In Aug. 2018, Coastal Carolina University opened the Early Childhood Development and Literacy Center on campus.
Many students are CCU’s faculty and staff’s children, and the others are students that live in the area.
Director Angela Huggins works hard to make the lessons enjoyable and is proud of the center.
“Our preschool center is a special place on campus where children come to learn and explore. An authentic curriculum, family and child focus, outdoor play, and teacher education are traits that set us apart from other schools,” she said in her message on the CCU website. “An emergent, project-based curriculum allows us the freedom to explore the inquiry interests of our children as the learn academic and social emotional skills within that context. Observation of children, their skills and interests, is the foundation from which our curriculum emerges.”
The lessons come from what the students show interest in which keeps them engaged and interested.
The preschool has come far since its opening in August, and even introduced a bilingual program in January.
Huggins feels this program will be beneficial to their students.
“I feel like any time we provide the children with additional experiences it expands their views of the world which is very important. We also know that young children really quickly start to take on a new language when immersed in it. It helps them be more aware that not everyone is like them and that it’s important to be respectful of others and their cultures, and that it’s a part of who other people are and what makes them special,” she said.
Mauricio Castillo, assistant professor of Spanish and Latin American studies, played a big part in getting this program started.
“When the Center initially advertised a Spanish immersion program I was very excited because I am from Peru and wanted to enroll my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter who I am raising bilingual. However, when I talked to Dr. Huggins, director of the center, she mentioned that it was difficult to find bilingual teachers,” he said. “I immediately thought that I could help bring in our selected majors and minors to start the program while they find a teacher. In this way, everybody is being helped: the center, our students, the children and my daughter, the Spanish program, the university, etc.”
Castillo believes this program is already working the way it’s supposed to and benefiting CCU students majoring in Spanish.
“In the past, the Spanish major faculty had difficulty finding internships that fulfill the 120 hours that interns are required to complete for the whole semester. With this internship, students get invaluable practice in the target language in a professional setting as well as becoming acquainted with the pedagogy of language acquisition, which could be a potential career choice for some students,” he said. “Right now, one of our interns has mentioned to me that she is enjoying the internship so much that she is thinking about becoming a teacher. This is exactly what the Spanish faculty wants to offer our students: an experiential learning experience that could potentially open some doors for them, and ultimately change their lives for the better.”
Castillo explains what makes this program so different.
“This program is unique because it is a paid internship and the setting is right on campus where our students can work around their schedule. I have talked to Dr. Huggins and although it has not been confirmed with Dr. Jadallah, we are going to increase the number of interns to four in Fall 2019,” he said. “The three-year-olds are not getting Spanish immersion because the lack of staff. In the near future, I want to make it also available in the summer, so it becomes a year-round internship which will solidify the center’s Spanish immersion program.”
The Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies is excited about the future of this program.
“We want to be recognized by our students as a place where diversity and inclusion is promoted and encouraged on campus,” Castillo said.