URI Child Development Centers host high school students for lesson in early education

State-URI partnership exposes high school students to potential careers in human development and education

KINGSTON, R.I. — Feb. 27, 2023 — High school Career and Technical Education students from around the state have gotten a first-hand look at child development and career pathways in the human development and education fields, thanks to a partnership between the URI Child Development Centers and the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children (RIAEYC).

Students in Career and Technical Education programs in Woonsocket and at Chariho Regional High School have been visiting the Child Development Center in Kingston to get a look at the nationally accredited laboratory preschool program in action. They are learning how faculty members and student teachers interact with preschoolers and provide them with hands-on activities that correspond with RIAEYC standards, according to Jessica MacLeod, director of URI’s Kingston center, part of the College of Health Sciences.

 “Part of our work is showcasing both career and college pathways into early education and Human Development and Family Science fields,” MacLeod said. “When students come to us, they’re observing the classroom in action, and really thinking about how that relates to what they’re learning in their program. For example, Chariho students were learning about the Rhode Island Early Learning and Development Standards. When they’re here, they can see classroom activities that have goals aligned with specific standards. So we try to make connections between what they are learning about in their program currently, and what they can see in action at the center.”

During these visits, Career and Technical Education students spend time on the observation deck at the Child Development Center to view classes, then engage in a question-and-answer session with center teachers and MacLeod. That is followed by a walking tour of the Kingston campus. The students also hear from RIAEYC representatives about opportunities for support into higher education, such as T.E.A.C.H. scholarships.

“The discussion session gives students a chance to pick the brains of the teachers about what they observed,” MacLeod said. “They’re also learning about Human Development and Family Science as a major at URI. For some of these students, this is the first time they have been to a large college campus. It sort of gives them the feel for what it means to come and live at college. Our hope is that we are kind of opening high school students’ eyes to the possibility of higher education, for career pathways into early education.”

The program, funded by the state Department of Human Services, aims to foster connections between high school students interested in early childhood education careers and higher education institutions, according to Marinel Russo, assistant director for Early Childhood Workforce Initiatives with RIAEYC. “High school students and CTE educators who have attended these field trips possess a deep knowledge and awareness of early childhood education and instruction that is further built upon by observations at high-quality centers like URI’s Child Development Centers in Kingston and Providence.”

The high school students and teachers take what they learn at the Child Development Center to inform classroom discussions and even make changes to their own child development centers. The experience is valuable for students deciding on their educational futures and potential careers.

“Seeing a different preschool was such an interesting experience for my classmates and me. We could use the knowledge we’ve learned in class to have real discussions with other teachers and educators outside of our Chariho District,” said Caroline, a senior from Chariho. “Being able to see the URI campus itself was also super exciting and helped our field trip feel inclusive to those who maybe aren’t planning to go into education or childcare in the future.”

“The trip was amazing! Being able to tour the campus and the Child Development Center really allowed my class to experience college life,” said Christine, a teacher with the Woonsocket High School CTE program. “The staff, teachers and students were happy to answer any questions the students had. I will definitely take this trip again in the future. It seems URI will be a new home for many of my students after this trip.”