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The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School

THE BLAZE

The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School

THE BLAZE

The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School

THE BLAZE

Early Childhood Education: A Year of Growth

The Early Childhood Education (ECE) courses have been manned by family and consumer science teacher Shannon Hunter for a year now. With some experience under her belt and a larger class of students, the ECE courses are aiming to expand to allow students new opportunities to learn and interact with the youngest students in our school.
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James Bowles
Family and consumer science teacher Shannon Hunter guides her early childhood education (ECE) class through the assigned text. Starting in room L503 last year, the first space Hunter used was decorated to mimic the atmosphere and feel of a preschool classroom. This year, Hunter teaches in room L508. With a room more than double the size of her first room, she’s planning to personalize and refine her ECE courses. “I got a lot of help in terms of curriculum instruction [last year on] like how to structure lessons or what order to put them in,” Hunter said. “So I have changed the order, changed some of the activities that we did, I added to the information, it’s like I have to make it my own.”

Located in room L508, right next to the central staircase in the academic wing, is this year’s classroom for the Early Childhood Education (ECE) course. Family and consumer science teacher Shannon Hunter has been teaching both gourmet foods and all courses involved with ECE – which includes Intro to ECE, ECE I, and ECE II – for a year now.

Hunter has aimed to evolve the classes from last year; wanting to learn from her first year in Rock Ridge to make the course more informative and hands-on for her students. “The nice thing is last year I had very small classes,” Hunter said. “This year I have two decent-sized classes.”

While the curriculum has evolved and been polished by Hunter, a majority of the course from last year remains.

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Similar to last year, the intro to ECE class is where new students start. Intro focuses on the basics of childhood development like caring for little ones and workplace skills related to career fields in ECE; giving students a chance to learn about the different careers that handle early childhood education like teachers and childcare center workers.

After students complete a year in the intro class and have learned the basics, they’ll move on to ECE I to focus on more hands-on experience; at the same time, they’ll continue developing the skills they learned in the intro class. Lastly, after they complete ECE I, they’ll finally be a part of ECE II. 

Senior Lily Weems is in her second year in the ECE course. After wanting to join since freshman year, Weems has witnessed firsthand how the course has evolved from last year. “It’s structured pretty much the same,” Weems said. “[But], I feel like it’s a little more organized this year.”

The most noticeable change from last year to this year is that ECE students can get more hands-on experience working with the Head Start program.

An integral part of what separates ECE from other classes is the experience it provides to its students. The Head Start program, which is provided by Rock Ridge, is located at one end of the L500s hallway; close to the new ECE classroom. It’s a miniature preschool, filled with students ages three to four, that works in partnership with the ECE kids to provide them with field experience with kindergarteners.

Senior Hannah Frankel helps a student in the Head Start program tie their shoes. Family and Consumer Science teacher Shannon Hunter believes that giving her students hands-on experience is the best way to ensure they know how to handle interactions with little ones. “There’s so much you can learn from a book. You can learn how to ride a bike by reading about it,” Hunter said. “But you’re not going to be able to ride the bike until you get on it.” (James Bowles)

Different from last year, the course this year is being rearranged to allow more time for students to interact and get exposure to the little ones. The block schedules were changed from first and fifth blocks to second and sixth blocks respectively; fitting in Head Start’s schedule to give ample time for ECE students. “We’re playing this game of trying to figure out when is correct or the best time to go in,” Hunter said. “We’re not perfect, but we’re going in during times where we’re able to be more participatory in lessons [versus] outdoor play.” 

Hunter has stated that their goal with the block schedule is to give students time to cover Head Start’s morning routine and to get her students more experience. “Right now they’re rotating every six classes, so they’re maybe getting three hours a month at the most in there,” Hunter said. “ I would like to see them get six to ten hours a month in there.”

Early Childhood Education (ECE) students participate in a foot painting activity for the Head Start program. This activity was designed to get students closer to the Head Start program kids, who are usually three to four years old, and get them in the mindset of interacting with these kids in new ways. “You theorize how it’s going to happen, but then you get over there and there’s all these other factors,” Hunter said. “Personality, time of day, are the kids hungry, are they tired from running around outside the whole time, do they already know some of the information [being taught in class]. The same thing you’ll do with high schoolers, they’re just smaller.”
Reception from both new and returning students has been mainly positive, with junior Allie Fisher enjoying her first year in the ECE course. “The teacher’s really nice [and] everybody in there is welcoming, so it’s a good environment,” Fisher said. 

While the kids who make up the Head Start program are one of the main reasons students take ECE like Fisher; others like Weems, have mixed feelings about the little ones. “Observing the way they act is very weird because they [definitely act their age],” Weems said.

Looking back at the course’s main content, students have continued to find the course useful in learning skills that can be applied outside of the classroom. “I actually used a lot of the skills that I have here in my job that I just got in a school,” Fisher said. “It’s a preschool, so I’ve been using a lot of the skills and it’s helped me a lot in certain situations.”

Even though Hunter now has a year of experience under her belt, she wishes to continue improving the course to allow for more hands-on experience with the little ones, create new material to teach her students new workplace skills and give students who are passionate about teaching the younger generation the skills and knowledge necessary for them to succeed. “If you have any desire in any capacity to have children in your life, it’s applicable to you,” Hunter said. 

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About the Contributor
James Bowles, Managing Editor
James Bowles is a senior and is the Managing Editor for The Blaze. In his third year on the paper staff, he still thoroughly enjoys his experience working with everyone associated with The Blaze, and wouldn’t give it up for just about anything. When he compared his previous experience with the student paper as a staff writer versus his current position as an editor, he denotes that both are crucial positions for the paper to run smoothly, though he does appreciate the pseudo-mentor role he has as an editor. He’s also incredibly grateful that the paper has allowed him to spend more time with his brother in academia. One word of advice he hopes to be helpful to the newcomers of the staff is to just hang in there; you will struggle to get in the groove in the beginning, especially when it comes to the more unconventional sides of this work, like photography and interviews, but the knowledge will slowly creep on you, and soon you’ll be able to self-guide through it with ease.

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