MSU students learn hands-on at Escuela

Five-year-olds at Escuela Preschool folded their small fingers into unfamiliar positions last week, learning how to talk with their hands.

“I know the kids from Escuela are super smart,” said Holly Pedersen, a special education instructor at Minot State University, who said teachers of the deaf often make the sign for “super smart” when one of their students does something particularly clever. Pedersen said she thought the class of 5-year-olds at the preschool should learn that special sign too.

Pedersen and students in a first year class at Minot State have been visiting the preschool for the past few weeks to work with the children there. Students in the class, many of them elementary education or special education majors, develop a half-hour lesson plan for their visit. On Friday, students Kayla Van Caeseele and Trisha McLeod were teaching the children some simple words in manually coded sign language and doing a Valentine’s Day craft with the children.

“This is a nice, safe environment for my students,” said Pedersen, because the Escuela preschool staff are available to help and also to model how to work with young children. Many of the MSU students have never had an opportunity to be in a classroom setting before. Van Caeseele, a special education major, said it is nice to get some classroom experience.

Pedersen said she wants to give her students field experience. Escuela, which is located in the First Presbyterian Church, is close in proximity to Minot State and the teachers there have been great to work with, she said. In the past, MSU students from the class have also worked in classrooms in the Minot Public Schools.

The kids have learned simple signs for words related to family, animals and things that can be found in their homes.

“They remember the signs,” said teacher Cindy Schoenberg, who said that the Escuela teachers read books to kids and practice what they have learned.

Minot State students will come back to work with the kids at the preschool later in the spring as well.