Leah Rosenfeld ’20

Williams College Children’s Center, Williamstown, MA

Our team at the Children’s Center posing in front of a rainbow recycled bottle cap mural in the classroom.
Our team at the Children’s Center posing in front of a rainbow recycled bottle cap mural in the classroom.

This summer I worked as a student teacher at the Williams College Children’s Center. I spent the internship in one classroom with the same team of teachers. Each week, I worked closely with my team, planning art and science projects, as well as field trips designed to enrich the learning experience of the children. But as I have realized this summer, even the most impeccably planned projects rarely turn out as seamlessly as imagined, especially when children are involved! From day to day, my responsibilities largely included caring for and ensuring the safety of each and every child. As a student teacher, I frequently took a step back as a less authoritative figure in the classroom in order to learn from the lead teacher as she spoke to the children in a clear and effective way. When it came to planning projects, teaching, and engaging with the children, however, I was able to take the lead. I brought my experience as an athlete on the Williams Cross Country and Track teams to my role as a student teacher at the Children’s Center by facilitating a variety of physical activities and “competitions” like relays races, hurdle races, and other games that involved the on-site outdoor play spaces. Indoors, I shared my love for art with the children while emphasizing the importance of using environmentally friendly materials. Although the internship came with the official title, School Age Art Intern, I feel as though I gained experience beyond simply creating art with children. The most valuable “project” I worked on this summer did not include teaching my class how to weave a scarf using a hand loom, or helping to build a tree swing from a fallen branch, but rather the development of close and trusting relationships with the children.

The Williams College Children’s Center is a small daycare center tucked away on a hill off of Whitman Street in Williamstown. The Center has a beautiful campus with plenty of outdoor natural spaces for children to explore. I am impressed by the vegetable garden with raised beds; massive zucchinis and cucumbers lay, juicy, ready to be picked and eaten by the children. Even the toddlers are encouraged to explore the smells and flavors of the garden. I have frequently seen the school age children in my class showing the toddlers how to pick and munch on the basil leaves and chives. Indoors, the hallways of the Children’s Center are covered with art projects created by the different classes. Inside my classroom, some of the most intricate and beautiful projects hang from the walls and ceilings. Often these projects are made of found-objects and recycled materials. As the oldest children in the Center, the school age children are encouraged to think outside the box about how to use the materials in the classroom. I believe that the teachers and caretakers at the Children’s Center have done a wonderful job encouraging children to use their minds creatively and freely.

The Center provides the children with unbelievable opportunities that most children will never have access to. I am amazed by the fact that fresh fruits and vegetables grow feet away from the infants’ play yard, and that closets full of arts and crafts materials are available to the school age children. In this way, I believe that the Center has done a wonderful job giving children the space to learn and grow in an environment that encourages curiosity, creativity, and ownership. That being said, I feel it is important to acknowledge that the resources available to the children at the Williams College Children’s Center far exceed that which is available to most children in other parts of the country and world. My time at the Center was made far more enjoyable by the fact that there were always cool new projects to work on, which were made possible by the endless classroom materials. The simple fact that the opportunity to work with an abundance of classroom art materials comes only with sufficient funds is not lost on me. My older sister is a middle school teacher at a public school in Baltimore. She has told me about various classroom difficulties, including a lack of classroom supplies because of insufficient funding. Conversations with my sister have opened my eyes to the vast inequality of resources available to children. In light of this, I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to work at a Center that offers such an enriching experience to its children.

While I see certain inequalities surrounding issues of access in society at large, I have gained valuable and enlightening experience at the Children’s Center on a more personal level. This summer, I learned that I love working and engaging with children. In the beginning of my internship, I was hesitant to speak up as an authoritative figure. But I quickly adapted to the environment and I now feel as though I have developed a strong understanding of children and their needs. I feel confident in my ability to step up as a leader in my classroom and address the children clearly and appropriately. My position as the School Age Art Intern this summer has not only given me teaching experience, but it has also taught me a lot about myself and my ability to engage with children in a way that makes them feel safe and comfortable. I hope to take the knowledge and experience I gained during my time at the Children’s Center with me as I continue my education at Williams and beyond. Given my newly discovered love for working with children, I have begun to consider pursuing a career in education or art education. I also hope to continue working at the Children’s Center during the school year, particularly as a student art teacher. Though I had never considered myself to be especially interested in psychology, it may be useful and interesting to take a course in the psychology of education before I graduate.

Of course, without the generosity and support of Dr. Jimmy Shern and Ms. Florence P. Lee, I never would have been able to have such a wonderful and fulfilling summer internship. In addition to Dr. Shern and Ms. Lee, I would like to thank the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for making this internship possible. I would also like to thank everyone at the Children’s Center for their warm, welcoming spirit and for the unconditional love they provide to each and every child. Finally, I would like to thank my classroom’s Lead Teacher, Kristen Tool, for introducing me to her unbelievable creativity in the field of art education.