Hiram College’s education department has teamed up with Crestwood Primary Schools to develop new after-school programming. For the elementary students, it will provide enrichment to their classroom activities. For the Hiram students, it will create both internships and hands-on experience.
Chelsey Christie ’15, educational studies major from Niles, was the first Hiram student to get involved with the program during the Fall 2014 12-Week. She ran the inaugural program as her 120-hour internship requirement, planning a theme for each of the 12 weeks, creating and running activities for the elementary students and coordinating a schedule of additional Hiram students to serve as volunteers.
“I loved the opportunity to be creative and design the activities I wanted to do with the kids,” Christie said. “If I wanted them to make a story, I made my own story to show them an example. It brought their creativity out and made them use their imagination.”
The program Christie ran focused on literacy, so many of the activities centered on reading, rhyming, writing and storytelling. Next semester, junior early childhood education majors in science, math and social studies methods courses will run the program and spend two weeks teaching each of those three content areas.
Kathleen Maretka, director of student teaching and field experience, said the way Hiram students are involved may vary from semester to semester, but it is a partnership they plan to maintain with Crestwood Primary School. In the future, another Hiram student may run the program as an internship (like Christie); other education department classes may also be involved in the future.
For Christie, the hands-on experience she gained was invaluable, as she looks toward graduation this May. She worked closely with Crestwood Primary School Principal Cindy Ducca and Curriculum Director Mary Ann Strenk, who gave her constant feedback as she refined and improved activities throughout the 12 weeks.
“I loved working with them and getting input from them,” Christie said. “After every session, I always asked how I did, how the kids liked it and if I should do anything differently. They gave me good input and tried to help me grow.”
It also gave her an opportunity to apply the concept of time management in a real-life setting.
“In my Pedagogy and Instruction class, we learned how to use your time and how to plan out activities in which kids can both learn and have fun,” she said. “And in an after-school program, with limited time – and the kids are basically drained from being in school all day – this became very important.
“I put the kids in three stations, and I was constantly checking the clock to see what time we should change stations to ensure everyone had sufficient time at each station. That was hard for me at first, but it kind of clicked right there. I was like, ‘You know what? I can use this stuff.’”
And though Christie does not know exactly what she wants to do after graduation, her internship affirmed her desire to work with children.
“Looking back, on the days that I did not feel myself, those kids put a big smile on my face, and it changed the rest of my day, for the better,” Christie said. “That’s how I know I want to work with kids. I’m a kid at heart.”
The next after-school program at Crestwood Primary Schools will run Jan. 27 through March 5, 2015.
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