Innovative Classroom Benefitting Early Childhood Education Students

A puppet show stage is one of the many items used in teaching Education and Child Development students, like Nadia Boykin (left) and Raven Stokes, about Intentional teaching through play, or what is known as “play-based learning,”


WINTERVILLE—A new, cutting-edge classroom at Pitt Community College has given Education and Child Development students a real-world environment in which to prepare for early childhood education careers.

Through a $30,000-Perkins Grant administered by PCC’s Office of Teaching and Learning, the college recently turned a standard Charles Russell Building classroom into a state-of-the-art preschool laboratory training facility. For Melissa Rees, chair of Pitt’s Education and Child Development (ECD) Department, the innovative classroom is a visual representation of the staunch support her program has received from administrators and the campus community.

“Our preschool lab classroom represents a significant milestone in Pitt Community College’s commitment to excellence in early childhood education,” she said. “It provides a dynamic space for our students to apply theory to practice and prepares them for impactful careers.”

In what used to be a blue carpeted area with gray desks and black chairs is now a vibrantly-decorated room featuring a variety of learning stations — each one with miniature versions of real-world items and equipment early childhood educators use to teach youngsters. There’s a mini market stand, for instance, with an awning, scale, cash register and baskets of plastic meats, fruits and vegetables, and an area for staging puppet shows.

There’s also a tiny kitchen—complete with table and chairs, plastic plates and dishes, a wooden range, and miniature refrigerator—and a sensory den for teaching students about working with children with special needs. The den, which is essentially a black tent with LED lights, beanbag cushions and stars projected onto a canvas ceiling, is for children who need a distraction-free setting or stimulation.

Rees says that in addition to highlighting best practices and licensing compliance, ECD faculty use the new lab to teach students interaction techniques that support children’s emotional well-being and engagement strategies that promote supportive and inclusive environments. They also focus on intentional teaching through play, or what is known as “play-based learning,” she said, and emphasize STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) integration.

“We teach our students how to engage children in hands-on STEAM activities that foster development of creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” Rees said. “By doing so, they master classroom setup, learn how to design activity plans, and discover how to seamlessly integrate STEAM practices across all learning areas.”

Rees says the preschool lab classroom follows curriculum standards established by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, ensuring a comprehensive and developmentally appropriate learning experience. It is open to ECD students, as well as instructors providing online learning, she said, adding that PCC’s Continuing Education Department will be using the facility between May 20 and July 26 to offer a series of summer camps for children ages 3-5 years old.

For more information on PCC’s Education and Child Development program, or to tour the new preschool lab classroom, prospective students may contact Rees at mdrees975@my.pittcc.edu.