The Young Children's Program Presses On through the Pandemic, Remains Optimistic for the Future

College of Education

SUMMARY: The Young Children's Program (YCP) at James Madison University faced many challenges during the start of Covid-19 but has kept its doors open for students.

by Kara Myers

The Young Children's Program (YCP) at James Madison University faced many challenges during the start of Covid-19 but has kept its doors open for students. Amy Taylor, director of the YCP, reflected on the impact Covid-19 has had. "We were at limited capacity and had to shut down several classrooms. However, this year we successfully reopened and are at full capacity." While the diligence the YCP faculty and staff maintained during the start of the pandemic is remarkable, it was not always easy. Like adults, children struggle to understand the impact of Covid-19; at the YCP, they have excellent guidance and support from the organization's faculty, staff, and volunteers.

Many might wonder what the YCP is and how the program functions. The director described the influence the program has on children's future education. "We partner with Harrisonburg city public schools to provide high-quality curriculum and training for our teachers." The YCP partners with the local school systems and provides specific goals for both age groups served by the program. In early childhood, children must acquire the necessary experiences to guide them into their educational years, and the YCP does just that. Taylor lists the importance of these developmental steps for the age groups in the program.

"The 4-year-old classroom is to prepare them for kindergarten in all areas of development including cognitive, motor skills, self-regulation, and social-emotional development; the 3-year-old classroom is to teach them how to engage with their peers, engage in play opportunities, using their voice to solve problems, and fundamental skills for them to succeed early."

Not only do the children in the YCP experience specified curriculum and engagement, but they also work alongside other departments at JMU, which makes this program unique in the Shenandoah Valley. "What sets us apart from other centers in the area is that we have access to so many resources on our campus: we partner with anyone who wants to partner with us. The music program teaches violin lessons to our four-year-old classroom, the kinesiology department instructs a 12-week program on healthy kids, and we have daily adventures on campus."

The faculty and staff are not the only ones contributing to the Young Children's Program; volunteers and families play a huge role in the program. Volunteers help in various ways with the program throughout the day, ranging from reading to the children and engaging with them in outdoor time to assisting with lunch duties, providing support to teachers in large and small groups, and providing one-on-one support for the students. Taylor expressed her appreciation for the volunteers, remarking on everything they bring to the YCP when they spend time there. "Many of our volunteers are enrolled in education classes at JMU, so they are bringing current ideas, strategies, and philosophies that provide additional insight for our classroom teachers. We have at least one volunteer for each classroom every single day at some point."

Kyra McMahon, a senior Finance major at JMU, reflects on her volunteering at the YCP for the co-ed service fraternity, Epsilon Sigma Alpha. "Volunteering with the YCP opened my eyes to the influence we have on children. One of my favorite aspects of volunteering is the change we can make in the children's days. Coming from a finance background and not having teaching on my radar allow me to grasp the extent of patience teachers must have fully. My appreciation for their work has truly grown."

Families are also able to have a significant role in their children's lives at the YCP, although this has been altered due to Covid-19. "For this year we are keeping family activities outside. Literacy night with Kappa Delta Pi, a group that helps us run a family literacy night, allows parents to bring their children and engage with them through various literacy activities. We plan to have several of these to provide parents with an opportunity to come to the YCP with their child and explore.”

Students and faculty who are interested in knowing more about working with young children at YCP should reach out to Amy Taylor.

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Published: Monday, November 15, 2021

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2023

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