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New reality program helps educate teachers
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A new reality show will help Mississippi's 3- and 4-year-old children prepare for their first day of school.
Mississippi State University's Extension Service is tapping into the latest media trend by providing a unique glimpse into an accredited classroom and training child-care providers to prepare preschoolers for kindergarten. They are demonstrating that some reality shows are not only entertaining, they also can be educational.
Karen Benson, area child and family development agent based in Neshoba County, said Extension has been providing distance education to child-care providers for two years.
“Now, we are taking it one step further; we are conducting our training while in an accredited classroom,” Benson said. “Cameras in the classroom allow participants to see how to set up a learning center, how to get the children involved and how to conduct other activities.”
Benson uses a classroom in MSU's Aiken Village Preschool, which is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. NAEYC accredits facilities that demonstrate quality services based on national standards. The national association works to improve the well-being of children, especially in the quality of educational and developmental services from birth through age 8.
The distance-learning program is made possible by a grant from the Mississippi Department of Human Services through the Office of Children and Youth. The purpose of the grant is for Extension to provide child-care training on the early learning guidelines for 3- and 4-year-olds.
When presenting from a classroom setting, Benson said there is the added unknown suspense of what can happen in live television.
“You can't plan what a 3-year-old is going to do,” she said. “We are getting good feedback from viewers who can see what is going on. We find that participants ask a lot more questions during the sessions, which suggests they are more engaged in the activities.”
Louise Davis, Extension child and family development professor, has been training child-care workers for more than a decade. She said the setting allows some child-care providers to see for the first time what an NAEYC-accredited classroom looks like.
“They see children interacting in a normal classroom environment. The more prepared a teacher is with various teaching strategies in those settings, the more prepared the children will be for school,” Davis said. “With fewer than 50 accredited preschools in the state, providers in very rural areas are able to participate without the expense and time that would be needed to travel to a similar presentation or conference.”
Mary Seals, director of the TLC Childcare Center in Natchez, said the experience has benefited her center in many ways.
“First, it's great not to have to travel to Jackson or other places for the training. It saves a lot of our time and cost,” Seals said. “Also, the people who participate are more involved and ask more questions. It's good to get input about our problems from other centers.”