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August 13, 2014 — Nicole Clikeman of Gillette is one of six University of Wyoming early childhood education students who say they will be better teachers as a result of experiences they gained during a three-week visit to Nepal this summer.
The students completed the capstone experience for their early childhood education endorsement by teaching as interns in early childhood classrooms in Kathmandu. It was the first international early childhood experience ever offered through the UW College of Education.
“I was able to experience a completely different way of teaching and to see how there is not just one way that is best when teaching children,” says Clikeman, a new UW graduate. “From a personal standpoint, I learned a lot about myself and the way I would like to live my life.”
The trip was arranged by early childhood faculty members Samara Madrid and Nikki Baldwin, who accompanied the students as supervisors after visiting Nepal in the summer of 2013. The two built upon the College of Education’s existing relationship with Kathmandu University in mathematics education.
The UW students worked full time in two Kathmandu schools -- Bridgewater International School and the Montessori Children’s House -- teaching children from 1 to 7 years old. In addition to assisting the teachers at the schools, they took over and led classroom activities, requiring them to learn and understand the schools’ curriculum and assessment practices.
“Our purpose was to instill in our students an understanding of schools as a medium that communicates culture in really powerful ways,” Baldwin says. “When we’re outside our culture, it sort of strips down teaching experiences and causes us to look at things through a different lens.
“Teaching is a culturally embedded practice. So, when we come back to Wyoming, we’re a lot more able to recognize all the culturally embedded practices in our own classrooms. By challenging our assumptions, we can look at our practices a little differently.”
Baldwin says the students performed so well that several were asked to return to Nepal and even were offered jobs as teachers and teaching trainers.
“It was a really big success,” she says. “It demonstrated the strength of our early childhood training in the College of Education.”
Clikeman says her most memorable experience came on a trip into the countryside outside Kathmandu, when the students noticed people planting rice together as families and were intrigued by the activity. At the invitation of their tour guide, the students spontaneously took off their shoes, rolled up their pants and joined in the rice planting.
“It really showed how welcoming Nepali people are and how proud they are to be from Nepal,” she says. “It was a really amazing experience to learn how to plant rice on such a special day.”
Baldwin says she and Madrid hope to make the trip to Nepal for early childhood education students a regular opportunity. This year’s successful trip sets the stage for expansion, as connections were made with additional schools as potential placement sites and with a second university, Tribuvan University.
The students who completed the inaugural trip heartily recommend that others take part in future visits to Nepal.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about a new culture, understand what it is like to be a new member of a community, and teach in a community with different resources and different ways of teaching children,” Clikeman says.
University of Wyoming student Nicole Clikeman of Gillette, seated at center, poses with children in her class during her early childhood education internship in Nepal this summer. (UW Photo)