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CTC's Early Childhood Education Continues

CDT program While the State College Area School District has been closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students have had to adjust to learning from home.

A few, however, also have adapted to teaching.

Normally, the Career and Technical Center’s Early Childhood Education program operates out of the Little Lion’s Playroom within the high school. There, ECE students calling themselves “high school teachers” educate preschool children in addition to completing coursework on early childhood development and careers. As part of their experience, students plan and implement age-appropriate lessons while practicing how to build a community of learners.


All of it could have vanished when the school district shut down. Instead, the ECE students seamlessly shifted to online instruction.


“During our initial Zoom meetings, the first question asked from each ECE section was “Can we continue to include our preschoolers somehow?’” ECE teacher Courtney Beers recalled. “Shortly after our meeting, high school teachers created recordings and information sheets to be shared with the [Little Lion’s Playroom] families.”  


Activities have included read alouds, science experiments, and fingerplays, while weekly Zoom sessions with preschool students have maintained ties.


“I believe these actions of selflessness and caring demonstrate that these high schoolers are a great fit in this program,” Beers said. “They understand the importance of connections; those between home, school, and family.”


Four ECE students shared reflections about their experiences so far as remote teachers:


Paige Edwards What has been a high point?

Laura Cahoy: “A high point for me has definitely been getting to plan out activities for the weekly Zoom calls that we have with the preschoolers and getting to see what they're up to. It gives us a new perspective into what their lives are like more than ever especially since we are all stuck at home. Doing this for them definitely helps because it gives them socialization with other people who don't live with them, and the activities and book readings that we do give them something to do.”

Kaylen Dutt: Out of all my classes, the work I do for ECE and the preschoolers is the most important to me. When I'm creating lesson plans, scavenger hunts or videos of fingerplays, I'm completing work that impacts more than just my own future. I'm helping the preschoolers continue to explore the world, even if it's via Zoom and Seesaw. I've missed seeing the preschoolers three times a week, but once a week is better than nothing. I've really enjoyed being able to meet with the preschoolers and their families over Zoom, and I'm being honest when I say it's the highlight of my week. The preschoolers have an amazing energy that radiates from them, it's like magic. It's enough to brighten anyone's day. When I'm preparing lessons and activities, I feel like the world calms down, almost as if everything is back to normal.”

Paige Edwards: There are many high points to preparing activities and meetings for the families and our preschoolers to partake in. One, in particular, is that it allows me to stay connected and engaged with the families in the community as much as possible. By seeking out these interactions via Zoom or through an at-home activity, I want the preschoolers and families to know that their teachers are still thinking of them and encouraging these positive learning experiences at home.”

Bethany Reese: One of the high points for me being able to see/talk to the kids through Zoom is that it's nice to hear what they're doing and see what we can do to suggest other activities for them. It's also nice to hear the feedback from the parents if they like the activities we're sharing with the preschoolers.”


Kaylen Dutt How are you helping?

Cahoy: I feel that what we're doing gives the parents activities to do with their kids and it gives the kids a way to see us and interact with us. Every time that we start the Zoom call with the preschoolers, they're always smiling and happy to show us what they brought, whether it's their favorite toy or stuffed animal.”

Dutt: “Planning lessons and activities for the preschoolers might just be my second favorite thing to do, only after teaching of course. It's not the easiest thing to do though. As many parents may note, getting kids to do something 'school related' when school isn't really in session is near impossible. As ECE students, we work to relieve that stress. Our activities that we've sent to families are fun and engaging, and they still work towards important developmental goals. For example, our outdoor scavenger hunts worked towards things like color recognition. A fingerplay I've recorded, "Five Little Ducks," focuses on counting and motor skills.”

Edwards: I see these efforts as a very positive way to help children and their families during this crisis. Due to the stay at home order, parents are having to come up with ways to keep their children entertained, while still balancing the stress from adapting to working from home, in most cases. By providing these pre-planned activities for the parents to use, it will hopefully relieve some of their stress, as well as excite the children to try a new craft or game. Keeping young children entertained all day can be a very tiring task, so I am hoping that these activities my classmates and I have created will help to make this time period easier and more fun.”

Reese: “I think our efforts are really helping the preschoolers stay updated with their learning and social interactions. For example one of the students' parents was trying to find online videos for their child to look out and the child wasn't interested at all, but when we started to post videos of us doing activities and reading stories the child lit up and was more interested because she was able to recognize us.”


Virtual storytime What has been most satisfying to you?

Cahoy: For me, I find it very satisfying to get to see them again even if it's not in person. I enjoy getting to hear what they've been doing and how they're dealing with this tough time. They really make this time much easier and more enjoyable.”

Dutt: “Knowing I'm continuing to make a difference in the preschooler's lives is the best thing about all of this. We, as students, continue to teach the preschoolers through Zoom and Seesaw because we care. We care about our preschoolers and we care about their education. We're making the best of the situation, so that whether the preschoolers are coming back to the LLPR or heading to Kindergarten in the fall, they'll be ready for another year of fun.”

Edwards: “The most satisfying aspect of this experience is the feedback given from parents regarding how much the preschoolers and their siblings are enjoying these activities we have made for them. I also enjoy logging on to our zoom meetings each week and seeing the kids smiling faces and positive attitudes. Not only are the preschoolers benefitting from these activities, but I am also able to challenge myself to come up with creative activities for the families to do at home. It is a learning experience for both myself and the children, and it just makes my day better getting to interact with them.”

Reese: “The most satisfying part of being an online remote learning teacher is that although it is hard, you are still able to reach out and try to help them. And I love to see how excited they get on Zoom when they're not only seeing teachers, but also seeing the other preschool students.” 


By Chris Rosenblum