The HCC Early Childhood Inclusive Education (ECIE) program is unique in its connections with the local and global early childhood community.
HCC’s international outreach began in 2010 with the first visit to South Africa by a vocational training team of early childhood educators sponsored through Rotary International. This first trip was followed by two others in which HCC faculty brought a local HCC student to participate in on-the-ground winter session courses taught by preschool teachers of the Royal Bafokeng Nation in South Africa.
The next international connection happened when Dr. Laurie Noe (HCC Professor of Early Childhood Education, former HCC program coordinator) was given a Fulbright Specialist grant to work with preschool faculty at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in Lima. There she presented to students and community early childhood educators, and toured several preschools in both poor and wealthy urban areas of the city. Since then, college classes in Peru have collaborated with HCC classes to continue the intercultural dialogue that was started in 2014.
In May of 2016, the HCC ECIE Program took students, professors, early childhood teachers, and directors on a professional development study tour of Scandinavia. They explored Forest Schools, a model that has children spending all or most of their time - all day, all year – outdoors. They also toured several public and private schools and met with professionals at all levels of the Scandinavian educational system.
In August of this year, Dr. Noe was invited to China. She has been helping place HCC ECIE graduates in temporary preschool teaching positions in Beijing for over a year. Now she personally visited the school, the Oriental Dragon International Preschool and Kindergarten, at which they were working.
While in China, Dr. Noe toured a government-run preschool and made a presentation to a group of preschool teachers in Bayannur, Inner Mongolia. The teachers in both Beijing and Bayannur discussed the cultural expectations and values that make the preschool system different from the USA, but also pointed out many similarities. For the HCC graduates working in China, their preparation at HCC enables them to see the differences and vary their teaching strategies to best suit the culture of the families they are serving. Their education in developmental areas, observation and assessment, as well as family engagement has all been essential to their work.
The HCC ECIE Program hopes to continue connecting its graduates to this opportunity to live and work in another country using the skills and strategies they have learned and developed in Bridgeport, Conn. at Housatonic Community College. For HCC graduates, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. For the countries in which those graduates are working, a door has opened to a valuable cultural and educational exchange experience.