Students across campus benefit from Learning Center

Rachel Christian

Last semester, 200 students were placed in the Children’s Learning Center (CLC), USI’s on-campus childcare facility.

In the fall of 2012, the CLC transitioned to a formal lab school. Instead of functioning as only a daycare, it now operates as a hands-on learning lab for USI education majors. The CLC was previously administered in the Division of Outreach and Engagement, but now operates under the direction of the Potts College of Science, Engineering and Education.

The switch allowed other majors – such as theater, nursing and chemistry – to gain real world experiences with children without leaving campus.

“It is a huge benefit for USI students,” said Jill Raisor, assistant professor of education and the liaison between Pott College and the CLC.

Eric Davis is an elementary education major who is currently working on an internship at the CLC. He gets to observe, participate and learn by working with the kids and teachers, and he records his experiences in a weekly journal assignment.

One of the greatest benefits of the internship is the amount of time he spends with the children and staff, Davis said. The staff give him plenty of advice and ideas for when he has a classroom of his own.

“In a field experience class I may only get to go to a school twice a week for probably 2.5 hours a week if I’m lucky,” Davis said. “And with my internship at the CLC, I get to work with them every day.”

In David Daum’s Teaching Developmental Activities class, physical education teaching majors engage the children at the CLC in a 30 minute exercise activity.

Daum said the decision to get students from this class and other classes he teaches involved at the CLC came to him last summer as a “light bulb moment.”

He tried out the placement for the first time last semester, and the feedback he received from his students and the CLC staff was overwhelmingly positive, he said.

“Any experience that future teachers get working with kids is invaluable,” Daum said.

The CLC also engages those outside the educational field.

This spring, students from Kathy Riordan’s Voice and Diction class will perform children stories at the CLC as part of their final.

In the past, Riordan had her students complete this assignment in the classroom with their peers. But after talking over the idea with Raisor, Riordan said she thinks the experience will be “a win-win situation” for the students and the children.

They have also discussed the possibility of the children visiting dress rehearsals and witnessing some preparation for a play.

“The best part is the joy of captivating a young audience and drawing them into our theatre world,” Riordan said.

Karen Parker places pediatric nursing students at the CLC so they can observe normal childhood growth and development. They get a chance to interact and observe the kids while also serving as “an extra pair of hands” around the CLC.

“I think it’s very beneficial for their knowledge base,” Parker said. “And it gives the kids some extra one-on-one attention.”

With so many students coming in and out, Raisor said the CLC makes a special effort not to overwhelm the children with new faces by carefully scheduling how many students can visit and at what time.

Even if they’re not part of a placement program for class, USI students still get involved at the CLC in other ways.

In the spring of 2012, chemistry students tested the soil outside the CLC before the children began planting their organic garden. International students from the Passport Club visit the CLC frequently to teach the kids about their home country, tradition and culture. Students from Japan are visiting this week.

“It really is a unique experience,” Raisor said. “For both the students and the children.”