School of Education  

Early Childhood Education




Lab Schools

Graduate Level Endorsement in Early Childhood

Early Childhood Education FAQ's

Suggested Links and Resources

Philosophy of the ECE Program
The purpose of the early childhood endorsement preparation program is to familiarize early childhood professionals with the knowledge, dispositions, and practices needed to work with children from birth through age eight.  In 1993, Aquinas College adopted the State of Michigan's content guidelines as a model for developing the objectives for its early childhood education endorsement program.  The Early Childhood Endorsement Standards approved by the Michigan Board of Education, May 1995, brought additional attention to significant aspects of developmentally appropriate practice.  The philosophy and objectives of the program which are grounded in social constructivist theory, are integrative in nature, comprising the philosophical underpinnings for developmentally appropriate practice as outlined by the Michigan Board of Education and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.  In 2001, the philosophy of Reggio Emilia Approach to early childhood education was fully integrated into the early childhood courses.
To prepare early childhood professionals who:
1. Understand the growth and development of the young child and use this knowledge in developmentally appropriate practice including: To use knowledge of how children develop and learn in order to create environments which provide opportunities that support the physical, social, emotional, language, cognitive, and aesthetic development of young children from birth through age eight.
2. Develop and implement developmentally appropriate curriculum including:   Instructional practices based on knowledge of individual children, their families and the community as well as developmentally appropriate methods that include play, small group projects centered on children's interests, open-ended questioning, group discussion, problem solving, cooperative learning, reflective practice and inquiry experiences to help young children develop intellectual curiosity, solve problems, and make decisions.
3. Establish and maintain positive collaborative relationships with families including:  Involving families in assessing and planning for individual children as well as supporting parents in making decisions related to their child's development; demonstrating sensitivity to differences in family structure, culture, and background; and applying family systems theory, knowledge of the dynamics, roles, and relationships within families and communities.
4. Use appropriate assessment strategies to plan and individualize curriculum and teaching practices including:   Participating with other professionals in authentic assessment, observation, record keeping, and documentation of each child's experiences, development, and learning.
5. Demonstrate an understanding of the early childhood profession; its multiple historical, philosophical, and social foundations, and how these foundations influence current thought and practice including:  Understanding of conditions of children, families, and professionals; articulation of a philosophy and rationale for decisions; willingness to grow professionally; and commitment to the profession's code of ethical conduct.
6. Demonstrate an understanding of basic principles of administration, organization, and operation of early childhood programs including:   Establishing and maintaining positive, collaborative relationships with colleagues as members of a professional team.
7. Demonstrate ability to work effectively during full-time (totaling at least 300 clock hours) supervised student teaching and/or practical experiences in diverse settings with varying abilities.
8. Analyze and evaluate field experiences including:  Work with parents and interdisciplinary teams of professionals in a variety of settings in which children from birth through age eight are served.
The School of Education has several fulltime faculty members who are specially trained and have conducted extensive research in the field of Early Childhood Education and the Reggio Emilia Approach.
Lab Schools
The School of Education has a collaborative relationship with two local, Reggio Emilia programs. Many of students' field placements during their ECE coursework may be completed at these two lab schools.
Child Discovery Center
Early Childhood Education Program FAQ's
Aquinas College School of Education offers an early childhood minor to students seeking elementary certification.
Why do we offer the ECE program?

School districts in the greater Kent County area (the county in which Aquinas College is located) continue to limit their interviews of candidates for teaching positions at the kindergarten, first and second grade to elementary certified applicants who have an early childhood endorsement.

All teachers teaching in a program which receives Section 36 money (State Public Preschool Programs) must have the early childhood (ZA) endorsement in order to teach in preschool programs.  Since the inception of these regulations and the approval of our endorsement program, Aquinas College has received continual inquiries and experienced yearly increases in the number of applicants seeking the endorsement.  We are encouraged by the success of our program and the reports from supervising teachers who express that our students are well prepared for the teaching profession.  We are enthusiastic about continuing our efforts in support of developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood education. 
Why an Early Childhood Minor?
Teacher certification candidates wishing to pursue positions with infants, toddlers, and pre-school through third grade [or teaching children in ages 0-8] are strongly encouraged to complete the early childhood minor.  Students enrolled in our early childhood coursework will gain valuable experience during several field placements in a Reggio Emilia inspired programs and other approved constructivist sites.
Aquinas College has embraced the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. Newsweek (Hinckle, 1991) hailed the Reggio Emilia approach as one of the best educational programs in the world.
What is the Reggio Emilia Approach?
Reggio Emilia educators believe that children can best create meaning and make sense of their world through learning in a complex, rich environment that supports complex, varied, sustained, and changing relationships between people, their world of experience, ideas, and the many ways of expressing ideas (Caldwell, 1997) rather than from simplified lessons or learning environments.
The Philosophy that drives Reggio Emilia schools reflects a theoretical kinship with Bruner, Dewey, Piaget, and Vygotsky. According to Loris Malaguzzi, 'Our goal is to create an amiable school that is active, livable, documentable and communicative - a place of research, learning, revisiting, reconsideration, and reflection where children, teachers, and families feel a sense of well-being'.
The Aquinas College Early Childhood Program aspires to create an environment that allows for research and construction of knowledge, a place where faculty, pre-service teachers, children and families are all active participants.
What are the program and course requirements?
  • Sophomore status
  • Cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or better
  • Passing basic skills test scores on record
  • Successful completion of EN 304,  Human Growth & Development, as a prerequisite to all other early childhood courses.
Course requirements: [25 credits]
A complete list of course requirements and descriptions can be found online in the Aquinas College School of Education Handbook (for undergraduates) -- CURRENTLY UNDER REVISION (12/07).
What kind of Practical Experience will I get with the ECE minor?

You will gain a valuable experience:

  • Working in a Reggio Inspired laboratory schools
    Aquinas College Child Development Center
  • Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center (a GRPS School of choice and East Academy for Young Children (a Wyoming Public School academy)
  • Constructing your own knowledge about children's learning processes and watching the hundred languages of children unfold.
  • opportunity to work with diverse children (infants, toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children) in various setting in the community are provided.
ECE Links

Aquinas College School of Education Forms:

Central Registry Check
Field Study Evaluation
Reflective Practice

(click here to link to all SOE forms)

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) -
State of Michigan - Department of Education -
National Black Child Development Institute Online -
Reggio Emilia Links
Selected Reggio Emilia Resources compiled by Lella Gandini:

University of Illinois (ECAP) - The Reggio Emilia Approach: