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"This experience equipped me with some of the most valuable hands-on experience I've had as a pre-service teacher. It allowed us to have genuine fun with our students while implementing fundamental knowledge into a real classroom."

Chloe Troutman '23

Kelly green and hot pink clay in hand, Chloe Troutman '23 and Bethani Rechtorik '23 walked back and forth in between activity tables in a Foster Elementary School classroom, happily demonstrating to an excited group of kindergarten students how to build "friendship pots." 

As students molded their masterpieces, Troutman and Rechtorik talked about the importance of spreading kindness, instructing the children to jot down kind notes to their classroom neighbors on scraps of paper. They shared the messages with their friends, placing them inside each other's friendship pots. 

Meanwhile, Kamryn Russell '23 and Katlyn Busch '23, seated among the students, recorded their observations of the lesson from start to finish, carefully documenting what worked and what didn't. Did students struggle? What kept them engaged? 

Pictured are Professor Christal Edmunds and Point Park students at Foster Elementary School. Photo by Nicole Chynoweth.
Professor Edmunds and Point Park students 

School of Education students in Professor Christal Edmunds' Integrating Curriculum and Instructional Practice class gained real-world classroom and research experience this semester as they piloted emotional intelligence activity kits from toy company Open the Joy with students in the Mt. Lebanon Extended Day Program. The kits – themed around kindness, anger, gratitude, love and forgiveness – feature educational arts and crafts that emphasize managing emotions, reducing stress, developing motor skills, and building confidence. Point Park students visited the school every Wednesday for six weeks, independently teaching lessons from the kits and collecting valuable insights for Open the Joy.

"It was one of the most empowering experiences I've had as a pre-service teacher. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I can do this,'" Troutman said. "The most magical moment was when students started writing kindness notes to their teachers without any prompting, walking around the room and handing out the notes so every adult was sure to receive kindness that day. Without even realizing it, my students were completely internalizing the material and showing that through their endearing actions."

The School of Education received a grant from Point Park's Department of Community Engagement to purchase half of the kits for the pilot program, while Open the Joy founder and Chief Joy Architect Shalini Melwani-Samtani donated the others. They worked with Melwani-Samtani to identify research goals and pre- and post-assessment steps. At the end of the six-week pilot program, students met with Melwani-Samtani via Zoom to discuss the data they collected, offering suggestions for how to tweak each kits to increase their efficacy. 

"As an educational toy manufacturer, getting direct feedback from children and educators is the best insight we can gather in designing and improving our products," Melwani-Samtani said. "Not only has working with the Point Park student teachers given us invaluable insight on how children use our products, but it has also provided great ideas for innovation and improvement. We are already discussing implementing some of the student's suggestions in our next round of production."

In the Q&A below, hear from students about how the experience has enriched their Point Park education.

Pictured is Chloe Troutman. Photo by Nicole Chynoweth.
Chloe Troutman '23

Chloe Troutman '23

Major: Elementary education with a dual certification in special education
Hometown: Northumberland, Pa.; Shikellamy High School
Dream job: Art education teacher, art therapist

Describe the impact this experience had on you.

This experience equipped me with some of the most valuable hands-on experience I've had as a pre-service teacher. It allowed us to have genuine fun with our students while implementing fundamental knowledge into a real classroom. Receiving trust to create an enjoyable and beneficial learning experience for these students has been so rewarding. From my experience with this program, I am more sure than ever that I am in the right field.

What other fulfilling experiences have you enjoyed through the School of Education?

The hands-on field experiences I have been able to take part in have been extremely beneficial throughout my entire educational career at Point Park. Faculty expose us to a number of teaching philosophies and practices. As students and future educators, we are encouraged by our professors to adopt and modify any and all of these practices to create one that we find to be the most fitting for ourselves. I was able to attend a Manchester Academic Charter School family event where I was exposed to a number of positive family-to-teacher interactions. In addition, we have met a vast number of educators from different realms of teaching. For example, we had a professional visit us from the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh who showed us hands-on experiences and practices their students experience in early childhood. Without these moments I have been given through my time at Point Park, I wouldn’t feel as passionately as I do about my future career.  

Christine Daube '23

Major: Elementary education
Hometown: Mt. Lebanon, Pa.; Keystone Oaks High School

Dream job: To work with children in a school setting

What have you learned from this experience?

The Open the Joy pilot program has taught me that even when things do not always go as planned, improvise! I also learned that there are so many different levels to learning. We not only teach children, but children teach us, too. As soon as I walked into the classroom, my career goals were reaffirmed.

Why would you recommend Point Park's School of Education to a prospective student?

Faculty in the School of Education are extremely enthusiastic about what they teach their students and strive to ensure that their students have a positive experience during their field experiences. Besides teaching us about the conventional public school setting, they also teach us about the various other school models that are accessible to us as educators.

Pictured is Hannah Burke. Photo by Nicole Chynoweth.
Hannah Burke '23 

Hannah Burke '23

Major: Elementary education with a dual certification in special education
: Dormont, Pa.; Keystone Oaks High School
Dream job: Curriculum designer

How has the Open the Joy pilot program enhanced your education experience?

In the best way possible, working with the Open the Joy kits has taught me a lot about creating lessons with limitations. There are aspects of the kits that need to be modified for classroom use, which has also highlighted the importance of being able to adapt lessons to fit the needs of students. I also learned that no matter how challenging an activity may be, if you keep a calm head and are enthusiastic about a lesson, students will typically mirror your enthusiasm. 

Why would you recommend Point Park's School of Education to a prospective student?

I was drawn to Point Park because it is a smaller school. You really get to know the people in your classes and your professors, and you don’t feel like just a number. All the professors in the School of Education want to see you succeed and will provide you with every opportunity to be your best.

More About: elementary education, special education, early childhood education, education, faculty, School of Education, faculty research