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Preschool stu­dents play games with a college vol­unteer at Mary Randall.
Sonja Bindus | Courtesy

The Hillsdale edu­cation department revised its early childhood edu­cation minor for the fall of 2022, focusing pri­marily on the history and phi­losophy of education. 

Hillsdale College has a long history of training teachers, according to head of the early childhood edu­cation minor and director of the Mary Randall Preschool, Sonja Bindus. Bindus said the goal of the revision is to con­tinue this training while making it more acces­sible for com­pletion for the students. 

The revision will also add a new class to the requirement, early childhood edu­cation teacher apprenticeship.

“This is probably the biggest deal in what’s going to make the most impact for stu­dents who are inter­ested in an early childhood edu­cation minor,” Bindus said. “This appren­ticeship class allows for fewer hours per week in the classroom, making it much more doable for students.” 

The appren­ticeship class will allow stu­dents to choose two, three, or six credit hours instead of the pre­vi­ously required 17.5 hours a week in a classroom, according to Bindus. 

“Pre­vi­ously, this minor used to be 20 credit hours, and we are taking it down to 18,” Bindus said.

The early childhood edu­cation minor falls under the department of edu­cation, along with the clas­sical edu­cation minor, according to Daniel Cou­pland, chairman of the edu­cation department. 

Bindus said the goal of the early edu­cation minor is to train stu­dents to be teachers through the study of con­cepts, lan­guage, lit­er­ature, char­acter, and respon­si­bil­ities, and through the expe­rience of working in a model preschool. 

One of the key com­po­nents of the early childhood edu­cation minor is its part­nership with Mary Randall Preschool, a lab school for stu­dents to practice teaching children. 

“This is a lab school, meaning, we are owned and operated by Hillsdale College,” Bindus said. “It was orig­i­nally estab­lished in 1929 by a psy­chology pro­fessor, and he thought it would be a good idea for college stu­dents to see child devel­opment first hand. Not just learn about it and read about it, but see it in action.” 

The early childhood edu­cation minor started in 1929, according to Bindus. The main dif­ference between the early childhood edu­cation minor and the clas­sical edu­cation minor is the age and focus of study, according to Bindus. 

“Our focus is ele­mentary, so Pre‑K through fifth grade,” Bindus said. “Stu­dents are going to learn about child devel­opment, human devel­opment, learning, and how our cog­nitive devel­opment plays a role in our aca­demic successes.”

Cou­pland explained the main dif­fer­ences of age and focus between the early childhood edu­cation minor and the clas­sical edu­cation minor.

“The early childhood edu­cation minor is pri­marily pre-school and lower ele­mentary, but it’s not specif­i­cally tar­geted towards clas­sical schools,” Cou­pland said. “The clas­sical minor is much more tar­geted at stu­dents who are inter­ested in teaching at a clas­sical school.” 

Both Cou­pland and Bindus said, because the clas­sical edu­cation minor and early childhood edu­cation minor fall under the edu­cation department, some of the elective classes overlap between the minors. Bindus said this allows for stu­dents inter­ested in early childhood edu­cation to take some clas­sical edu­cation focused classes and vice versa. 

The minor’s revision, which also mod­ifies the history and phi­losophy of early childhood edu­cation coursework, helps emphasize this important under­standing, according to Bindus. 
“The part of the early childhood com­ponent that we really focus on is under­standing what the causes are that might inhibit learning later,” Bindus said. “Also, how to assess that and then how to make a learning plan or how to assist the student in a cor­rective way.”

Bindus said that feedback for the early childhood edu­cation minor revi­sions has already been positive. 

“The stu­dents I’ve been in touch with who are inter­ested in teaching are super excited,” Bindus said. “Admin­is­trators that I’ve talked to are very pos­itive about it as well.”