BOONE — It began with a curiosity of wanting to know more about the human body and culminated with a poster presentation. No, this is not a research project designed by one of Appalachian State University’s senior science majors. The 3D project was completed by some of the university’s youngest Mountaineers at the Lucy Brock Child Development Lab School.

In late June, the LBCDLS preschool class shared with Appalachian faculty, staff, students and practicum students, as well as family and friends, the knowledge they gained about the human body through the project.

Some examples of what they shared included a song they wrote with Emily Willis, a graduate student in Appalachian’s master’s music therapy program from Salt Lake City, U.T.; life-size tracings of their own bodies, which included drawings of their bones and organs, and a large mixed media sculpture of the human body consisting of recycled materials, which was created by the class as a collaborative project.

The health science project provided a reciprocal learning opportunity which helped broaden the inquiring minds of young scientists while also giving Appalachian’s budding educators a front-row seat from which to study how children learn through play.

This type of project is representative of the curriculum Appalachian’s child development students are learning, both in their classes and at LBCDLS.

“Our goal is to capitalize on children’s innate ability to research and learn about a subject in depth,” said LBCDLS Director Andrea Anderson.

“We want our college students to see the depth of young children’s thinking. In doing so, the students learn about child development and how to facilitate meaningful learning for young children.”

“Watching the children using their knowledge to choose and gather materials to build the human body was fascinating and inspiring,” said Valentina Ferrara, one of the class’s lead teachers and a junior in the university’s B.S. in child development-birth through kindergarten licensure program.

Appalachian alumna Jennifer Klutz, another lead teacher in the preschool classroom, said, “The preschoolers gained this knowledge through researching resources, such as books, puzzles, images and technology.”

Erika Irizarry, a senior child development practicum student from Indian Trail, implemented experiences to engage the LBCDLS students in research about bones, such as assisting the children in creating a life-size skeleton made of building blocks. This exercise helped the students understand the different types of bones found in their own bodies.

As part of their project, the LBCDLS preschoolers visited the anatomy lab at Appalachian’s Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences, where they were greeted by Jordan Hazelwood, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Ashley Goodman, professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science and director of the department’s M.S. in athletic training program.

“Students moved through stations where they investigated life-size models of human bones and organs, and interacted with a life-size, virtual anatomy dissection table,” Goodman shared. “The students called the Anatomage Table (an interactive anatomy tool) ‘the giant iPad.’”

During the visit, the LBCDLS students were accompanied by their parents, as well as lead teachers Klutz and Ferrara.

For the field trip, each child was provided a lab coat, courtesy of one of the parents who works at Watauga Medical Center.

“The students told me that it made them feel like ‘real’ scientists,” Hazelwood said. “We talked about why scientists wear lab coats — ‘for protection and so people can know what jobs we do.”

Appalachian faculty and students from other academic programs also collaborate with LBCDLS to experience learning opportunities with young children.

“I was excited to be invited to participate in this learning; I was able to focus not only on interdisciplinary learning, but also interuniversity projects,” Hazelwood said.

Anderson, Hazelwood and Goodman are planning to submit an article to the Journal of Appalachian Health, which focuses on improving the health status of the population of Appalachia through the rapid dissemination of knowledge of their health problems and evidence-based solutions to them. The article will describe how student-led learning can be integrated at multiple levels of the university system to support community health across multiple ages and disciplines.

In addition, Klutz and Ferrara are presenting on the project at the North Carolina Association for the Education of Young Children’s 66th Annual Conference, held in September in Raleigh.

“The Lucy Brock Child Development Lab School has always had a commitment to students and the community,” Anderson said.

The program, which serves over 90 High Country families and over 500 lab students per year, has tripled in size since 2011 and is actively working to increase its outreach to better serve rural Western North Carolina.

Each week, parents of LBCDLS students are provided pedagogical documentation, or a collection of photos and/or narratives, of their child’s experience, essentially making learning through play visible.

“I love working at Lucy Brock because the children are free to explore the classroom and materials at their own pace and as they are interested,” said Kaeah Domenech, a senior child development major originally from Lodi, California. “The teachers observe what the children can do and what they enjoy doing, and provide activities and materials to expand on those (interests).”

Additionally, LBCDLS has collaborated with Watauga County Schools to open three preschools, located in Blowing Rock, Cove Creek and at Parkway Elementary School in Boone.

The primary goal of LBCDLS is to serve as a professional development site for Appalachian students planning to work with young children while providing high-quality care for children and families in the community. Appalachian graduates compose 99 percent of the school’s staff.

Learn more about the LBCDLS at https://lucybrock.appstate.edu.

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