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UW Early Childhood Students from Lander Gain Insights, Experience in Nepal

July 6, 2016
woman posing with two toddlers
Student Aspen Cecrle, of Lander, poses with two children in her classroom at MotherCare International Preschool in Kathmandu, Nepal, during her University of Wyoming internship earlier this summer. (UW Photo)

Two students from Lander were among 12 students in the University of Wyoming’s early childhood education program who gained insights they say will help them become better teachers during a three-week visit to Nepal this summer.

Aspen Cecrle and Emma Estep completed internships for their early childhood education and early childhood special education endorsements by teaching in classrooms in Kathmandu. This was the second group of UW students to make the trip to Nepal, following an inaugural visit by six UW early childhood students in 2014.

Both Cecrle and Estep worked at MotherCare International Preschool, Cecrle with a class of toddlers and Estep with 4-year-olds.

“The children I had the opportunity to work with were incredible, and I am very excited to share my experience in Nepal with my future students,” says Cecrle, a senior in elementary education with a minor in early childhood education. “My personal gains from this experience include a better understanding of who I am and the values I hold as a teacher.”

“The internship in Nepal allowed me to step back from my own world and see early childhood education from a different perspective,” says Estep, a junior in elementary education. “I was able to diversify my own methods, allowing me to integrate their ideas into my own classroom.”

The trip was arranged by early childhood faculty members Samara Madrid and Nikki Baldwin, who accompanied the students as supervisors after leading the first group in 2014. The students participated in a semester’s worth of study and dialogue before going. Supporting the group were the Cheney International Center, the UW Outreach School, and the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education.

woman standing on a balcony overlooking a narrow street with people walking on it

Emma Estep, of Lander, was one of 12 University of Wyoming students who completed early childhood education internships by teaching in classrooms in Kathmandu, Nepal, this summer. (UW Photo)

“Our purpose was to provide College of Education students, many of whom have never traveled abroad, the opportunity to teach in early childhood classrooms in a completely different setting than those they may encounter here,” Baldwin says. “Teaching in a classroom with a distinctively different set of cultural norms and values allows students to look at themselves more closely. They come away with increased cultural understanding and the ability to question their assumptions. They need these skills in an increasingly complex teaching environment when they return home.”

The students were placed in four schools serving children and families from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds in Nepal -- including a school with high rates of poverty and homelessness; a preschool that might be considered upper-middle class; and a school that serves children of government officials, international families and private business people.

“These different placements provided excellent discussion points regarding similarities and differences between student experiences,” says Baldwin, who notes that the students participated in individual interviews and group seminars, in addition to completing teacher-journals reflecting their experiences.

Madrid and Baldwin plan to take another group of students to Nepal in two years. Madrid is researching the impact of the international experience on the UW students, with plans to publish results in the next year.

“There is very little published regarding international teaching in early childhood education,” Baldwin says. “We have established strong partnerships in Nepal that we will continue to cultivate.”

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