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Early Childhood Education program provides learning environment for teens and tots

The students who attend Johnson County High School are offered the opportunity to attend classes that extend beyond the typical high school academia. During their high school years, many of the students will take at least one class in the Johnson County Career and Technical Center. This fourth in a series of articles highlighting the many programs within the Career and Technical Center focuses on the Family and Consumer Science Program.
Under the direction of Brenda Eggers, there are four classes within the Family and Consumer Science Program. The Child Development Course is an introductory class that encompasses the many arenas in which people can work with children, from parenting to teacher and medical professionals. The students will learn the many stages of development, including the physical, mental, social and emotional growth of children of all ages.
The Early Childhood Education Careers I is for students who plan on either becoming parents or are considering working in the many career fields that involve children. With this knowledge, the students can seek employment after high school working with children or further their education in this field. Not only do the students study childhood development, but they participate in two class periods a week working hands-on with infants, toddlers and pre-school age children in the Early Childhood Development Center.
Early Childhood Education Careers II is for students who aspire to work within career fields wherein they will work with children. In this course, the students learn to implement their knowledge and skills as they gain hands-on experience working with the youngest population. They learn to develop and then carry out activities for this age group. As a bonus, if the student is recommended by Eggers, they may be eligible to test at Northeast State Community College and earn three hours of college credit. Students may also enroll in Early Childhood Education Careers III, concentrating on administration, management and working with children with a variety of special needs. According to Eggers, this is the 16th year the Family and Consumer Science Program has been in place. Several of Eggers’ students have gone on to pursue careers in nursing, social work, teaching and child care.
Eggers recently explained that all of the students in the Family and Consumer Science classes work both on their own and as a part of a team. The program is set up for students to work on their classwork on an independent basis, using a program called Moodle. While the students each are working on different goals and lessons, they come together as they spend time working with the young children at the Early Childhood Development Center. The students spend three days a week in the classroom and for two periods a day, twice a week, they work hands-on with the children in the Early Childhood Development Center. While the students are there to learn, they are never alone, Eggers assured.
At the Early Childhood Development Center, guests walk into a bevy of happy children from six weeks of age to six years old, from those babies just beginning to give those first smiles to the children who have mastered feeding themselves and are quite verbal. The children are eager to talk with those visiting the Development Center and share information about their day, their lives and even their families. It’s easy to immediately see how attached the children are to Eggers, the teachers and students who care for them each day. This is the 11th year the Development Center has been up and running. The Development Center partially funds itself, Eggers explained. The cost at this time is $90 per week. Programs are in place to help those parents who struggle with the childcare tuition. The Development Center is part of the Johnson County School System.
The 19 children attending the Development Center are broken into three distinct groups that include: six weeks to one year, one year to two years of age, followed by three years and up. Each day is busy for the children as they have structured time for their meals, play centers, outside time and exercise. They have implemented a kids’ exercise program. “They absolutely love it,” Eggers said. The Mountain City Ruritans recently wrote a grant for a small-scale climbing wall for the students. “We are very happy,” Eggers said. Not only was the funding provided to purchase the climbing wall, but it was installed and the surrounding area mulched. Breakfast, lunch and snacks are provided by Mountain City Elementary. The teachers at the Development Center, along with Egger’s students, stay busy keeping up with children, reading stories, doing laundry, wiping down tables and toys, serving meals, along with nurturing and giving lots of one-on-one time with their students. Eggers spends her early mornings at the Development Center until approximately 9:30 each day, before heading over to the high school for a full day of teaching. Eggers herself is still attending school as she is working on her doctorate.
Gathered around a large circular table, the older students sat down for lunch time. There were no protests as they eagerly ate the vegetables and chicken, talking animatedly and sharing stories among each other. Amazingly, they did a great job of patiently waiting for one another to finish talking. One young man was eager to talk about his time spent with his grandfather, while another youngster wanted the teachers to know he wasn’t wasting any time eating his food. “Hey, hey, Miss Brenda, I fast,” the two-year old declared.
The Development Center has earned a three-star rating. They are subject to several inspections a year. The Development Center is part of the Department of Education as they are affiliated with the school system. In addition to class time, the students eagerly participate in the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America organization, also known as FCCLA.
Eggers is pleased with her students’ willingness to donate their time volunteering in community fundraisers. They have recently participated in a Memory Walk to raise both awareness and funds for the Alzheimers Association. The students also visit the nursing home, making Valentines for the local residents. “You will never meet a more giving group of people,” she said. Eggers is both pleased and proud of her students, young and old, and of all of their accomplishments. “I have the best of every world,” she said. “I have the little kids and the big kids, the best of both worlds.”