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Learning by doing

Purdue North Central sophomore LannBarker works with preschoolers Michah Steffak (right) Curran Daly Evan Daly (left) Discovery Cottage Valparaiso.

Purdue North Central sophomore Lanna Barker works with preschoolers, Michah Steffak (right), Curran Daly and Evan Daly (left), at Discovery Cottage in Valparaiso. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 12, 2013 1:18PM



Lanna Barker spends a lot of time playing with the nine preschoolers she works with at Discovery Cottage in Valparaiso.

“I’m learning that kids really learn from playing. It’s not just something fun to kill time,” she said on a recent morning, adding they learn to share, work together, and use their imaginations.

She’s also learning from the full-time teachers at the cottage how to interact with parents, “which I think is important.”

Barker, 20, a sophomore at Purdue North Central from Valparaiso, is in PNC’s early childhood education program. She helps out at the cottage, offered by the Valparaiso Parks and Recreation Department, for a PNC class called, “Child, Family, School and Community Partnerships.”

PNC has 20 students in the course, scattered at 12 non-profits throughout the region that offer programs for young children. The goal of the course, said Mary Jane Eisenhauer, coordinator for the early childhood education degree program at PNC, is to see those partnerships in action.

The course, with its service-learning component, was first offered in the spring of 2009, though this is the first year it’s involved the Discovery Cottage. The course is meant to focus on resources outside of the schools.

“There’s so much more to early childhood education than school,” Eisenhauer said, adding that includes childcare settings. “Where do you stop the with the care and start with the education? You can’t separate the two.”

The course also provides networking opportunities for its students, some of whom find jobs while they are still at PNC or after they graduate, Eisenhauer said.

The PNC students also are an invaluable resource for the agencies that host them.

“It’s been wonderful for our program,” said Mary Kay Goehl, head teacher at the Discovery Cottage, as she and a group of seven toddlers, along with their parents, played with a parachute.

The PNC students bring with them cutting-edge information on early childhood education, as well as youthful enthusiasm.

“And the kids love that, so it brings a really good mix to our environment here,” Goehl said.



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