Little Vikings Teach Tots and Teens

ECE student reading to Little Vikings.
ECE student reading to Little Vikings.
Little Vikings program

Around H-F, there are lots of things you see that might seem out of place at a high school.  It may be ZooBot students walking down the hall with snakes and birds, VTV members carrying bulky camera equipment searching for someone to interview for a segment or even, oddly enough, a group of young children walking into a seemingly normal North building classroom, at least from the outside.  These tots are members of the Little Vikings preschool, which is held twice a week for the first three periods of the day.  

Inside her vibrant, elaborately decorated classroom, a stark contrast to the typical high school environment surrounding it, family and consumer science teacher Courtney Pesha directs Little Vikings, also known as the H-F class Early Childhood Education (ECE).  

Within this program, “Big Vikings,” or ECE students help Pesha run the preschool.  Their duties range from lesson planning, to reading to the kids, to recording the progress and learning habits of different preschoolers.  For over 45 years, juniors and seniors have been able to participate in this course if they have taken the prerequisite of child development, gotten permission from their child development teacher, been in good academic standing and shown the “dispositions necessary to work with kids,” according to Pesha

However, this excluded many upperclassmen who wanted to take the course but hadn’t taken the prerequisite, whether it be because they didn’t have enough room in their schedule or because they are incoming seniors who hadn’t heard of ECE until it was too late to take child development.  To keep ECE open to more students, Pesha is introducing a new child development waiver, where interested juniors and seniors may go through a process to be considered to take ECE.  

This process begins with a Google Form, where an interested student answers questions about what classes they have taken, why they are interested in taking ECE, why they demonstrate leadership/teamwork capabilities etc. After that, Pesha will hold a one-on-one interview with the student to make sure they have the professionalism necessary to work with little kids.  Waiver applicants, like any other ECE student, will have to be in good academic standing.  

ECE students and Little Vikings preschoolers participate in what is called “reciprocal learning,” or learning in which the high schoolers and tots are able to learn from each other.  Big Vikings gain a very “transferable” experience from working with the littles, according to Pesha.  

“Whether kids want to go into education or not, the skills that they get from this course, they can be used anywhere,” said Pesha.  She continued that, no matter what job a student is going into where they will have to interact with others, they’ll learn valuable skills such as professionalism, ethics, time management, flexibility, planning etc. from this unique opportunity. 

If an ECE junior decides to take the class again as a senior, they will become a year-two ECE student and earn leadership positions within the pre-k. Pesha said, “They become like my lead teachers, so they take more of an administrative role.  They help with filing paperwork and communicating with parents, facilitating field trips, time management, all those fun things.”

Little Vikings preschool, which costs a modest $300/year in tuition due to the fact that most expenses are paid by H-F, also takes students on a field trip to the zoo at the end of the year, and several in-school field trips throughout the year such as ZooBot or the Bio Pond.  

Pesha is clearly very passionate about her role directing the ECE/Little Vikings program.  “I get to see the best side of high schoolers,” said Pesha.  “In an unstructured environment, I feel like a lot of the times teenagers get a bad rap, and it’s nice to see them rise to the occasion.” 

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