Elective spotlight: Early Childhood Development

Sophia Yang, Senior Staff Writer

The Early Childhood Development pathway is the one and only set of courses at Paly where students alternate between playing with children and learning college-level psychology. Early Childhood Development is the first course in the three-course Career Technology Education pathway involving the study of childhood development. The first ECD class focuses on children from birth through age 8. 

Sophomores Hailey Seibert and Natalia Hopper explore the  Magical Bridge Playground during an Early Childhood Development field trip on Jan 18. According to teacher Hillary McDaniel, students frequently go on field trips to apply the concepts they learn in the classroom. “It [ECD] is very unique and when I say we have hands-on activities, I literally mean hands-on,” McDaniel said. “Here you’re actually doing and seeing your curriculum in the real world.” (Photo: Caroline Jittipun)

According to teacher Hillary McDaniel, students are able to obtain hands-on experience and apply their knowledge through weekly field trips to Greendell School. They interact with children in the classrooms with lessons and activities created beforehand. Later, they reflect on the feedback received from the children.

“I would say this class is really for everyone, especially anyone who likes movement and doesn’t want to sit at a desk, because you’re really actively engaging.” McDaniel said. 

Sophomore Hailey Seibert said she enjoys the course because it allows her to learn in unconventional ways.

“I took ECD because I was interested in how children think and learn and I think it’s cool how much children can teach you,” Seibert said. “My favorite part of the class is getting to interact with the kids and use what I’ve learned inside the classroom during those interactions.” 

ECD II follows ECD I. Students further their study and continue to obtain hands-on experience at Greendell School. The year of experience allows students to act as the primary teacher of the preschoolers, McDaniel says. 

“We go to Greendell and we work with the young fives but there’s no classroom teacher anymore,” McDaniel said. “We create the curriculum.”

The final course in the sequence is called Childhood Development. According to McDaniel, the main focus of the class shifts from early childhood to middle childhood through adolescence. To engage with older children, students have the opportunity to visit Duveneck Elementary School. 

“Some people think ‘Oh, you’re just playing,’ but you learn in class that play is really rich and meaningful, and that actually designing experiences that help children grow and make sense of their world is really mentally stimulating,” McDaniel said.

ECD I is open to all grades, ECD II is open to 10th through 12th graders, and Childhood Development to upperclassmen only. ECD I and II are also options for social studies electives. The courses are aligned with those at Foothill College, allowing students to have the option to earn college credits through the high school course.