The Early Childhood Education Center serves as a teacher preparation and research site for the College of Education, Health, and Human Services (CEHHS) and campus. The classroom teaching staff consists of a lead teacher, student staff, and three levels of practicum students. At the beginning of the term, the lead teacher models the program philosophy and is responsible for carrying out long term projects based on children's ideas.
As a teacher preparation site, students are enrolled in a variety of education courses. These students are at three levels of educational expertise. Beginning students observe the children's development and the methods of teaching strategies used by the teacher. They work individually with children and in small groups and act as a teacher assistant in the classroom. They are required to conduct a child study on one typically developing child in the ECEC. The second level of students are responsible for planning the curriculum, with collaboration between the college classroom and the lead teacher. As the semester progresses, these students become more responsible for the activities and management of children. The third level of students are early childhood interns responsible for planning and managing the classroom for the semester. These students are planning long term projects and become teacher-in-charge during the second half of the term under the guidance of the lead teacher who will continue to mentor the curriculum of our philosophy.
There are several advantages of involving education students in the ECEC program. Because of these students, more intentional learning activities can be offered, more one-on-one interactions and individual attention can be provided, and closer management and behavior support can be provided at the ECEC. A low child to adult ratio is possible due to the inclusion of University students. They also bring to the classroom their enthusiasm and thoughtful curriculum planning. The students also apply the most recent research based educational theories and practices they are learning in their University course work. At the same time, these University students have the opportunity to observe and learn from the children and to model and learn appropriate teaching methods and strategies from experienced teachers.
The ECEC has received local and national recognition for its educational program for the children and as a teacher preparation and research site. Consequently, many visitors from other colleges and universities and education and child care programs visit and observe the ECEC. The ECEC teachers and Education faculty have discussed and presented the ECEC program in many professional publications and at early childhood conferences.