High schoolers provide childcare at school

The Kingman High School Little School is a high school laboratory filled with, well – little people.

In this laboratory class, high school students observe, plan and work with children while providing childcare.

"The students work under the supervision of a professional staff while providing needed child care to the community," said Vickie Anthony, program director of the KHS Little School Child Care Center.

The childcare development program, which began during the 1996-97 school year in conjunction with Mohave Community College, has grown by leaps and bounds.

Only 12 to 15 students were enrolled the first semester, with only 15 preschoolers and approximately 10 infants receiving care.

Now, 32 inquisitive high school students have their hands full with 70 enthusiastic children.

Anthony said that before students can enroll in the childcare laboratory they must first take a semester of child development theory in the classroom, and another semester before they complete the program.

Anthony has worked in the early childhood development field for 22 years, and was an administrator with the City of Phoenix Head Start Program before moving to Kingman a year ago.

"This is a good program.

It provides childcare services to the community, and provides a childcare lab for high school students at the same time," she said.

"I really like it.

It is one of my favorite classes since the beginning of the year," said high school senior Sandi Jones.

Jones, along with 30 female students and one male student, learn by doing, as assistants to classroom teachers.

The children are divided into infant, toddler and pre-school classrooms, where interaction between students and children becomes a valuable experience for both, Anthony said.

The student teachers rotate through the childcare lab on a six-week basis.

If the first six weeks are spent in the preschool, then the next six weeks will be spent in the infant room, and then the toddler room for the final six weeks.

Anthony said students learn a lot from the different hands-on activities with the children, from changing diapers to planning a one-week snack menu for preschoolers.

They must also assist teachers in using a wide range of materials and media used to stimulate motor and intellectual development.

"Play is also an important part of the leaning process.

It helps children to better understand themselves," Anthony said.

The students assist 13 classroom teachers who are paid employees.

A student teacher is required to support the lead teacher through all daily activities, which include music and movement, story time, dramatic play, structured learning and group activities for the preschool program.

Parents pay $90 a week for infants from birth to 12 months, $85 a week for children under 3-years-old and $80 a week for children 3-years-old and older.

"The money goes back into the program to pay for staff salaries, supplies, material and equipment," Anthony said.

Tina Heckard, 21, one of several preschool teachers, has earned an AS degree in child development at Mohave Community College and plans to go on to earn a bachelor's degree.

"Some high school students in the program have gone on to become part of the staff here, and then on to educational choices in the elementary school district, such as teacher's assistant or teacher's aide.

Some go on the college," Anthony said.

Children at KHS Little School also benefit, Anthony said, because when the child/adult ratio is high, children receive more attention.

Also, the hands-on activities help the children learn socializing skills.

"The program is creatively planned for the child's skills and interest as the first consideration.

We believe it is important to encourage each child according to his or her development level.

Several children in preschool have been here since they have been infants.

Parents are welcome to stop by any time – and often do," Anthony said.

KHS Little School has been selected as a two-year Arizona Self-Study Project, in which the program evaluates its own strengths and weaknesses and identifies areas for change and improvement.

The program receives materials and training during the evaluation, with the goal of improving the quality of the program and to eventually get the program accredited, Anthony said.