PC education students give back to schools, community
- Published on Monday, November 26 2012 18:04
- Written by Rachel Ham
Each week, education majors at Presbyterian College go out to schools and child development centers around Laurens County to learn firsthand what it means to teach young minds. This month, one class has also shown what it means to serve.
As part of an annual project, students in Dr. Debra Lee’s Early Childhood Curriculum course select a topic of educational interest. Their goal for the Inquiry and Advocacy assignment is to take it an extra step and not only research their topic, but also put it into action in the form of a service project to children, schools and families in the area.
This semester projects ranged from providing “Snackbacks” to give children healthy snacks on the weekends to “Learning While You’re Young” during which education majors taught Spanish to first graders at Joanna Woodson Elementary.
Organizing the outreach projects takes time and creativity, but Lee said her students never fail to see the bigger picture as they serve at schools right in PC’s backyard.
“Each year I see such remarkable outcomes, both for the intended recipients as well as my students,” she said. “It is a reciprocal process. The community benefits, and the students experience the impact of their efforts.”
Receiving hugs from young children as a “thank you”, one group of PC students personally witnessed last week how their project will help aid the learning process at Thornwell’s 4K program. Just minutes after the 4-year-old students added class helper Ms. Rachel Powell, a PC junior, to their November list of thankful things, they were excited to welcome her project team members senior Anna Biggers and junior Lucia Leahy – and the boxes of goodies they brought – to their class.
From working at Thornwell on a regular basis, Powell saw that the brand-new program needed items to grow its art supply stash. Knowing from their research that arts and crafts can enhance a child’s way of taking in new concepts, the trio decided to raise funds and collect donations of supplies for a “Learning through Arts” service project.
“Creative art supplies allow young children to manipulate and learn through hands-on experiences,” Leahy said.
“We wanted to help in any way,” Powell added.
The group started out by giving Thornwell’s Vice President for Educational Services Norman Dover and 4K teacher Brooke Robinette a survey of needs to assess what items would come in handy the most. They then began collecting supplies through their sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, a PC residence hall, and a small private school in Charlotte. In keeping with the themes of community and service, the group held a Steamer's Cafe Eat-a-thon on November 9 to raise additional funds ($268 in all) and allow other students and citizens to get involved in just a small way.
When all of the supplies and donations were totaled, the girls had several boxes and a check for Robinette to tote with them to Thornwell on November 19 to present to the class.
“Supplies that were collected vary from tissue paper to crayons to foam craft sticks to glitter glue,” Leahy said.
As the young students dove into the boxes, it was easy to share in their excitement. Robinette was also eager to begin formulating activities to teach.
“We haven’t been able to do a lot of art projects yet because we just didn’t have the supplies,” she said.
Studies examined by Leahy, Powell and Biggers show that even simple cut-and-glue or paint-by-number activities will give the young students tools they need to continue learning throughout their school careers.
“Our research has shown that crafts like finger painting improve motor skills and free art helps them express themselves, even at a young age,” Powell agreed.
Wanting to stress both components of the project – research and service – equally, Lee knows her future teachers will benefit just as much as the classrooms and children for which they advocated.
“Through this, they truly begin to understand what it means to be a teacher and a servant leader,” she said.