Leading and learning: Community project provides deeper meaning for Human Development students
Students in Professor Illene Cupit’s Infancy and Early Childhood Class took their learning to a new level this semester — researching a particular development concern, and then creating a three-fold brochure that would be appropriate for public dissemination — particularly for parents of young children.
“I am a firm believer in active learning and want my students to see that what they are studying is of interest to the greater community,” Cupit said. “The issues that they considered in the brochures are of real concern to parents and early childhood educators, and the answers to these concerns have a research-history behind them. So the assignment had to be evidence-based.”
To complete the assignment, small groups were formed and members had to consider and select from one of 11 topic questions that a parent may have about early childhood stages. For instance:
“Is it okay for my toddler to watch TV and play with my iPad? How many hours a day can my child watch without him becoming addicted or have other problems? Is it true that young children who watch a lot of TV and videos end up with later attention problems?”
or “I am a cardiologist and I have published several papers on heart disease. My four- year-old daughter just insisted, to my face, that girls couldn’t be scientists, only boys could. I’m her mother. She knows what I do for a living. How could she possibly think this?”
Brochure topics selected among the classes included:
• Talking with your Baby
• Gender Stereotyping in children
• Imaginary Friends
• Face Perception and Recognition in infancy
• Is it okay for my kid to watch TV or play with my iPad?
• Toddlers and Technology
• Play: It’s Not Just Play, It’s Learning
• Five Tips for Sharing
• Helping Children Cope with Death
Each group was assigned to research and read three to six empirical papers on the topic and condense this material into a format that would be easily accessible to a parent. The material was reviewed by Cupit before the groups did a final presentation and critique that involved their classmates. The best brochures were to be forwarded to The Green Bay Children’s Museum for possible publication.
The assignment proved to be a valuable learning tool. Sarah Busko, a sophomore from Marathon, Wis., worked with a small group to discover myths in bilingual education. She said that she and her classmates were excited to help the community and make that connection to The Children’s Museum.
“I don’t think I would understand the material as well if we wouldn’t have had this assignment,” the psychology major said. “What I will take from this project is that parents need to be correctly informed about the best ways to help their children.
“There are myths that raising a bilingual child can have a negative effect on his or her language development, but our research shows this to be false. There are many benefits to bilingualism such as improved vocabulary and understanding of grammar in language, and overall, it can help in future education opportunities or a career. I plan to raise my future children bilingual since I now know all the later life benefits.”
After presenting their brochures, the class members voted on which brochures they felt should get sent on for possible publication. So impressed was Prof. Cupit that she is planning to forward them all for consideration.
“I was extremely pleased by the professionalism of the end product and how seriously students took this assignment,” Cupit said.