The Early Childhood Education teacher preparation program in Western's Woodring College of Education and the Associated Students' Child Development Center (CDC) have a longstanding collaborative partnership to engage in the understanding of principles and practices in early childhood education. One of the projects this term in the ECE 434: Environments for Young Children class is to design and materials for the classroom to support children’s knowledge and skills related to scientific thinking and to support children’s ability to represent their thinking.
Working alongside mentor teachers, the early childhood education students and teachers develop ideas for materials that can be constructed from recycled or found materials. The students make the materials to encourage children to engage in investigation, learn to observe, problem solve, make predictions, use their imagination, represent their thinking and to collaborate with others. The Early Childhood Education students present the materials to the children as they document how the children use the materials and analyze how the materials support the learning goals, while studying the properties of the materials and the importance of being intentional in the ways the materials are presented to the children.
The students working in Carolyn Mulder’s preschool class constructed a pulley system for children to learn the foundations for exploring engineering ideas—gravity, weight, friction, etc. Students working in Gina Lynch’s room made Plexiglass sand trays to develop early literacy skills, to make representations, learn design elements and storytelling. The children explored using the sand trays to create designs, draw numbers and explore what happens when light is introduced under their sand trays to highlight their explorations. Care is taken in the organization and arrangement of the materials to teach the children how to respect and have ownership of their materials in their learning environment.
This could not happen without the invaluable support offered by James Mullen, engineering lead with the university's Scientific Technical Services department, who has generously donated surplus materials and his expertise in technical aspects for the construction of the materials.
Early Childhood Education students:
Sand Trays: Tawni Tamarra, Amanda Kristofferson, Alexa Hess, Elise Pierce
Pulley System: Casey Daniels, Tsz Ting Chow, Karen Leung
ECE Faculty: Dr. Eileen Hughes
CDC Teachers: Carolyn Mulder, Gina Lynch
WWU photos by Rhys Logan