A few more hands have been added to the mix at USI's Children's Learning Center. The Center, long trusted by parents as providing one of the best daycare environments in the city, has added an additional layer of engagement, one geared at not only benefitting the kids attending the Center but also USI students.
The Center recently transitioned from a daycare only operation to a handson learning lab for USI’s early childhood education majors, and is now under the direction of the Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education. The switch allows students to be immersed in the everyday operations of their future professions, as well as providing little ones with more one-on-one interaction.
Dr. Jill Raisor, assistant professor of education, and Amanda Wheaton-Collins, manager of the Center, believe the move toward a lab school model is a natural choice.
"Lab schools serve as model programs for future educators and offer a developmentally appropriate curriculum in a child-centered environment,” said Wheaton-Collins. "The Center is a convenient place to provide practical experience for USI students—experience needed to work effectively with young children."
Training begins with students observing children at play and reporting their findings in their early childhood courses. Then, as students progress through the program, their interaction with the children advances from observation to creation of lesson plans and teaching.
Ellen Allen, a senior majoring in special education and early childhood education, credits the hands-on experience she gained at the Center with preparing her for her future teaching career. "Almost every day I'm working with children, and I always learn something new about becoming a teacher of young children," she said. "The teachers and the staff at the Children’s Learning Center have really helped me excel and further my knowledge."
Students also gain further understanding of how young children learn. "I believe there is only so much that can be learned in the classroom, but to really become knowledgeable about working with young children you have to get out into the schools and practice. This is what the Center has allowed me to do," Allen said.
Through funds allocated from the College, the Center also was able to purchase new materials and supplies for the classrooms.