Dillon Community Participates in Early Childhood Education Courses at UMW

Montana Western students studying Early Childhood Education taught local children, ages 3-5, in the Model Classroom at UMW. Instructor Aaron Cashmore taught Early Childhood Curriculum and Environments during block four, followed by Integrated Early Childhood Curriculum in block five.

The activities and learning centers created by UMW students were based around the topic of family because that is what the children spoke about most.

During block four, students learned about curriculum and how to set up a learning environment. In the following block they implemented their knowledge by delivering lesson plans that they had developed.

“Students are much more open when talking to the children and holding conversations. I have seen tremendous growth and they are applying the concepts that they learned in block four to what they are doing now,” said Cashmore.

Jenna Walker, an Early Childhood Education major at Montana Western, participated in the class. Walker, pictured below, shared that to encourage a successful learning environment, it was critical that the space was not overwhelming to the children.

“We are focused on the kids learning in their own ways. We create portfolios of each kid in each center, which helps us reflect and show that they are learning in the environment and that is something we can share with their parents,” said UMW student Jenna Walker.

“The kids never stop learning through a play-based curriculum. I can already see now what my challenges are and what I need to improve on,” said Walker about how she feels the children, as well as herself, have grown throughout this experience.

Cameron Fuentez, a UMW student participating in the course, also works part time at the elementary school in Dillon, Mont. as a paraprofessional.

“You build a relationship with the kids and learn a lot from them from the beginning. Once you start to gain knowledge of what they know, then you can build how to teach off of that,” Fuentez said.

Cashmore explained that it is typical to see students ask yes/no or quiz questions, but it is important to ask children how things work and how they know things. Asking more complex and open ended questions leads to stronger, more multifaceted lesson plans for students to create.

“In project work, it’s about listening to the children. The children develop the curriculum that you use by basing all of your teaching on their interests and abilities, which scaffolds a higher level of learning,” Cashmore said.

Aaron Cashmore, Early Childhood Education instructor, left, pictured working with children in the art center.

Bringing students to the campus and utilizing the model classroom was an idea that both Cashmore and Nanci Red Bird, Program Chair of Early Childhood Education, collaborated on.

“It has been a great opportunity to connect with parents and children in the community. Seeing the parents’ excitement about what their children are doing as well as the children’s excitement has been fabulous,” explained Cashmore.

Jorden Weatherford, an Early Childhood Education major and a freshman at UMW, felt this class kick started her journey as an educator, considering she already has one on one teaching experience as a freshman undergraduate. “I’ve gotten better at working with the kids and involving myself. In high school I wasn’t the one to ask teachers for help, but now I’m comfortable asking Aaron for help, and she has guided me a lot with teaching,” said Weatherford.

To learn more about the Early Childhood Education program at Montana Western, please contact Aaron Cashmore (406-683-7320 or aaron.cashmore@umwestern.edu) or Nanci Red Bird (406-683-7046 or nanci.redbird@umwestern.edu).

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