Central’s education department has partnered with Pella Community Schools to create Central Little Dutch Academy, an early out program for third and fourth grade students focused on social emotional learning and STEM education.
The goal of the program is to provide an opportunity for students to develop social and emotional learning skills through activities in science, technology, engineering and math in a fun, engaging way. Upper-level teacher education students at Central plan and implement all activities for students under the direction and supervision of Jen Diers, director of the education department, and other faculty in the department. Students in introductory education classes can serve as assistants in the program.
“This has been a dream of our program for some time. It’s the perfect avenue for our future teachers to practice their skills while also fostering a love of science and bolstering social emotional skills in students. The importance of this is only heightened following the impact of the COVID pandemic on education,” Diers says. “The Central Little Dutch Academy will benefit the Pella students, our upper-level students and provide a space for our introductory students to explore the field of education right here on Central’s campus.”
“Students have the opportunity to solve problems in collaborative and engaging ways with their new teachers at Central,” says Lowell Ernst, director of K-12 instruction at Pella Community Schools. “It gives them both a sense of pride and purpose to be going to ‘college’ on Wednesday afternoons. This really works to build their confidence.”
The program is held every Wednesday in Roe Center, where the education department is housed. Materials and curriculum are being pulled from the department’s newly created Learning Lab, which represents an elementary school classroom.
“We are only a couple of weeks into the program, and we are already seeing our Central students reap benefits. They are showing initiative from planning to implementation of all lessons and activities,” Diers says. “This is perfect hands-on experience for our students who will eventually become educators. More importantly, they are building the confidence of students they may actually teach in Pella schools one day.”
The program began Sept. 15 and ends Dec. 8 with a contractual agreement to continue through the remaining 2021-22 academic year.
“This is another great partnership we have with Pella Schools,” Diers says. “They value our program and our students. It’s nice that we can give back to them in this way, because the local schools give so much to us. We hope this is a program we can continue to offer for years to come.”