What is Early Childhood Education?
Early childhood education is a branch of education that relates to the teaching of children (formally and informally) from birth to eight years old. Knowledge of developmental changes during early childhood and the subjects being taught in an early childhood classroom are important for early childhood educators. Teacher certification is common, but not part of every program. There are further specializations in the field for working with students who are at-risk for developmental delay and disability.
Early Childhood Education Degree(s)
Early Childhood Education at Western
Early Childhood Education degrees are offered by two departments at Western:
- Elementary Education
- Special Education and Education Leadership.
Both of these departments are part of the Woodring College of Education. The Early Childhood Education program is housed in the Department of Elementary Education. There are two other degrees in Early Childhood Education offered through the Special Education department.
ECE 430 - Creativity & Play in ECE
ECE 438 - Family and Community Relationships
ECE 495 - Internship - Preschool
EDUC 311 - Understanding Washington State Tribal History, Culture, and Government: Since Time Immemorial Curriculum
SPED 364 - Teaching Each Student
Options in the Early Childhood Education Program
The Early Childhood Education Program offers three degrees to students. All options are for candidates seeking a profession in early childhood education and specialization in working with young children and their families.
- Non-certification option is designed for individuals who want to work in positions specific to the birth to eight years age range in childcare, HeadStart or with school-age children in after-school programs.
- P–3 option is designed for students wanting to specialize in early childhood education (birth through third grade) and seek a teaching endorsement to work in the public schools (pre-school through 3rd grade).
- P–3 with Elementary Education option is designed for students wanting to specialize in early childhood education (birth through third grade) and seek a teaching endorsement to work in the public schools (pre-school through 8th grade).
Upon completion of the program, candidates can work in childcare centers, preschools, Head Start programs, and, if they receive the P-3 or K–8 teacher endorsement, in the primary grades in public schools. The course work offers a combination of theory, methods, and field experiences in a variety of early childhood settings.
- Bremerton & Poulsbo
Programming and curriculum may vary by location. Please continue to the college page or contact Western's Early Childhood Education program in Bremerton for details.
By maximizing partnerships with community colleges, like-minded universities and community centers throughout the Puget Sound region, Western students have access to education beyond the Bellingham campus.
Options in Early Childhood Education and Special Education
The Early Childhood Special Education program prepares students to work with children from birth through eight years who have been identified as at-risk for developmental delay and disability. The major combines studies in Early Childhood and Special Education.
The mission of the Special Education Program is to prepare exceptional teachers, and while students who have disabilities often require the services of such teachers, the Department believes that there are many other students who can benefit from high quality instruction.
Completion of this program results in a BA in Education only. This major does not qualify students for a teaching certificate. Graduates typically seek employment in private child development centers, government agencies, or in school district positions that do not require certification.
An important experience for teacher certification candidates is the student teaching internship. Students spend two quarters taking final classes in the program along with time in their assigned classroom preparing for quarter three when they are teaching full-time under the direct supervision of a certificated teacher in a school setting. This internship involves intensive practice in integrating methods, content area knowledge, and classroom organizational strategies.
Students will be able to work part time during two quarters of the three quarter internship. However, one quarter of the internship involves full-time teaching responsibilities. It is our advice that candidates NOT work during the full-time internship so they may gain maximum benefit from the experience and perform at his or her highest ability.
Because the internship should be completed in a single classroom for all three quarters, it is likely that internship placement will be in a school site within Whatcom and Skagit counties.
The Office of Field Experiences coordinates school-based student teaching internships for all teacher education candidates.
Compass 2 Campus
The State of Washington mentoring initiative at Western is designed to increase opportunities in higher education by providing mentoring for 5th – 12th grade students from traditionally underrepresented and diverse backgrounds in Whatcom and Skagit counties. Visit the Compass 2 Campus page for learn more about the program.
Woodring employs Western student to work as reading tutors in local elementary schools. Tutors read aloud to students, help students with their reading, and engage them in other activities that increase reading proficiencies. Reading tutors act as role models for the students they work with. Visit the Reading Tutors page to learn more about the program.
Organizations and Clubs
The Early Childhood Education teacher preparation program in Western's Woodring College of Education and the Associated Students' Child Development Center have a longstanding collaborative partnership to engage in the understanding of principles and practices in early childhood education. One of the projects this term in ECE 434: Environments for Young Children is to design materials for the classroom to support children’s knowledge and skills related to scientific thinking and to support children’s ability to represent their thinking. Read the Western Today story.
We have an international partnership with the Early Childhood Program of Southwest University in Chongqing, China. WWU's ECE students, teachers and faculty joined with their counterparts from Chongqing and visited local schools and engaged in professional development. See ECE programs hosted by the Lummi Nation.
What can you do with Early Childhood Education?
Graduates can work with children from birth through 3rd grade as teachers in public schools, private and not-for-profit childcare programs, and military or corporate early education programs. Additional career opportunities exist as education specialists, administrators and coordinators of parent education and volunteer programs in social service agencies, Head Start, and other community-based child care programs.
Master’s degree programs in early childhood education prepare students for careers in early childhood administration, teaching, and development of child care policy. Many programs are designed for students who have (or are concurrently completing) an early childhood teaching license.
Our graduates are actively recruited by school districts to work in a variety of rewarding special education settings.
Talk to (or become) a Peer Mentor at Woodring. Peer Mentors answer questions about Woodring and the application process with prospective students, help mentees explore the teaching and human services professions, connect mentees with professors, volunteer opportunities, and resources on campus, and invite mentees to fun and informational Woodring events. Students interested in talking to or becoming a Peer Mentor should Contact a Mentor.
Early Childhood Education careers
- Elementary Education Teacher (P-3)
- Head Start
- Private Child Development Centers
- Governmental Agencies
- Working with Children in Non-School Settings
- Special Education Pre-School Teacher
- Early Interventionist
- Inclusive Classroom Teacher
- Family Resource Coordinator
- Behavior Interventions Specialist
- Special Education Teacher, Preschool through Grade 3