Becoming an effective educator of young children requires direct experience within a classroom setting. The Center for Young Children (CYC) at the University of Maryland is a laboratory school with three objectives; educating children, training teachers and conducting research studies. The University of Maryland in College Park bachelor degree program in early childhood education has a comprehensive curriculum.
UMD’s Research and Study Program
Within the research studies group, undergraduates and graduate students at CYC develop their teaching skills by observing young children in a natural classroom environment. The observation rooms separate them from the actual classroom so they can observe the cognitive, emotional and physical development of the children for academic purposes.
Research students may request permission to interview the children outside the classroom, but must follow specific rules. They must receive approval from the University’s Institutional Review Board. Researchers must receive permission from the parents of the children to interview a child and participate in the study. Once approval and permission is obtained, the child is allowed to participate in the special activities of the researcher, but if the child declines participation at any time during the research process, the child’s wishes are respected.
Preschool classrooms at CYC involve children ranging in ages of three to five. Research has shown that mixed ages benefit both younger and older children. Mixed ages will resemble a family and community setting, adding confidence and increased socialization to the age group.
Concentrations in UMD’s Training Program
Concentration in early childhood education is placed on personal and social development by building relationships within the classroom community. Books are placed within the environment that the child may browse through independently or with a group. Through exposure of different types of reading materials, children begin to appreciate literature.
Children are also exposed to early science and mathematical skills through counting, sorting, patterning and measuring. Each CYC classroom also features a dramatic play area where children are allowed to explore the world through imaginative play such as dressing up and creating structures with large, hollow blocks. Children are also taught the basics for art and physical skills.
Students wishing to develop a career in early childhood education must complete courses in social competence for young children, language development and reading acquisition, children as young scientists, children as mathematicians, and effective components of early childhood classrooms, among others.
The UMD Undergraduate Program and Career Outlook
Field experiences for undergraduate and graduate students include CYC placement of one day per week, specialized observations and experiences with infants and toddlers, two days per week, plus one full week in a preschool or a Head-start program, K-3 trade placement two days a week plus two full weeks, and a yearlong internship in student teaching.
The University of Maryland incorporates undergraduates into CYC as employees, pre-service classroom participants and interns. These student aides provide assistance to the school through interacting with the children, providing office assistance and through general house-keeping tasks. Priority is given to student aid positions to students majoring in education or education related fields.
The education of children is a deeply rewarding experience. Many people who enter the field of education discover their greatest joys are in the teaching of young children. The University of Maryland is involved in a collaborative relationship with seven elementary schools as well as the Center for Young Children.