Early Childhood Education students at Kellogg Community College have a new space to hone their skills on campus this fall.
KCC’s new Early Childhood Education Learning Lab is a traditional college classroom refurbished earlier this summer to resemble a preschool classroom that will help train students to become educators. ECE officials at KCC say the new space supports national accreditation standards and provides students with better opportunities to apply their studies in a controlled environment where they can safely experience the types of situations they might face in the workplace.
Ann Miller, manager of Early Childhood and Teacher Education at KCC, said the new lab will serve as a training ground, giving instructors better opportunities to support individual learning with immediate feedback in a more clinical, consistent setting.
“We really wanted an opportunity to have a hands-on experience for the students in an environment that is safe for them to be able to explore and come up with different learning concepts and best practices,” Miller said. “And we’re intentionally aligning the space with what our students are expected to need in the field.”
The new lab is located in Room 209 of the Severin Building on KCC’s North Avenue campus in Battle Creek. It’s fully stocked with learning materials one might find in any preschool classroom – art supplies, blocks, musical instruments, a sand and water table, etc. – organized into specific focus areas based on what children could learn and experience in each area.
Miller said the room is modeled on a specific curriculum developed by education research company HighScope. The company’s Program Quality Assessment tool is used to assess all licensed ECE programs in the state, she said, and KCC followed the PQA requirements “to a T.”
Jamie Bishop, Early Childhood and Teacher Education professor at KCC, helped design the new lab. She said the space will help students build confidence in decision-making that could lead to more success in their future careers as educators.
“A high-quality ECE space aids in facilitating teaching and learning, and this exposure to a real-life environment helps to ensure each graduate is highly-qualified and ready for future employment in the field,” Bishop said. “The physical space can help students visualize and analyze the impacts the learning environment can have on program accreditation, reporting, monitoring, assessing and training.”
KCC’s ECE Program was nationally accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children in 2012, and Miller said accreditation was another driving force in the implementation of the new Learning Lab. The addition of such a space was recommended by the NAEYC and will likely produce higher marks for the program when NAEYC reps visit campus next spring as part of the continuing reaccreditation process.
Construction on the lab began in May and was mostly done by the end of June. The project – which involved replacing the flooring and adding a sink, among other amenities – cost $63,000, paid for with funds from the College’s Maintenance and Replacement Fund. An additional $4,750 in Perkins grant funding supplied the educational materials and furniture.
The new ECE Learning Lab is just the latest of a number of new developments in Early Childhood and Teacher Education at the College. The department split off from the KCC’s Social Science & Education Department in July to become its own department, and this summer announced the opportunity for students to earn an Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education completely online (with the exception of fieldwork requirements).
Professor Bishop said the new lab will also support those online students, allowing instructors to embed program-related content – photos demonstrating classroom scenarios that would be unsafe for children, for example – into course materials that can enhance the learning experience for students.
There’s also potential for use of the lab by students in program areas outside of the department, like human services or psychology students, or students in classes like KCC’s Children’s Literature course.
“Student experiences with the lab will give them that reference point when we’re discussing something to have that visual image and actually be able to come in and hands-on experience it as well,” Bishop said. “It just makes that learning so much more meaningful.”
KCC’s Early Childhood and Teacher Education Department offers students the opportunity to earn an Associate in Applied Science degree in Early Childhood Education; an Associate in Elementary Education degree for students focused on elementary education; and an Associate in Arts degree for students focused on secondary education. The department also offers Child Development Associate (CDA) training.
For more information about Early Childhood and Teacher Education studies at KCC, visit www.kellogg.edu/education.
Pictured above, KCC Early Childhood and Teacher Education professor Jamie Bishop talks to ECE 210: Child Growth and Development students in the new Early Childhood Education Learning Lab on campus in Battle Creek.
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