February 24, 2012
Quality assured: Early Childhood Education Center retains national accreditation
Making snow is not a typical child's activity, but Kansas State University's Hoeflin Stone House Early Childhood Education Center is not a typical child care facility. Lessons in critical thinking and problem solving are just one of many reasons for Stone House's recent reaccreditation, along with a dedication to early education.
Composed of six classrooms for children from 6 weeks to 5 years old, Stone House has been reaccredited for another five years by the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Activities like making snow -- compiling anything white together into one big concoction -- further children's development beyond basic milestones.
"Early childhood education is about laying the foundation for later learning," said Sally Meyer, program director and instructor in the university's School of Family Studies and Human Services, which is part of the College of Human Ecology.
"We want to make sure that their developmental goals are met, but we also give them the opportunity, the environment and the stimulation to instill a lifelong love of learning," Meyer said.
The children in the 3- to 5-year-old class came up with the snow-making activity because they were disappointed when the snow outside had melted. Using basic steps of the scientific process, they experimented with their ideas of how to make and improve their own snow, including placing the white mixture in the refrigerator and adding ice. They even took notes of their observations in individual notebooks; unfortunately the notes may only be decipherable to scribble experts.
"Children come up with some very interesting questions," Meyer said. "Our responsibility as teachers is to give them the tools necessary to find the answers."
To receive the association's reaccreditation, Stone House had to meet 10 standards that include promoting positive relationships that encourage each child's self-worth, implementing curriculum that fosters all areas of child development, employing a qualified, knowledgeable and committed teaching staff and maintaining collaborative relationships with families. To remain in good standing with the association, Stone House is required to send an annual report with any changes or quality improvements and is subject to a site visit at any time.
Since Stone House's main purpose is to provide clinical training for college students enrolled in the university's pre-service education program, it is also accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Instructors are faculty members in the School of Family Studies and Human Services and have a Kansas license in early childhood education and early childhood special education. Students currently working toward a bachelor's degree or advanced degree assist those instructors.
Both accreditations are proof that everyone at Stone House has a vested interest and a shared understanding about the quality of the program, Meyer said.
"We all have a real passion for making a difference in children's lives," she said. "It is about loving learning, being interested in things and being excited to be with your friends, so that learning is less like a task and more like an adventure."