Hands-On Experience: Students learn about early childhood

Published 7:00 am Saturday, January 30, 2016

dance party: From left, junior Kiara Allen and Grace Varnado work with two students in the Picayune School District’s Early Head Start mixed aged class.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

dance party: From left, junior Kiara Allen and Grace Varnado work with two students in the Picayune School District’s Early Head Start mixed aged class.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

There are a variety of careers and skills being taught at Picayune School District’s Career and Technology Center.
Through curriculum based studies and hands-on activities; high school students in Grace Varnado’s Early Childhood Services and Education Vocation class are learning there’s more to childcare than meets the eye.
Varnado began her educational career more than 20 years ago, working with special needs preschool children.
In 1998, she began teaching the class at the Career and Technology Center.
“I’ve been blessed,” she said. “I love to be with teenagers and little ones of all ages. There used to be a preschool here and the students got great experience. I love teaching. This class does funnel them. It helps them to see if they really love to be with kids. Your mindset about careers changes so much and you never know when you’re going to look back on this experience.”
During the first year, students learn a variety of health and safety techniques, including CPR and fire safety. They are also taught how to properly guide and discipline children and create a daily schedule.
At the end of the year, the students take a state test, Varnado said. Last year, her students ranked eighth in the state out of about 47 childhood vocation classes.
During the second year of the course, Varnado teaches her class about the operation and management of childcare centers. They learn classroom layout, how to design a playground, how to write and implement lesson plans. They also learn the proper teacher to child ratio and the square footage needed per child.
Second year students also get field experience at Picayune School District’s Early Head Start and West Side Elementary, Varnado said.
“The hands-on experience provides a balance,” she said. “They look at this and realize it’s not just about babysitting. In essence, we debunk childhood myths.”
Students also bring their lessons plans to life during their trips to the early childhood classrooms, Varnado said.
Junior Kiara Allen said she’s babysat many times and liked working with kids, but after taking the class, realized childcare services are more difficult than she thought.
Allen joined the class because she plans on becoming a pediatric nurse.
Throughout Varnado’s classroom, she hangs signs indicating the different career choices that include interactions with children.
“They are continually exposed to that,” Varnado said. “Even if they don’t become teachers, they will still know what to do and guide children’s activities.”
Since she was younger, junior Jessica Toney babysat other people’s children and she also plans to become a nurse practitioner one day.
“I learned a lot more than I knew before,” she said. “The kids are my favorite part. Ms. Varnado is a great and caring teacher who loves all children. I’m so thankful for her educating us with what we need to know.”
Dyamond Jackson said she learned the smaller things are really important when it comes to childcare. This class, she said, will help her with her plans to study pediatric dentistry.
“I like giving back to the community,” junior Jana Alexander said, “and helping with the kids. I plan to pursue a career in early head start or nursing to help children. I learned that you have to take the time with them and experience different things.”
In addition to career training, Varnado said the class teaches students an important life lesson, becoming a parent.
“Even if they don’t have a career with children, they are still learning about child development themselves to use when they become moms and dads,” she said. “ It’s gives them a good example of how hard it is to have a baby or raise one.”
Joaun Lee, director of Picayune’s Career and Technology Center, said, right now, the focus of education is looking at the importance of early childhood education.
“During her program, the students study a child’s three main areas of development, which are physical, social and emotional,” Lee said. “It’s gives them a good overview of caring for a child.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox