Classroom lessons come to life in “learning labs” that put students in preschool environments. Lorain County offers two programs for students: Lorain County Community College (LCCC) Children’s Learning Center and the Lorain County JVS Early Childhood Education Program. 
LCCC’s center is designed for children ages 18 months to 12 years, providing an optimal play-and-learn setting and lab experience for students in the Early Childhood Education program and other degree programs. The Lorain County JVS gives high school juniors and seniors who are interested in pursuing early childhood education a head start in the field with hands-on curriculum and experience in its on-site preschool. 
“Students have an opportunity to work with preschoolers in classrooms,” says Hilary Duffala, early childhood education instructor at Lorain County JVS. 
Meanwhile, at LCCC’s Children’s Learning Center, college students can observe classrooms and work one-on-one with children. “We provide an observation and lab site for education students,” says Michele Henes, Children’s Learning Center coordinator. 

Watch and Learn 
The Children’s Learning Center at LCCC started about 30 years ago with a childcare for students attending the college. In the early 1990s, a lab component was created to support early childhood education students. Those programs merged into one in 2002 in a shared facility on campus. 
The center caters to a range of children, from those of LCCC and University Partnership students, staff and children from the community. 
 More than 400 observers will watch the classrooms annually, Henes says. “We have student teachers who are in associate degree programs and need two field placements of 105 hours each, and we have at least nine of those students in our building each semester,” she says. “We work with nursing programs on campus and provide experiences for their pediatric nurse students to see children at their best and watch them develop.” 
Students looking for employment on campus can apply at the Children’s Learning Center. “We employ education students, and that gives them extra experience while they get paid,” Henes says. 
Henes says the “multi-faceted, dynamic” program has been recognized as a center of excellence by puLse magazine, and it is licensed by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. 

Career Prep
High school students at Lorain County JVS can fast-track to early childhood education careers through the Early Childhood Education Program, which involves hands-on learning in on-site preschool classrooms of “3s” and “4s and 5s.” 
“We prepare students for the workforce, or for a post-secondary degree in early childhood education,” Duffala says.  
Students in the program develop leadership skills through the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) student organization. And they apply childhood development theories and practices in the preschool program, which is licensed by the Ohio Department of Education. Students and teachers use guidelines from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Ohio Department of Education Early Development Standards to plan activities.  
We are very active with supporting programs like Head Start and the Lorain County Literacy Collaborative, Elyria Ready, Set, Go,” Henes says, “and we work with the JVS on projects.”