The Child Development program at Severna Park High School, known as The Falcon's Nest, allows high school students to provide hands-on instruction to preschoolers. The school boasts a Pre-K 3 and Pre-K 4 program which covers phonics awareness, math concepts, science, art and social sciences. The program splits high school students into three rotating groups – observers, planners and teachers.
The observers are assigned one or two children to observe and study. Students observe the preschoolers from a viewing room with one way glass and submit a case report at the end of the year. The report is part of their grade and a wonderful keepsake for parents. An average of two observers are assigned to each child.
The planners develop the course curricula, including circle time, arts and crafts, and how the subject matter - such as reading, math or science, will be presented. While the adult teachers may provide guidance, all the courses are designed by the high school student teams.
The "teachers" are the high school students that interact with the preschoolers during the class session. Due to space, the preschool class size is limited to 16 children. At times, there may be one teacher for each child, so the class ratio is very small and each child gets individualized attention. Enrollment in Childhood Development I, II or III can exceed 80 students, so the children get to see a lot of faces during their time in preschool.
Beverly McFarland, Child Development I and III teacher and department chair recounts, "These courses are electives, so the students want to be here. They get so excited to work with the kids."
Out of the 20 students surveyed in the Child Development III class, 13 plan to become teachers or work in early childhood development. One plans to be a pediatrician. The remaining six enjoy the format of the class and working with the children over other electives.
Junior Leala Smith, summarizes her experience, "Out of every elective our school offers, I chose to take Child Development for three years. Most kids in the class are on their way to becoming a teacher, and it's great to work with other students who share your same dream. The children in the program make it fun, and the feeling of teaching them a new concept is fulfilling."
Susie Horman, another junior, also agrees, "… I want to work with little kids when I grow up and Child Development is great experience." Senior Emily Walker cites, "[Child Development] gives me teaching experience and was the reason for me wanting to be a teacher." All these career minded students made honor roll for the first marking period this year.
Parents are also enthused about the program, which usually gets attention by word of mouth. Magdalena Ballinger of Severna Park, shares her son's experience with the PreK 3 program, "Noah got so much better with his sensory and motor skills. They are also very well organized and the communication between teachers and [parents] works great. He loves to go to there and participates a lot!"
The program requires a $30 registration fee per semester and is first come first serve. Due to the demand, there is a wait list, but spots may open. For more information on the program, contact Beverly McFarland at 410-544-0900.