toe to see if the group is as tall as Shafer Tower. This may seem like fun and games, but really these Muncie, Indiana, schoolchildren are learning about wellness, reading, and math.

These students are participating in the Emerging Scholars program, a component of Muncie P3, or MP3. This program provides preschool to third grade students at Longfellow Elementary School with extended day, extended week, and summer school enrichment experiences. One of the goals is for children to read at grade level by the third grade so they can move on to study other disciplines such as science and social studies.

Muncie P3, stands for promise, partnership, and potential—a true summary of what the program is all about. In addition to Emerging Scholars, MP3 offers family literacy assistance, a jump-start to kindergarten, and a tutoring program at a school where more than nine of every 10 students receives free or reduced price lunch.

“The children don’t feel they are being forced to learn,” says elementary education professor Eva Zygmunt-Fillwalk. “Instead, they enjoy activities that encourage them to embrace education and to dream.

“We’re doing this with one school, but we see this as a model that can be replicated.”

Zygmunt-Fillwalk worked with fellow elementary education professor Patricia Clark to write and secure a $779,000 Indiana Department of Education grant that spans from 2010 to 2014 and makes the dream of enriching the lives of K-3 children a reality. Ball State’s elementary education department received the grant as a part of the 21st Century Community Learning Center Fund.

Forming Relationships

MP3 is an outgrowth of Schools within the Context of Community—an immersive, semester-long, 18-credit elementary education experience. Instead of taking notes or taking tests, elementary education major Olivia Horton, ’12, took a different approach through this unique Teachers College class by connecting with the Muncie community and making these enriching activities possible for Muncie children.

Horton applied and was selected to be part of this experience led by an interdisciplinary team of professors. The purpose of the class is to show elementary education majors how the culture and needs within the classroom are interwoven with their students’ community. This experience created a desire to reach beyond the classroom walls and into neighborhoods.

“It changed my views on teaching drastically,” says Horton. “It’s not all about lesson plans. You have to form relationships with people within your community.”

Long-Term Impact 

Wilisha Scaife serves as the program director of the MP3 initiative, working with a hands-on approach. With a vision of the program benefiting Muncie children, their parents, and the entire community, Scaife partners with the Ball State students, community leaders, mentors, and local ministers. These individuals serve as models for the students, and their collaboration speaks of their commitment to helping the children become better educated.

“Muncie P3 has broadened the notion of what a teacher and educator is,” says Scaife. 

Scaife, who has been a part of this Muncie community for many years, partnered with Horton and shared with her the culture of her community.

Scaife says parents’ support is vital. Before enrolling a child in the program, the parents go through an interview to have a clear vision of the purpose and expectations.

“We call it the shared philosophy,” Scaife says.

One of Scaife’s goals for MP3 is for its positive impact to follow the children all the way to college. Students who qualify may enroll in the sixth grade to be 21st Century Scholars, a program to cover college expenses for low-income Indiana students.

MP3 works in conjunction with the Roy C. Buley Community Center, and together, they are identifying needs and changing the Muncie community for the better.