At Grand Rapids Community College, child care center founder Phyllis Fratzke saw the need for a learning lab for early childhood education students nearly 50 years ago.
“That was pretty forward-thinking 50 years ago,” said Melissa Boman, director of what is now called the Fratzke Early Childhood Learning Laboratory.
“She was a professor in the childhood development program and she made sure teachers were trained with classes and hands-on experience,” Boman said.
Now, said Becky Brinks, head of GRCC’s education department, “our students have child development classes with a lab. We want our students to go into the field and get a feel of what area they’re most interested in. We’re very committed to hands-on learning as part of our program.”
Teaching has a long history of people leaving the field within the first five years, she added.
“I think it’s important for students to get out in the field and reflect on their job and what it would be like,” she said.
It works out well for the child-care center, too.
“[Education] students see us here at the lab as part of the faculty and staff at the college,” Boman said. As part of their degree, education students first observe the children, then design a curriculum, then work in the preschool classroom in an internship.
The Early Learning Center at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, also has a long history, having opened during World War II, said Michele Volk, director of child and family studies. But it partnered with the college later, in 1999.
The college’s early childhood education (ECE) program has been taught remotely for the past year, including the lab instruction. The program is planning to offer one in-person lab for ECE majors this fall.
Covid infections are up in Clark County, and physical distancing will be required for children over 5 and for the college students, Volk said. The child-care center is staggering the scheduling so there will be fewer adults in the classroom.