Playgrounds play an essential role in the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being of children during the early childhood years. It is a natural tool for children to develop resiliency as they learn to cooperate, overcome challenges, and negotiate with others. Regular access to high quality outdoor play spaces is also positively related to children’s overall health status. The west playground at the Child Development Laboratory building is in dire need of upgrading. It was last upgraded in the mid-1990s, and is quickly reaching the end of its usefulness as a positive learning environment for young children. Gifts to the playground fund will allow the CDL to create a state-of-the-art outdoor learning environment in which both young learners (children enrolled in the CDL program) and adult learners (college students, instructors, researchers) can grow and expand their horizons together.
Scholarship Funds for Children
Access, both availability and affordability, to high-quality early care and education programs plays a significant role in facilitating young children’s positive growth across all developmental domains (i.e., social, emotional, cognitive, physical, etc.). Early brain research has consistently shown that human development during the early years is powerfully affected by contextual surroundings and experiences that can be found in high quality child care programs. There is also a robust research literature indicating that access to high-quality, intensive early care and education programs is especially important for low-income children, with lasting positive effects such as greater school success, higher graduation rates, lower juvenile crime, decreased need for special education services later, and lower adolescent pregnancy rates. Unfortunately, many families struggle to provide quality early experiences for their children due to financial constraints. Gifts to the scholarship fund will allow the CDL to provide access for children from low-income homes that would otherwise be unable to benefit from the high quality early care and education services we provide.
Professional Development Funds
The CDL program is fortunate to have highly skilled and well educated teachers working in our classrooms. These teachers are able to implement on a daily basis what science informs us is “best practices” in early care and education classrooms. Our teachers are committed to the concept of life-long learning, and constantly seek out ways to continue their growth as early educators. Professional development opportunities (e.g., workshops, specialized training, teacher exchanges, etc.) are an important part of this process. Professional development is an ongoing process that prepares early childhood educators to develop and expand upon their skills and knowledge for teachers at all levels of the career trajectories. Additionally, there is a growing body of research suggesting that early childhood professionals benefit greatly from professional development opportunities beyond minimal training—and that these benefits are passed on to the children in their care and classrooms. Gifts to the professional development fund will allow the CDL to expand professional development opportunities for teachers, who can then incorporate what they learn into their daily practices within the classrooms.
Young children make many connections when they participate in meaningful activities in classroom environments that include integrated activities that connect several types of learning. Such integrated learning experiences are critical for providing the types of stimulation needed for several aspects of brain development. Some of the experiences that are particularly powerful for integrated learning and building connections are learning centers, thematic episodes, and projects. The types of equipment and manipulatives available in early childhood classrooms are critical to support such integrated learning, must be readily accessible to the children, and appropriate for the developmental levels of the children within the environments. Gifts to the equipment/manipulatives fund will allow the CDL to expand the types of materials made available to children in order to further enhance the integrated learning experiences occurring within our classrooms.