Keuka College’s Mary Hennessy ’24 believes there’s nothing better than helping children learn. After working with children of varying ages and abilities—from her local YMCA daycare program to babysitting neighbors’ children—Mary was ready to interact with young ones in a different way.
The College’s Field Period®—an experiential-learning internship—provided the perfect chance to explore different careers working with children. Conducted once each year, Field Period® is a self-designed experience that gives students a chance to explore their interests. It can be an internship, observation, cultural experience, community service project, artistic endeavor, or spiritual-based exploration.
Mary used her January 2021 Field Period® to volunteer at Little Z’s Daycare near her Voorheesville home, caring for children ages one to three. She developed a great friendship not only with the kids, but with her site supervisor Stacey Busch, the daycare’s owner.
“I got a taste of what happens on a day-to-day basis in a home daycare setting, and how to properly and effectively manage children's various behaviors,” says Mary, a unified early childhood education major. “Stacey and I worked collaboratively to supervise and provide entertaining educational activities for the kids. I also had many opportunities to ask questions and get feedback on my interactions with the kids, which was very helpful for my overall learning.”
The experience led her to be named the First-Year Field Period® and Experiential Learner of the Year. The award is given annually to four students—one freshman and three upperclassmen—in recognition of individual achievements involving experiential learning.
Mary said she got exactly what she wanted out of the experience.
“My expectations for this Field Period® were to explore something that was outside of teaching in a classroom, and more in a personal one-on-one environment,” says Mary. “I was able to observe children’s behavior every day and develop multiple strategies on how to interact with certain behavior. I was able to watch how Stacey taught the kids about numbers, shapes, colors, and letters, as well as how she relates those topics to playtime and activities.”
Mary was also to learn the business side of a daycare and how to manage finances.
“Stacey explained to me in-depth how she keeps track of her finances with a special calendar,” says Mary. “She also showed me how she keeps everything safe and organized for on-site visits from the state.”
During her Field Period®, Mary helped take care of four children, twin three-year-old girls and a boy and a girl, each age 2. Crafts, reading, playtime both inside and out, meals, and naps made up the day.
“I loved this experience so much, not just because of the kids, but because of the environment and my amazing supervisor,” says Mary. “I have developed great relationships with both Stacey and the kids, and Stacey asked me to come back in the summer to work part time.”
Mary said completing the Field Period® showed her that operating an at-home daycare is a possible career.
“I knew I loved kids and have wanted to work with them since a young age, but it wasn’t until I got to volunteer at this daycare that I realized owning and running a daycare could be on my career path,” says Mary. “The children have become more than just ‘kids in a daycare’ to me—they’ve become my extended family. This has been an amazing learning experience that I will never forget.”