Mothers on campus: Pre-K classroom incorporates arts

The Marshall University Early Education STEAM Center allows children to experience their creativity to the fullest in a nontraditional classroom setting. Located on the first floor of Corbly Hall, this pre-K facility is open to the children of Marshall University students, faculty, staff and community members.

“We are a Cabell County collaborative pre-K site, so that means any child that qualifies for West Virginia free pre-K can come to our site as long as they enroll with us,” Tarabeth Brumfield, program director of the MU EE STEAM Center, said. 

Zachary Hiser

Any child that qualifies for universal West Virginia pre-K tuition is covered by the state, which means families do not have to pay, Brumfield said. West Virginia’s universal pre-K system gives children a free preschool year.

Brumfield said the center always honors anything Marshall, and this includes Marshall students and faculty receiving tuition discounts for the pre-K facility.

“We are a free four-year preschool experience here, but because our center does all observations for practicum students or any lower clinical level, we have to have a mixed age group,” Brumfield said. “So we do enroll some three year olds, and that’s based on tuition.”

Established in 2010, the MU EE STEAM Center uses the Italian-based Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education, Brumfield said. It stands for Marshall University Early Education Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics Center, which Brumfield said they try to integrate each aspect into the curriculum.

“There’s a lot of arts incorporated,” she said. “Children are involved in project work. They do a lot of child-initiated activities. You can see it in the classroom; it might look a little bit different than like a traditional kindergarten class or a pre-K classroom.” 

Students in the College of Education and Professional Development can complete their clinical experiences in the classroom, and Brumfield said they always try to employ graduate students as teaching assistants. They can work between 20 and 24 hours a week, have their tuition paid for and receive a small stipend.

“Our program serves not only children of some people that work here or go to school here, but also we serve the College of Education in their clinical experiences,” Brumfield said. “So we always say we have two tracks of people that we’re serving: clinical students and then the small children that are in our classrooms.”

The Explorer Academy in Cabell County, a pre-K through fifth grade public school, works in conjunction with the MU EE STEAM Center. The academy is the first full-implementation EL Education school in the state, and the two sites began their partnership in 2014.

“It’s a great partnership because our program was already very project-based and driven in research and creativity and problem solving, and Explorer Academy uses the EL Education model that really focuses on projects and student ownership leadership,” Brumfield said. “It’s very student focused.”

Both sites are nationally accredited through National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

The classroom in the MU EE STEAM Center is designed with children in mind, as their work adorns the walls and the space is open without too much color. Brumfield said the classroom is like a blank canvas for student work and learning. 

“One of the big pieces of the Reggio approach is the environment is the third teacher, so it’s really important to set the environment,” she said. “It’s definitely an environment set up for children.”

The pre-K class is Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Brumfield said three-year-olds go two days a week, and four-year-olds attend the four day week. 

There are spaces for 20 students, and Brumfield said it is a first come, first serve basis. Those interested in sending their children to the MU EE STEAM Center can find registration information on the website. 

Amanda Larch can be contacted at [email protected].

Amanda Larch