Service Learning and Community- Based Experiences
Community-Based Learning with Young Children in a Child Development Center
Mary A. Sciaraffa
Research has shown that a well-educated workforce and competitive compensation structure for early childhood professionals ensures positive outcomes for children (Whitebook & Ryan, 2011). Individuals working with young children and their families need educational preparation and experience in child development, observation methods, early learning environments, developmentally and culturally appropriate practice, and family and community engagement strategies.
This chapter will discuss course components aligned with four High- Impact Practices (Kuh, 2008), the National Association for the Education of Young Children Standards for Early Childhood Professional Preparation (NAEYC, 2009a), and the National Council for Family Relations Certified Family Life Educator Framework for Best Practices in Family Life Education (NCFR, 2011).
For the purposes of this chapter, the term students will refer to adult undergraduate students and the terms child/children will refer to the children enrolled at the university preschool laboratory (hereafter called
M.A. Sciaraffa (*)
Child and Family Studies, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY, USA © The Author(s) 2017
T. Newman, A. Schmitt (eds.), Field-Based Learning in Family Life Education, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-39874-7_10
“preschool lab” or “lab”). The lead teacher on staff is responsible for the children’s daily lessons, models good teaching practices, and mentors the adult students. The supervising teacher or instructor refers to the college/ university supervisor who teaches the two adult courses, supervises, mentors, and serves as a resource to both the lead teacher and adult students.
This chapter will focus on two different courses, Child Development and Environments for Young Children. The Child Development course is not dependent upon the second course; however, it is a pre-requisite for it. Thus, students can take the Child Development course without taking the other, but they must take the Child Development course before taking the Environments for Young Children course.
Both courses require a laboratory component, which utilizes the theory- practice-reflection process to connect child development and family science theory to actual practice. Student field experiences are conducted at the university preschool lab, housed under the Child and Family Studies academic program, and at the university child development center, housed under the university’s student affairs office. Students are engaged in tasks at the university preschool lab as a means designed by the instructor for the student to construct deeper meaning of class lectures to strengthen the knowledge being transferred from the instructor to the student (Gordon & Browne, 2004). Students from both courses engage in multiple levels of education relating to child development, observation methods, early learning environments, developmentally and culturally appropriate practices, and family and community engagement strategies. Planned experiences for both courses are interrelated, thus utilizing all four high-impact practices (Kuh, 2008) discussed within this chapter.