ESW Students Collaborate with Children’s Center for Valuable Service Learning Experience

by Melissa S. Treacy

The youngest students on Montgomery County Community College’s Central Campus in Blue Bell are helping Exercise Science and Wellness (ESW) students to get some hands-on experience with building Physical Education lesson plans.

For the past three semesters, students in Introduction to Exercise Science and Wellness classes (ESW 102) taught by program co-coordinators Dr. Ann Livezey and Amanda Wooldridge have had the opportunity to work with toddler and pre-school students from the College’s Children’s Center.

According to Wooldridge, her students develop and lead physical education activities and lesson plans for Children’s Center students in the College’s gymnasium several times throughout the semester. The lessons are based on Pennsylvania’s Early Learning Standards.

“The college students enjoy the inter-generational interactions and having fun with the children through physical activity,” Wooldridge explained. “Many of the college students will go into careers working with children, but they all report that this is an invaluable experience to provide fun activities for children to encourage them to be active and PLAY!”

The college students are not the only ones enjoying the fun.

“The [preschool] children absolutely love ‘gym class’ and leave with smiles on their faces every time,” she said. “I see children and college students having fun together — jumping, playing games, balancing, throwing, scootering and just plain running!”

“The college students report that this interaction teaches them about lesson planning, organization, and the joy that children have for the lessons,” she added. “They form bonds with the children and the children look up to their college counterparts. It is a win-win relationship!”

Wooldridge isn’t the only one thrilled with the program.  Kathie Hawkins, lead teacher and assistant director of the Children’s Center, agreed it was a win-win for all involved.

“The [preschool] children get to work on real, gross-motor skills with indoor activity. The gym is a huge space, so they really get to run around,” said Hawkins. “As a teacher, I can observe and record my observations, watch their gross-motor skills, their interactions. At the same time, the college faculty can evaluate their [students’] teaching skills. And, the college students, acting as teachers, are able to implement their lesson plans on real people.”

Hawkins said, as an MCCC graduate herself, the application of lesson plans is crucial for a teacher learning the ropes.

“Sometimes you write your lesson plans on paper, and they sound great on paper or to adults in your class,” she said. “Here, the college students are able to test their ideas out on the kids.”

This style of teaching, known as service learning, is an important component in many of MCCC’s programs. It can be a unique way to both learn and provide for the needs of a community.

“The students get to learn by providing a service for a certain population,” explained Wooldridge in her ESW example. “This particular project means a lot to them because they can visually see the difference they are making for these children. They get to have a positive impact on the young children and make sure they know how much fun being active can be!”

Wooldridge said that service learning is a fundamental component in many of her classes.

“The students get to learn that they can use their skills and knowledge to enhance the lives of others,” she said. “Through [the preschool] activity, they get to impart their love of activity and knowledge about motor development to create a positive environment for the children. In other service learning exercises, my students get to learn how to plan, organize and run an entire fundraising event to learn sports management. All money raised goes to a local charity in Montgomery County as well as to MCCC’s ESW Scholarship Fund.”

Wooldridge said that the MCCC students are helping to teach lifelong lessons, and not just a single moment of exercise.

“Encouraging children to lead active lifestyles instead of sedentary lifestyles is a wonderful step in the right direction,” she said of a healthy lifestyle. “The ESW students are also tasked with educating the preschoolers about the importance of healthy lifestyles and sharing age-appropriate tips with the children each time they visit the gym.”

The lessons are driven home by also speaking with the families of the preschool students.

“I also speak with the parents of the preschoolers from the role of ESW faculty about the importance of family engagement in physical activity,” said Wooldridge.

To learn more about MCCC’s Exercise Science & Wellness program, visit mc3.edu/academics.

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Photos by Alana J. Mauger

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