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New Zealand provides unique vantage of early childhood education for student
Gabi Lawrey used the winter break to head to New Zealand for a 12-day study abroad program through the College of Education and Human Sciences.
“To be honest, I never really thought I was going to study abroad,” Lawrey said.
The junior Human Development and Family Science student from Lincoln had reservations about leaving campus and her friends for a whole semester — which made her recent journey through New Zealand with CEHS all the more exciting and unlikely for her.
As part of the two-week study abroad program, Lawrey and her cohort learned about New Zealand’s unique approach to early childhood education and got to explore the beautiful country.
“It’s been fascinating because New Zealand has an early childhood curriculum for the entire country,” Lawrey said. “The early childhood centers here are very nature-based, more similar to Montessori schools in the U.S.”
During the three credit-hour program, Lawrey and her classmates studied the social and emotional development of children below the age of 5, focusing on how kids can learn to handle their emotions and develop relationships.
“We got to tour something called a ‘dopamine forest’ in Wellington, which is basically like an adult playground,” she said. “The undergraduates and the Ruth Staples faculty with us on the trip were able to hear lectures and learn from the creators of the forest about risky play for children and how to let them explore their emotions in these settings. Then, we got to do it as adults.”
“Dopamine Forest” aside, Lawrey and her cohort had plenty of time to take in and explore the breathtaking landscapes of New Zealand.
“We visited a place called Waimangu Volcanic Valley, which has the youngest active volcano in New Zealand,” she said. “It was stunning — we went on a long hike with lakes and pockets of water everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The group also did a service-learning project while touring the valley, pulling weeds to maintain the environment.
“Since we came in to explore this natural environment, it was nice to be able to give back,” she said.