The Power of Preschool
Contributed by. Zohra Chahal, Service‐Learning student in Child Intervention and Treatment
As a Behavioral Neuroscience (BNS) major, I would never have imagined that a key turning point in my academic career would have come during the second semester of my senior year in a Human Services course.
When I registered for Child Intervention and Treatment this past semester, I was simply using it as a potentially interesting, filler elective that would bring me one step closer to graduation. In fact, I didn’t even know I was signing up for a service-learning class (and even if someone had described the course that way, I wouldn’t have even known what that meant!) Before I knew it, I was assigned the United South End Settlements (USES) as my community partner and I was told that I would be required to volunteer 3 hours every week as part of my course requirements.
While at first the thought of doing so much work outside of the classroom seemed like too much of a commitment during my senior year, I found that working at the Children’s Art Centre at USES was something I actually looked forward to each week. In fact, those 3- and 4-year olds would think of art class as the highlight of their day too! Every week they were given a range of activities to participate in: they could use sensory tables filled with water, or rice, or soil to explore various topics they were learning in class; dabble in some free-style painting; make things out of clay and paint their works after they had dried; or even just reading part of the book collection while pretending to be the class teacher.
As is true with life, there were good days and then there were tougher days for the kids at USES. With a broad range of socioeconomic classes represented among the student population, there was quite a bit of variation in each child’s home life – some days, this would be more evident than others. Kids might have a meltdown. Kids might not be able to follow directions as easily one week. And with each week that passed, I began to understand how factors (e.g. poverty and trauma) beyond their control could adversely affect these mini-humans.
Professor Emily Mann was the one who instilled me with hope with just one word: prevention. As the foundation for the entire semester’s material, we learned how things can go wrong and how we can work towards preventing them. In fact, one of the most detailed topics we covered was the primacy of early childhood education (ECE): preschool and programs such as Head Start are essential for optimal cognitive and emotional development. ECE can also aid in the development of character that can help bolster children for the future by equipping them with tools that will help them succeed personally and academically.
Although the semester is over and I have already had my last week at the Children’s Art Centre, I will always remember the kids that showed me the power of preschool. Witnessing those young minds in action, sucking up all of the life lessons USES provided them with in the setting of a classroom, I look forward to the future. With prevention in mind, I continue my journey of education beyond Northeastern in the hopes of helping future generations succeed in spite of their life circumstances.