Indiana State University Newsroom

Gaining Experience: Center provides care for children, opportunities for students

February 26, 2013

Ian Mair sat cross-legged on the carpet with a young boy seated next to him. Occasionally during the short story time, Mair leaned over to direct the child's attention back to the story about a sheep who wanted an apple.

Later at the art tables, he would listen and show appreciation for another child's cut out rectangles.

"I think listening is the most important thing you can do," said the Indiana State University junior elementary education major from Linton. "Just because they are little people doesn't mean what they have to say is not any less important than what big people say."

Mair works part-time at Indiana State's nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Center gaining experience for his future classroom as he works alongside full-time instructors. The center provides care for almost 70 children ranging from 6 weeks to 6 years for Indiana State's students, faculty, staff and the Terre Haute community.

"I always say that children learn best hands on, but we all do as well," said Gail Gottschling, center director and ISU assistant professor of early childhood education. "It would be like trying to learn to drive a car without actually driving a car. So this is a safe, structured and supervised environment for the students to be working with the young children under the supervision of our staff members who have degrees in early childhood education so that they can really be taking on that theoretical information that they are learning in class and, then, practically seeing its application here."

Mair described such experience as invaluable.

"I think, just aside from reading the textbooks and knowing all of your information, it's important to know how to work with kids," he said.

Sara Umphries, a sophomore elementary education major from West Terre Haute, agrees with Mair about her part-time position with the center.

"I get the hands-on that I wouldn't get in a regular classroom and it goes toward my major," she said during a break from reading books with the toddlers. "Not a lot of people get to do what they want to do right out in college. It's really fun to get to experience it first-hand."

Jessica Naspinski, a junior elementary education major from Valparaiso, said she has learned more about being a caregiver to young children as she played with infants.

"I haven't had much experience in the infant room and, after getting this opportunity, I feel like I'm ready to go," she said. "Every child is different and unique so that is important to watch and pay attention to. They all have different needs at different times and it's important to give each child attention and love."

The center acts a learning lab for not only education majors but also nursing and dietetic students, Gottschling said. There with the children, the university students see lessons become reality.

"I'm in a child development class right now and I see what we're talking about with the different stages of development," Umphries said. "So it's kind of fun to be able to apply those things I'm learning."

That application of knowledge with real-world experience has become a cornerstone of education at Indiana State.

"ISU is really good not only just with the daycare but getting students out in the field experiences, the practicums during the four years we are here," said Mair, who is considering adding an early childhood minor to his education. "They are really good about getting people out the very first semester so they know exactly if they want to work with kids or not."

Photos: Naspinski plays with a baby at the Early Childhood Education Center. ISU Photo/Rachel Keyes Mair sits with children listening to a story being read. ISU Photo/Rachel Keyes Umphries talks with a toddler during snack time at the Early Childhood Education Center. ISU Photo/Rachel Keyes

Contact: Gail Gottschling, Indiana State University, Early Childhood Education Center director and ISU assistant professor of early childhood education, at 812-237- 2547 or

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or