|Campus preschool trains tomorrow's educators|
March 17, 2006
graduate student Olive Leonor noticed several preschoolers at SFSU's
Child Study Center attempting to make paper kites on their own, she saw
an opportunity to create a lesson.
Leonor, an intern at the center, gathered supplies and encouraged them to continue. As the children used scissors to cut straight lines and carefully applied colorful string, they not only stretched their imaginations but fine-tuned their motor skills. Once the kites were ready for a few test runs, Lenor asked the children to pay attention to how their creations reacted to wind and gravity.
For Leonor, projects like these are more than just fun. She is receiving hands-on training for her career in early childhood education.
The Child Study Center gives Leonor and other SFSU students conducting research on such topics as early childhood education and behavioral psychology the opportunity to observe children, conduct research and learn to work with children and their families.
"I think teachers are usually taught to teach subjects instead of children," said Leonor, an early childhood education major. "But instead of covering a subject, we work here on 'uncovering' subjects. Here, we don't fill their minds with what we know. Instead we let [children] lead."
While children participate in organized learning activities and play, University students observe through one-way mirrors. Parents, educators and advisers know the viewing room is there, but the children do not.
"It's essentially a laboratory," Morning Program Director Carol Fields said. "But instead of studying biology or chemistry, our students are studying human behavior."
University students study body movements, communication strategies, how children learn new words, their individual and group temperaments, and how they explore new activities.
"Everyone here is a student," said Kate Danforth, one of two program directors at the center. "In the beginning [of the school year], we are the facilitators. We're running things and organizing things. Gradually, the University students start to implement their curriculums, and we slowly start stepping back. By the end, we're practically invisible. It becomes their program. And in the process, they have learned so much about not only the children but themselves as educators."
The center, a program of the Marian Wright Edelman Institute for the Study of Children, Youth and Families, provides morning and afternoon sessions for children ages 3 to 5. Bay Area parents pay about $2,000 annually to enroll their children. An advisory council -- made up of the center's two program directors, University faculty and student and parent representatives -- approves all research projects conducted at the center. Each semester, about 20 interns gain hands-on experience with young children and their families by working at the center, which helps maintain a teacher-to-student ratio of 1-4 or 1-3. The center was established in 1970 by Psychology Professor Thomas Spencer.
The Child Study Center, located in the Lakeview Center, is one of two child care centers on campus. The other is the Associated Students Children's Center, located next to the Seven Hills Conference Center.
Writer Gary Moskowitz with Adrianne Bee
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