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Preschool on campus proves positive

staff writer

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 13:01

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THE ADELE AND DALE YOUNG Child Development Laboratory provides a unique educational opportunity for the children who attend and the student teachers involved. SAMANTHA BEHL photo


 

 

The Adele and Dale Young Child Development Laboratory is providing an educational experience for young children so they can explore, be creative and not just look for praise. The preschool stays up to date with all the newest research.  

They create activities for the children to cultivate things like creativity, critical thinking and problem solving skills. 

“Some of our philosophies that we use is that children learn through play and they learn through exploration,” said Camille Gilbert, a graduate student majoring in family, consumer and human development with an emphasis in early childhood. “So in our preschool we don’t provide models for them. Like in art, we don’t say, ‘Ok here, make this,’ we just provide materials and then let them explore and create.” 

Gilbert said allowing the kids to play and explore helps them become more creative and better critical thinkers while at the same time helping their problem solving skills.

“Creativity is big,” Gilbert said. “We try to promote critical thinking and problem solving skills, so we just try to provide activities that help the children learn these, but also the other part of it is I’m teaching a teacher how to set up those activities, so it is kind of like a two fold.”

Teachers are trained on proper methods for communicating with children.

“We teach them how to have good, appropriate language with the children,” Gilbert said. “We ask lots of questions. We try to not say good job. Like sometimes when I say good job to a child, it kind of just ends there, so they think that they’re finished. It kind of stops the child’s creativity. It stops what they are doing, so instead of that, as teachers we try to ask questions like, ‘So what are you doing?’ so they can talk about it but keep going if they have other ideas.”

The student teachers are being trained while they teach the preschoolers. 

“We train teachers how to have positive interactions,” Gilbert said. “It is not just like them watching, it’s like them helping the children explore. It’s not just a bunch of children playing with the teacher. It’s like they’re there to help the kids learn the best way.”

Student teachers can have a big influence on the kids and are encouraged to take advantage of teaching opportunities.

“When we are working with the teachers we want them to understand how powerful they are in the classroom, how much influence they have over the children, and we want them to make sure that they get every opportunity that they can to help the children develop,” said lab director Kaelin Olsen. “We want them to avoid missed opportunities so that they are really here and they are really focusing on those children’s needs, and what they are going to be interested in in their learning. We can support that and keep them engaged in building their knowledge.”

Because the lab is training student teachers, they have rooms with two-way mirrors which allow the director and assistant directors to observe each class. The mirror allows the directors to point out to the student teachers things that could have been overlooked in the typical classroom environment.

“We can point out things, even silly little things,” Olsen said. “Like you know the children need to wash their hands after they wipe their nose. We catch that. Sometimes when you are in the classroom, just the intensity of everything that is going on, it’s hard to remember. It’s hard to remember everything that you are supposed to do.”

With the preschool is connected to USU, Olsen said there are advantages that might not be available otherwise, and the children benefit from it.

“We are very fortunate to be here at the university,” Olsen said. “We are able to get a lot of different things for the children and students are willing to put in amazing amounts of time and energy to develop curriculum that is cool and different, and unique for the children and really think through some of the different processes so that they can learn and grow. All of those things are really helpful.” 

“I think that it is a really important time in a child’s life right before they go to kindergarten,” Gilbert said. “So I think it just gives them a good opportunity to explore and gain knowledge in more creative ways than the normal preschools.”

Passion for teaching and seeing the children learn is part of why Gilbert chose her profession.

“I like working with parents and families, and I feel like when the little kids come to the preschool it is like their own place,” she said. “They have their own place to play, learn, be creative and have ownership of it.”

The preschool has a long waiting list of people eager to get their children into the school.

“You should get your kids on the list pretty early,” Gilbert said. “Before they turn one, put them on the list.”

 

 

– haileehousley@aggiemail.com

 

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