The Santa Cruz County Office of Education’s Career Technical Education Partnership (CTEP) Program has established a successful high school student work-based learning (WBL) opportunity within the education field. This partnership is between Natural Bridges High School (NBHS) and Natural Bridges Children’s Center (NBCC). This WBL experience was incubated out of the necessity to holistically develop local educational talent, as the educational field continues to be challenged with replacing an aging workforce. Mark Hodges, Senior Director of the Santa Cruz COE’s CTEP Department shared, “With the educational field’s local situation, we came together to problem solve our current local educational situation. In doing our due diligence, we discovered that fostering our own local talent was the most prudent option to address this national crisis head-on!”
We have experienced positive outcomes from the NBHS students using the NBCC as an active learning center for early childhood development observations. It is exciting to see students immersed in the field, taking notes, asking questions and sharing what they observe. We continue to make adjustments for next school year. After confirming with licensing, we needed TB tests for the high school students in order to interact and work with our preschool children, and it was deemed too late to ask the high school students to complete their process for this school year. We made it work though, as the students were able to observe, take thorough observation notes, and then come back to their instructor, Ms. Reina Fleck, to share their findings.
The preschool children arrive with their families, greeting their teachers and friends. They hang up their lunches and coats, sign in and begin their day. As they play, there are 2-3 high school students with notebooks quietly sitting around the large yard area to observe how the children interact with fantasy, imagination and at times resolve conflicts. The high school students observe, take notes and watch as the teachers approach groups of children to help them problem solve, use objective language and encourage cooperative outcomes. The school’s activities are mostly outdoors, with inquiry-based learning stations throughout. The teachers use positive discipline language to help guide and encourage the children to problem solve with each other. Eventually the HS students will be able to step in and use their best practices to guide the children themselves in problem-solving. They will inquire and initiate conversation with them at one of the learning stations, extending the active learning environment and inquiry of both the high school students and the NBCC children.