University of the Fraser Valley

UFV partnership with Stó:lō Nation gives students a head start on early childhood education

UFV partnership with Stó:lō Nation gives students a head start on early childhood education

UFV dual-credit students interested in a potential career in early childhood development took a trip to A:lmélháwtxw Early Education Centre.

A collaboration between the University of the Fraser Valley and Stó:lō Nation is giving high school students a taste of early childhood education (ECE) before they dive into full-time university studies.

Monique Belanger, childcare supervisor at A:lmélháwtxw Early Education Centre, launched a leadership project through Early Childhood Educators of BC called ‘Leading Change with ECEBC.’ As part of that project, Belanger visits Grade 12 students in Elizabeth McWilliams Hewitt’s dual-credit early childhood education class to provide mentorship and bridge the gap between theory and what practice looks like in the field.

Dual credit students are those who are still in high school and are taking university courses that serve as university and high school credits.

“My students have been able to ask Monique lots of questions and hopefully reduce some of the anxieties they might have around the career,” McWilliams Hewitt says. “Students in my class, and Monique Goerzen’s 102 class, also had the opportunity to go on a couple field trips to the A:lmélháwtxw Early Education Centre.”

The first tour happened in October, with students meeting A:lmélháwtxw staff members and watching them work. They gained a better understanding of the ECE role, philosophies, and emergent curriculum, and got a sense of what a career in ECE looks like.

Monique Belanger, childcare supervisor at A:lmélháwtxw Early Education Centre, talking to students.

The first field trip was so successful that the students wanted to do it again. Using a microgrant from SVP (Social Venture Partners) Vancouver, Belanger brought them back on Feb 10, along with some of UFV’s second year students, and district personnel. This visit included a panel discussion with A:lmélháwtxw staff talking about guidance, and caring for children in the field.

“Our students heard lots of stories, and they were able to see the panelists working closely together to problem solve, coming up with answers and solutions,” McWilliams Hewitt says. “Our students were also impressed by the strong connection the daycare’s staff, families and children have to the land. They spend a lot of time outdoors and whether it’s taking a walk in the forest, climbing a tree, or finding a nice spot outside to have a quiet moment, that connection is there.”

It was Goerzen who first learned about Belanger’s program and thought it would be a great fit for UFV. She says the ECE field is one with high attrition, but A:lmélháwtxw is an example of a daycare centre staffed with passionate people with years of experience.

“A lot of them have 20-plus years in the field, and they are just as passionate as they were the day they started,” Goerzen says. “It’s because of the collaboration and communication they have as a team and their commitment to providing quality care in the community.

“Students who are just starting out in this career need to see a quality day care centre like A:lmélháwtxw  to see how rewarding this career can be.”

A:lmélháwtxw will be providing volunteer opportunities for some of the students this summer, and McWilliams-Hewitt hopes the UFV/ A:lmélháwtxw partnership serves as a model for how to teach dual credit students.

“You see these people who have made a long-term career in the field, and that gives students more insight than if they’re encountering it for the first time in a practicum,” she says. “It’s our hope that this mentorship will keep new ECE teachers passionate about their careers and build retention in the field.”