Flagstaff High School junior Emily Stricker is learning how to provide quality experiences for young children when it matters most: before they start school by taking classes in early childhood development and getting real-world experience as a student teacher at FHS Eagles Crest Child Care Center.
“I love playing with the kids. They brighten my day and I know it helps them develop. When kids interact with adults and other kids, it helps them to learn,” Emily said.
Child care centers like Eagles Crest and Little Ropers at Sinagua Middle School participate in Quality First, a signature program of First Things First, to improve the quality of care and learning experiences they provide for children from birth to age 5.
Research shows that quality early learning settings help children develop skills – like motivation, self-control, focus and self-esteem – that are crucial to their success in school and beyond. Once a child starts kindergarten, these skills help them to be ready to learn, problem solve, think critically, and have strong social and emotional readiness.
“Quality means an educational environment that focuses on all of the child’s developmental needs, such as fine and gross motor activities, reading to children to build language and cognitive skills, and social interactions with other children – all through fun activities,” shares FHS Eagles Crest Director Debra King.
Students from FHS and SMS are gaining job and career training in fields like early childhood development, as well as gaining college credits through Coconino Community College’s CAVIAT (Coconino Association for Vocations, Industry and Technology) program.
Ruth Thomas from the Little Ropers program at Sinagua shares how the experience benefits the students exploring the possibilities of a career in early childhood.
“We are a lab for them. They are getting trained from infant development to health and safety and early learning standards,” Thomas said. “We are able to model quality care, and our future parents and educators are being directly impacted. This is an opportunity for growth and helps build skills to enter the job force.”
Hoping to become an elementary school teacher or maybe an archeologist, Emily Stricker knows the experience she’s getting is also benefitting the young kids.
“During the day we do circle time with singing, dancing and story time. This helps them get to a higher level of creativity and helps them to read and write,” Emily said. “This is preparing them for school.”
Families looking for more information on why quality early experiences make a difference for young children can visit www.QualityFirstAZ.com