ENID, Okla. — Staring at the microwave, pre-schoolers Ethan Conrady and Jayce Weaver keep asking when their popcorn will be ready, as they are told to listen to the sound corn makes while popping.

Northwestern Oklahoma State University student Shania Street counts down with the microwave's timer from five seconds to one.

The two boys jump with excitement as she pulls the popcorn bag out. The popcorn is part of Street's lesson plan involving the book, "If You Take the Mouse to the Movies," by Laura Numeroff.

Three three are part of an education learning lab. NWOSU-Enid teamed up with Enid Public Schools in 2015 to host an early childhood learning lab.

NWOSU began hosting the lab on the Enid campus to fulfill two needs: NWOSU’s need for an education learning lab, and EPS’ need for classroom space for the four-year-old program.

On Thursday, NWOSU education students teamed up once again with EPS educator Mary Starks' 4-year-old students.

NWOSU-Enid students broke into small groups. Each group consisted of at least two 4-year-olds and two college students. One college student taught while the other observed. After the teaching, the students provided feedback to each other while the preschoolers had recess.

"This program is a learning lab for NWOSU students," Starks said. "This is hands-on teaching experience and hands-on learning. It is a more enriching experience for both sides."

Starks said her pre-school students receive more one-on-one time while being educated and practicing various life skills. On the other side, NWOSU students get more one-on-one time teaching children, not just classroom peers.

One group read "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom," by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, and then made coconut trees. Another read "Extra Cheese, Please" by Cris Peterson and then made miniature pizzas, discussing where cheese comes from.

"The students are giving these kids a more enriching education," Starks said. "They kids are learning from more than one teacher so they get much more and the college students have a faster learning experience. It is much harder to teach a 4- or 5-year-old than a first-grader, so NWOSU students have to work harder to explain a concept. That helps the student in the future when preparing lesson plans."

The learning lab helps students learn to adapt, Starks said.

Carrie Pendleton's group read "Diary of a Worm," by Doreen Cronin, and made "dirt" snacks consisting of chocolate pudding. Except the pre-schoolers didn't want the pudding — or any other ingredient.

Starks said if Pendleton taught that to a peer, the peer would accept every ingredient.

"This exercise teaches them to adapt," she said. "Teaching a child is much different than teaching a colleague. This hands-on experience is better than sitting in a classroom."

Not just education students are utilizing the learning lab.

Starks said NWOSU-Alva students will be visiting her classroom soon as part of their Nursing Care of the Family course. The interactions between the nursing students and pre-schoolers is meant to help the students learn how to care for children while helping the pre-schoolers learn about the medical field.

"The experience is great for both sides because they have to step out of their comfort zone," Starks said. "The more interactions students have with the kids, the more ideas they will get for teaching."

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Summars is area reporter for the News & Eagle. She can be reached at esummars@enidnews.com.

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