Sunday, February 15, 2009

First Day at St. Mary's

On Monday, February 9, 2009, I had my first learning experience at St. Mary's after school program with my lab group, Jumping Jack and the Jive Five. Walking into the building, I was anxious and unsure of what to expect. Participating in the after school program are students ranging from pre-K to 4th grade. Although I love interacting with young children, I've never had the opportunity to do so in a professional setting before.

Soon after we arrived, we were introduced to our group's Lab TA, Matt. He informed us that we would be spending the entire two hours with the pre-K children - the first hour and a half in their classrooms and the last half hour in the gymnasium. Since there were two pre-K classrooms, we broke up into groups of three and spent about 45 minutes in each. As I was walking through the door with what was probably a deer in headlights expression on my face, I scanned the classroom and noticed the two through five year olds scattered about. I did the best I could to meet and talk to each of the kids and participate in whatever activity they felt like playing. During the first hour and a half, I found myself playing with legos and dinosaurs, eating make-believe food at a picnic, drawing and coloring, and reading aloud children's books. In terms of social behavior, I noticed that there were some gender differences between the boys and girls. Most of the children had a tendency to socialize with others of the same gender. In addition, while coloring and reading were popular with both genders, playing with legos and dinosaurs were more attractive to the boys, whereas playing with dolls and kitchen toys were more attractive to the girls. Inside the classroom, I observed the pre-K children perform fine motor activities such as coloring and handling small objects. In doing so, I noticed that the older children were significantly more skilled in these activities than were the younger ones.

Being that we're in the midst of Cortland's cold, snowy winter season, the children don't spend recess outside on the playground. Thus, they had a tremendous amount of bottled up energy that seemed to be unleashed as soon as we step foot in the gymnasium. Because our class didn't have any formal games or activities planned, our group just sort of made things up as we went along, and the kids really loved it. I spent some time dribbling and passing kickballs with a few of the kids and also held up a hoola hoop for them to shoot the balls through. Our group set up a small obstacle course with the hoola hoops that the children also seemed to enjoy. However, I think the biggest hit was a tag game in which anywhere from 1 to 4 kids ran around the gym while inside of a hoola hoop one of us were holding. They imagined that hoola hoops were cars, so we made car noises as they "drove" around each other. While inside the gym, I noticed a large difference in motor behavior between kids of different ages, but relatively no difference between the two genders. The older children were more advanced in terms of maintaing static and dynamic balance, as well as performing locomotor activities such as running.

All-in-all, I think that our first lab was a success. We were afforded the opportunity to meet and interact with the pre-K kids in both the classroom and gym settings. I am really looking forward to our next lab so we can meet some of the older kids and actually plan games for them to play ahead of time.

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