October 2011

Toddler coloring bare feet 7.11

UCDC Developments



Dear Families, 

While we think about and consider many different things when we are planning and programming for children, the single most important element in a classroom is relationships.  The relationship between the caregiver/teacher and a child is what all other components of learning and growing stem from.


When a child is engaged in a healthy, supportive and authentic relationship with an adult, all things are possible.  One feels loved, cherished, accepted for who they are, respected, listened to and appreciated.  A child is able to develop a healthy self image and their self esteem is boosted each time they are involved in some type of reciprocal moment with that caring adult.  A smile, a pat on the back, a hug, a knowing look, words of encouragement, truly listening, being in the moment, working towards a common goal, understanding whatever it is that needs to be understood; all tangible elements of powerful interactions. Children feel safe and protected and they know that their needs will be met.  In a supportive relationship, adults are also responsible for setting limits and making sure that children do not feel as though they are out of control.  Children need help in learning how to make good choices  and they aren't always able to do that on their own.  It is the adult's responsibility to set children up to be successful, knowing that they need the help of an adult to learn about acceptable social behavior.


Humans are engaged in many relationships throughout their life.  There are partnerships, collaborations, group relationships, work and personal relationships, relationships of great importance and fleeting relationships that last only moments, yet are somehow necessary. 


At UCDC not only are the relationships between caregiver/teacher and a child important, there are a number of other relationships that help to support a healthy learning environment for children.  One of those relationships is the relationship between a child's teacher, parents and support team, should a child need therapists or a TSS in the classroom.  At UCDC, the staff and administration are committed to working with families of children with special needs and supporting whatever type of relationship that is needed to provide an environment that a child can grow and learn successfully in.  Many classrooms have had some type of experience working and partnering with other agencies including the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Infant and Toddler Alliance, in addition to privately contracted therapists or individuals who provide services here at the Center and /or at home.


Over the years, we have received many compliments about our approach to building a relationship with the individuals who come into our classrooms.  We each recognize the importance and value of working with and partnering with a team that is assembled to help support a child's growth and development.  We do not see the visits as an intrusion, nor do we feel that therapies should take place only at home.  We recognize the importance of consistent communication between all interested parties and realize how important it is for everyone to be on the "same page."  We are willing to try new approaches, adapt the environment, and staff is always willing to attend professional development events to become better versed in the various therapies and understand our role in the child's life better.  Individuals who come into our building are encouraged by our willingness to develop a relationship with them.  They are also encouraged by our approach to curriculum and our commitment to children learning through play, as therapeutic approaches are often similar. 


If a child needs intervention strategies, statistics have shown that early detection, early diagnosis, and early intervention are crucial in making a difference for children who are at risk.  At UCDC, we acknowledge and encourage this approach by being available, offering suggestions and building relationships with the adults responsible for supporting a child's growth and learning potential.




Mary Beth

Creating Positive Associations

By Jessica Talley Armstead (Preschool 4)

Child ReadingOne of the most rewarding things that a parent can do for their child is to read to them on a daily basis.  An article by Megan Wilson mentions a study conducted by Reach Out and Read, which found that fewer than half of American parents read to their children daily, thus resulting in a disadvantage among children nationwide entering into schools. The study went further to reveal that more than one third of American children do not have the basic literacy skills needed to begin learning to read independently. From the age of six months to five years is the most critical period in which children can develop a desire for literacy and reading. The most effective way to achieve this is simply by reading aloud with your children each day.


Reading aloud with children creates a bond between parent and child that allows for the development of both motive and passion for reading to take place. Once children enter into school, the training wheels come off (figuratively speaking) and they are replaced with a demand to find some sort of appreciation for reading. Children who make a positive connection with reading early on find that it can be used as a tool as well as for enjoyment and retain those feelings as they progress through their educational experiences. Those who have not been exposed to the positive associations find reading challenging and lack the desire to read and search for knowledge independently, missing out on an invaluable source to further themselves as well as others. The experience that a child gets when a parent, grandparent, or teacher reads to them is often referred to as a "teaching moment." These moments allow for a complete comprehension of what is happening both in and out of the story. Children can describe what they see and hear, talk about how it relates to real life situations, and in essence develop basic social connections. Children can relate with the characters they are introduced to through reading and pick up on things such as motivation and consequence.


In Preschool 4 at UCDC, we have group time with a story several times a day. For some, it can be a challenging period of the day but slowly the children develop self discipline in listening skills and a longer attention span. They also learn to experience the advantages of a "good" story. We encourage children to ask questions and talk about the things that they hear in our stories and how they relate to their home lives. This experience not only helps children make connections in their own lives, but also gives them a window into the lives of their peers.


The English language in particular creates many obstacles for a new reader verse one whom is learning to read in a language in which the letters and sounds correlate more closely. Children learning to read English find that one letter can have many different sounds and functions within a word or when building a sentence. George Georgiou attests that children learning to speak and read English need a strong home literacy environment that includes not only reading but letter and sound recognition.  Reading, by way of books, magazines or websites, exposes the child to the sounds and functions of words as they see them on the page in front of them. The focus should not be on the child understanding every word, but more so to plant seeds that intrigue a greater understanding.


In our fast paced society, we have several ways to access literature and factual information about any subject, a way of attaining the unattainable. As mentioned above, reading helps stimulate the imagination in the sense that the stories they tell and the information they provide us are gateways into the rest of the world. Use the resources you have available to you whether it be a printed book, the internet, or magazines. It is the connections that count. Follow your stories with activities that build on other areas of cognition to saturate their young minds with new ideas; it's important for children to know that they have the power to access the tools needed to find the information they are seeking, it promotes confidence in the child' ability to learn independently.


University of Alberta (2010, February 22). Reading to Kids a Crucial Tool in English Language Development.  Science Daily.


BMJ-British Medical Journal (2008, May 12). Children Better Prepared for School if their Parents Read Aloud to Them. Science Daily.


If You'd Like to Know Why Reading Matters , by Barbara Freedman-DeVito.


In This Issue
Creating Positive Associations
UCDC Philosophy Explained
UCDC Reads - Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears
Congratulations UCDC!
Spotlight on Staff - Mattie Kendrick
Down on Grandpa's Farm Song

PAEYC's 5K for Learning and 1 Mile Walk


Please join us at North Park for PAEYC's 5K for Learning  and 1 Mile Walk to support the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children (PAEYC) and early childhood education in Southwestern Pennsylvania.


Oct. 23, 2011
North Park Boathouse

Pearce Mill Road, Allison Park, PA

8:15 a.m.


$17 for 5k (PAEYC members)
$20 for 5k (non-PAEYC members)
$10 for 1-Mile Walk (Individuals and their families - NOT $10/person)

Please don your sneakers and help us to raise awareness about the importance of play, physical activity, and education for our youngest learners.

We'd love for your entire family to join us. The 5k for Learning welcomes and encourages children's participation. The 1-mile walk is a perfect introduction to racing. Come on out and play with us!


Click here to register now!



Gym Usage

We kindly ask that you not play in the small or large gyms after 5:30 pm. These gyms are cleaned and organized by the last class that uses them in the afternoons in order to be set and prepared for the morning session.

Also, please refrain from allowing your infant or toddler to play in the large gym. The equipment in this gym was designed for bigger children and it is not safe to let the smaller children use this equipment. It is also a safety hazard if there are preschool children playing in the gym because they are much bigger and faster and take more risks that a younger child might imitate without knowing their limitations.  



 Safety in our Building  

Please help us to teach children to walk while in the hallways of our building. When children are allowed to run ahead of their parent in the building, it presents a safety hazard for the child and other children and adults  who use the hallways. The children also think that if they are able to run in the hallway with their parent, then they are also able to run in the hallway when they are with their teachers and class, which causes a big problem (and Domino effect, if you can imagine). Thanks so much for your help in this matter.  



 Our Library, Our Future

A Voter Initiative for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh 


At UCDC, the librarian from the Carnegie Library comes to our Center once a month in order to share stories with the toddlers and preschoolers. The teachers of UCDC also use the library to check out books for our Center.

As you probably already know, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has undergone some major financial cuts which prove to challenge its programming in many ways.   


Our Library, Our Future is a community-based initiative that has been organized to raise awareness about the need to provide financial support for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the critical services that the Library provides.  


If you enjoy the library as much as we do, visit  their site to learn more and show your support.  



UCDC Philosophy Explained - Answers to Common Parent Questions

by Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator

 Construction Site

What curriculum does UCDC use?

At UCDC, the teachers plan the children's curricular activities based on the current interests and abilities of the enrolled children in that particular classroom. For example, a toddler classroom might set out for a walk around the neighborhood only to be abruptly stopped by a very interesting road construction project. What may be a nuisance to the typical road traveler can be a beautiful learning experience for a child. The teachers are trained to notice this spiked interest of the children and they may forgo their entire walk and choose to stay at the construction site to watch the workers. The teachers will use this opportunity to teach the children language (label the machines used, discuss what the workers are doing, etc), engage them in a social studies lesson (community workers), or challenge their math skills (count the number of trucks, tools, workers, etc.). When this class returns from their "failed" walk, the teachers will then extend this theme into the classroom curriculum. She may bring trucks into the block area or add small tools to the sand table. She might also teach the children a new song about construction workers.

The teachers of the University Child Development Center follow seven guiding principles and six teaching standards as a framework for planning curricular opportunities (while addressing the Pennsylvania Learning Standards for Early Childhood).

The guiding principles are:

  1. Social Learning:  Social learning is the foundation for growth in all developmental and academic learning.
  2.  Process:  How children learn is as important as what they learn.
  3. Social Interaction:  The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction with peers, teachers, and other adults.
  4. Emotional Development:  Children engage in daily opportunities to learn about cooperation, responsibility, empathy, self control and what it means to be an individual and part of a group.
  5. Teacher-Child Relationships:  Teachers' knowledge of the children they teach-individually, culturally, and developmentally, is the basis for curricular development.
  6. Teacher-Family Relationships:  Teachers and Center Administration partner with parents/guardians to ensure that communication supports the growth and education of children.
  7. Staff Relationships:  A sense of community, support, and modeling is embraced as an approach to staying current and connected with each other.

The teaching standards are:


  1. Consistent yet flexible classroom schedules and activity periods, including one on one strategy, small and large group activities, child directed activities, and extension of play.
  2. Rules and Logical Consequences:  A clear and consistent approach to guidance that fosters responsibility, self control, and proactive approaches.
  3. Discovery:  Activities and materials that encourage hands-on learning, and open ended exploration and inquiry, supports interest and heightens curiosity.
  4. Activity Choice:  Offering choices gives children the opportunity to be invested in their learning, and provides a foundation for making connections to prior learning, while supporting extension of children's learning.  Experiences become valuable, meaningful, and lasting.
  5. Environment:  Materials, arrangement, displays, and a home-like atmosphere encourage independence, maximize learning opportunities, and support the connections between home and school.
  6. Partnering with Families:  Encouraging family involvement at many levels, learning about families, and providing developmentally appropriate interactions and activities encourages true partnerships.


Our amazing teachers are able to take all of these guiding principles and teaching standards into account as they plan for every single day with your child. Having a flexible curriculum that is not "scripted" or pre-planned (to an extent) allows the teachers to meet every child's unique needs and personalities.

UCDC Reads - Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema

By Preschool 4


Why Mosquitoes Buzz BookThe latest buzzzz in Preschool 4 has been about a book featuring a mosquito. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema is the retelling of a West African tale in which a tiny lie told by a mosquito sends the entire jungle into a state of emergency. The mosquito's tale tales annoy an iguana, who plugs his ears and accidentally ignores a python, who becomes alarmed and scares a rabbit, and so the cycle continues. Panic spreads throughout the jungle until finally the king lion calls a meeting to determine who is actually at fault for the series of disasters.

Mosquitoes has presented us with opportunities to talk about honesty, cause and effect, problem-solving and even onomatopoeia. The story is told with simple words and unusual sound effects which make it both engaging and easy to follow. The illustrations are brilliant - each page is a work of art. We highly recommend you look for it at your next trip to the library!


Congratulations UCDC!

Congratulations to all of the teaching staff and office staff on the recent success of:


CACFP Audit- we successfully completed an audit which occurs every three years, that determines our funding from the Child and Adult Care Food Program.  Thank you to all parents for completing the paperwork that we request and to all staff for keeping accurate records in their classrooms and in the office.  There are many details that go into maintaining this program and a portion of our food budget depends on a successful audit.


Department of Public Welfare/Office of Child Development and Early Learning (DPW/OCDEL) Annual licensing visit -was successfully completed on September 26th and 27th.  After five years of having the same representative, we were assigned a new rep, Jennifer Kinslow.  Jennifer was thorough and professional and had nothing but wonderful things to say about our environment, programming, and health and safety standards.Staff did an outstanding job getting ready for the visit and during the inspection and there were no significant issues.


Keystone STARS ERS (Environmental Rating Scale) Validation Visit- Every two years we receive a visit at which time four classrooms are randomly selected and scored based on a variety of environmental standards and categories. Assessors use observational assessment tools to evaluate the quality of early childhood programs.  Classrooms that were selected met the standards and scored quite high in many of the categories.  STAR 4A (Accredited) status was successfully maintained.


NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) Annual Accreditation Report- this report is submitted  each year during a center's four year period before the process of reaccreditation begins (ours will begin in 2013 in preparation for a 2014 visit from the Academy).  This 27 page report includes information about staff qualifications, building information and methods that we use to meet the variety of criteria that determines our Accreditation status.  We received word that the Academy accepted our report and we maintain our Accreditation status for another year.


We have all been quite busy making sure that all of our regulatory standards are being met.  We also have been spending a lot of time welcoming new families into our program and helping children during classroom transitions.   


Additionally, we are hosting an increased amount of student visits from various departments on campus.  Three classrooms are hosting a semester long practicum rotation and we are working with classes to support student observations in infant, toddler and preschool classrooms.


All in all it's been a busy few months here at UCDC.  If you have any questions about any of our many activities- please feel free to stop in to see Mary Beth at any time!!



Spotlight on Staff - Mattie Kendrick, Community Consultant

Mattie Kendrick

Mattie Kendrick has been with UCDC for many years and has contributed her talents in varying positions at the center. Mattie's experience and knowledge are priceless. She serves many roles at UCDC including advising staff, helping in the classroom, and providing guidance on ways to better the center.





How long have you worked at UCDC and what positions have you held here?

 I have been here at UCDC for 27 years; I was with the Center when it moved from Carlow to Pitt in 1984. I have held positions such as Preschool Head Teacher (Preschool 3), Team Leader, and now Community Consultant for the Center.


Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Clairton, Pennsylvania and still live there today.


What is your favorite children's book?

I love any books written by Eric Carle.


As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a child, I was just interested in playing outside and becoming a veterinarian.


What is something people may not know about you?

I am a lover of classical music.


If you could go on a trip anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

I'm not much for traveling; there is no place like home.


What is your favorite UCDC memory?

There are so many UCDC memories over the years, but the diversity of the many families that have passed through and moved on from UCDC will always stay with me.


What do you do to relax?

I am reading a lot lately, with music in the background. I also enjoy working in my yard.


What is the best part about your job?

After all of these years, the best part of this job is the laughter of children.



Song Lyrics - Down on Grandpa's Farm (Infant 3)

Whether they are walking or strolling down the hall, getting a diaper changed, getting some "tummy time" or rocking with a teacher - at any given time, you can hear Infant 3 rocking out to one of their favorite songs, Down on Grandpa's Farm! Here are the lyrics just in case you'd like to join in on the earworm of Infant 3! 
We're on our way, we're on our way,
on our way to Grandpa's farm.
We're on our way,we're on our way, 
On our way to Grandpa's farm.


Down on Grandpa's farm there is a black and white cow,
Down on Grandpa's farm there is a black and white cow.
The cow she makes a sound like this: Moo! Moo!
The cow she makes a sound like this: Moo! Moo!


Down on Grandpa's farm there is a little yellow duck,
Down on Grandpa's farm there is a little yellow duck.
The duck he makes a sound like this: Quack! Quack!
The duck he makes a sound like this: Quack! Quack!


Down on Grandpa's farm there is a great big pig,
Down on Grandpa's farm there is a great big pig.
The pig she makes a sound like this: Oink! Oink!
The pig she makes a sound like this: Oink! Oink!


Down on Grandpa's farm there is a black and white skunk,
Down on Grandpa's farm there is a black and white skunk!
The skunk he always smells like this: P-U!
The skunk he always smells like this: P-U!




See you next edition!