In This Issue
UCDC Reads - Welcome Winter
Boosting Your Child's Vocabulary by Gayle Antonacci
Spotlight on Staff - Anna Barga
UCDC Philosophy Explained - Birthdays at UCDC
Song Lyrics - Row Row Row Your Boat

Save the Date!

UCDC Annual Staff Appreciation Dinner will be held on Friday, May 18th at 6:30 p.m. at The University Club.

Join us for an evening of adult company, good food, and our exciting silent auction.

Dear Families,

 A warm and sincere Happy New Year to all of you. I hope that you and your children had an enjoyable break together, creating special memories and hopefully doing LOTS of playing!!


I know that the staff at UCDC looks forward to the break as a time to get re-energized and ready for the colder winter days.   With our return, I wanted to take a moment to highlight another component of their wonderful work that they do, that you may not be aware of.


Our staff at the Center is a highly trained, well-educated group of individuals.  As Early Childhood Professionals, the teachers are always working on gaining new knowledge, exploring new research methods and seeking out new activities and resources for children. We are very fortunate to be able to meet all of the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) standards regarding professional development and educational requirements. NAEYC's standards are quite high and our staff excels as a group. We also maintain Keystone STARS standards in both of those areas. NAEYC is very topic oriented when it comes to professional development and Keystone STARS focuses heavily on the amount of hours that staff maintains- which is currently 24 hours for each staff member. If you add to that, the requirements set forth by our state licensing agency and personal interests, we spend a great deal of time honing our professional skills, managing different expectations, and growing as professionals as well as growing as a Center.


In 2009, after achieving the State of Pennsylvania's STAR 4A status through Keystone STARS, our staff members moved from needing to have six clock hours of annual training to maintaining 24 hours of annual training.   This was a huge process for us and a very significant change for staff to manage. Some staff are enrolled in classes in the field of Early Childhood, and those classes count towards their training hours. Staff that are not enrolled in classes are required to follow an annual process of identifying training needs through a written plan in their Professional Development Record. Many of our staff consistently exceed the required 24 hours of training and often have between 30 and 40 hours (truly a dedicated professional).

UCDC uses a variety of techniques to be able to provide or access professional l development. Sometimes these choices are based on needing new knowledge, increasing current knowledge, being inspired, meeting a requirement for NAEYC or for Keystone STARS, personal interest, or Director or administrative recommendation.


Our staff are able to access trainings through the PA Keys website and training calendar, which lists professional development events that are available in our area. Many staff takes time out of their evenings to attend events, or they may attend on a Saturday. As a Center committed to personal and professional growth, we will also use substitute teachers to cover for the absence of a staff member who would like to attend trainings during the work day. We also provide in-house training such as book clubs, round table discussions and mini-workshops.


Finally, we have our very much needed, intense and informative Professional Development Days scheduled three times per year. March, August, and November Professional Development Days give us the opportunity to provide up to 18 of the hours that every staff member needs. We plan the day to include sessions and workshops that address staff needs and interests. We also schedule fire safety training and emergency preparedness training during our PDD's.   Professional Development Days also give us the opportunity to be together as a staff, share a meal, have some fun, and learn about each other. These days are very busy, with usually not a minute to spare that is not training. Sometimes we will engage certified trainers from the community to come and deliver training and other times, we provide the training ourselves. This day involves a lot of pre-planning and coordination and staff typically walk away with at least 6 hours of very intense training.  Throughout the year, the Center also provides CPR and Pediatric First Aid Training for every staff member.


Our approach is quite comprehensive and we are incredibly proud of our ability to be able to provide the resources and time for staff to accomplish all that they do.   Both you and your children benefit from the wealth of knowledge that the teachers gain, and the program maintains its level of excellence and integrity each and every day.

A warm and supportive thank you to all staff who take this level of professionalism so seriously!



Mary Beth


UCDC Reads
By Infant 3  Welcome Winter Book

Welcome Winter

Author: Jill Ackerman


This book introduces the coldest season, winter, to young children and keeps them engaged with its touch and feel pages. The author takes the children along on a snowy adventure with something new on every page. Your child will enjoy the different sensations under their little fingers such as the silvery sparkling snow falling and the crunchy sound of snow under your feet. She describes how cold the winter wind feels against your face the feeling of being nice and warm in your winter clothes.


Boosting Your Child's Vocabulary
By Gayle Antonacci, Infant 3   


How many new words does a child learn each day? Two, four, maybe six, not even close. A child from 1- to 18-years-old learns an average of TEN new words daily. While children have some ability to learn new words on their own, opportunities for additional learning lie in the hands of their caregivers.


Children typically are interested in words, but being able to fully understand the meaning and usage of the words takes some guidance.   Some children are able to "map" new words that they hear, which refers to the process of developing a quick, partial understanding of this specific word. However, not all children have the ability to achieve this mapping skill, and for those children, help is required to develop it fully. Four specific strategies can be utilized in encouraging new vocabulary. These strategies are: Providing purposeful exposure to new words, intentionally teaching word meanings, teaching word learning strategies, and offering opportunities to use recently learned words.


Word exposure can have a huge impact on a child's word-learning abilities. The more often children hear or read a word; the more likely they are to understand what it means. Activities such as reading aloud are perfect opportunities to introduce children to new words. By reading a story to child on several occasions, over time the child will make inferences and provide a perfect opportunity to discuss what was read to them. It is also the caregiver's responsibility to keep the child's interest and to frequently ask questions about the story. For example, a caregiver may be reading a book to an infant about a farm. Throughout the many times the infant is asking the caregiver to read the book, the caregiver can ask the child different questions during the reading. Questions like "What sound does a pig make?" or "where is the dog?" For a preschool aged child, the same technique can be used in addition to critical thinking questions during the readings.


Aside from read- alouds, the words a caregiver uses also promotes learning new vocabulary.   During your time with a child, using new vocabulary in conversation can be beneficial. By using the word ecstatic instead of happy, the child can begin to build their word knowledge.   


Intentionally teaching word meaning is the second strategy in encouraging new vocabulary. This strategy is different from the previous because words are purposefully explained to the child. If a child encounters a new word, an explanation may be necessary to avoid any confusion on the part of the child. Extended instruction may also be needed in which the word is explained, repeated by the child, and then explained once more, this time by the child.


The third strategy is teaching the child his/her own word learning strategies. It is important to teach the child how to think aloud when encountering new words. By imitating what the critical thinking process looks like, the child will have a reference when they hear a new word. The child may need guidance at first to complete the critical thinking process. Then, the child should be able to use these word-learning strategies to infer word meanings of new vocabulary.


The final strategy is necessary in order to complete the word learning process: offer opportunities to use newly learned words. This can be done not only through speaking, but also through different activities. Children can participate in concept mapping. Give the child an opportunity to retell a familiar book. For a younger toddler, this can be done through play.


By utilizing these strategies at home and in school, your child will be able to learn and use new words that they may have not had a chance to do before.


Christ. T. & Wang. X.C. (2011). Bridging the vocabulary gap: What the research tells us about vocabulary instruction in early child hood. Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, 65(4), 84-91.



Spotlight on Staff
Anna Barga, Afternoon Substitute Anna Barga

Anna Barga is one of the newest faces at UCDC. As a substitute, the staff, students, and parents are all lucky to get to see Anna from time to time in their classrooms.


How long have you worked at UCDC?

I have worked at UCDC for almost 3 months.


Where are you from?

I grew up in Murrysville, PA. I went to Ohio State and then moved to Chicago for graduate school. My husband and I moved back to Pittsburgh last year.


What is your favorite children's book?

I really like the author Todd Parr. I love how he writes about difference, acceptance, and empowerment in such a simple way. I also like all his colorful drawings!


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

I wanted to be a singer, but unfortunately I could not sing!


What is something people may not know about you?

I have two mischievous cats named Brutus and Paul.


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

I have always wanted to go to Sweden. I have heard such great things about the Scandinavian countries; especially when it comes to early childhood education!


What is your favorite age group to work with and why?

Currently, I have worked a lot in the infant rooms. I really enjoy working with this group because most of my teaching experiences have been with preschool students, so every day I learn something new and interesting about this stage of development.


What is your favorite movie or TV show?

I really like the TV show, Modern Family. It is the funniest show I've ever seen. At times it reminds me of my own family.


What do you do to relax?

I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, reading, and exercising.


What is the best part about your job?

I love building relationships with all the students I see throughout the day. It has been so rewarding to get to know so many children, although I am still learning all their names!



UCDC Philosophy Explained: Answers to Common Parent Questions
By Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator
Child with Bday Cake
Why aren't we allowed to bring birthday items in for our child's school birthday celebration?


As we age, birthdays become less and less important to us. But as a child, a birthday is a VERY important day in which we want to celebrate.* At UCDC, we do this by using a nutritious recipe to make a special cake during the school day. The children help in this process and learn important math and science skills as they bake with their friends. We then invite families to celebrate with us by joining us for cake on that particular day.


*Some families prefer that we do not celebrate their child's birthday (for religious reason, etc) and we absolutely honor this request! 


So why can't I bring goodie bags, balloons, and other treats to supplement UCDC's party?


Well, there is a great diversity here at UCDC and we aim to support each family here in the best way that we can. For example, can you imagine a child's birthday being celebrated by one family where they bring goodie bags for every child, a birthday banner, and balloons while the next week another child has a birthday in that same classroom where the parents are not even able to get off of work to attend? This discrepancy will cause many hurt feelings and feelings of inequality among children. It is also important to note that balloons are not even allowed in a childcare center due to the fact that they are a choking hazard.


Also, birthdays are celebrated differently in different cultures and we house a very diverse environment at UCDC. In order to be true to each family, we choose to celebrate in a uniform way with each child.


Finally, birthdays are yet another celebration that lends itself to "junk food." Since food and nutrition are a huge part of our programming at UCDC, we prefer to make a nutritious cake with the children as opposed to imbibing on a high sugar cake. If you really think about it, a preschool classroom could be celebrating a birthday every other week! That's a LOT of sugar! And if you take a moment to conjure a mental image of your child on a "sugar high," try multiplying this by 18! That's a LOT of energized kids!


In addition to the celebration at UCDC, we also know that some families opt to have a birthday party for their child outside of school. if you decide to have a party and are inviting a few close friends, please give the stamped invitations to your child's teacher or the front desk who will then fill in the child's home address and send them through the mail. This practice helps to eliminate potential hurt feelings of those not invited. If you decide to invite your child's whole class, we would be able to put the invitations in classroom mailboxes.


However you choose to celebrate, please plan to join us and your child for a low sugar, highly tasty treat on their special day!


Song Lyrics from Infant 1
Row, Row, Row Your Boat   

Our favorite song right now is Row, Row, Row Your Boat.  We have sooo many different variations of it, and it is very easy to make new lyrics up as we go along. All of our kids love singing it while in the rocking boat in the gym, while playing with baby dolls, or while sitting on one of our laps.


Here are the traditional lyrics: 


Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.  


And here are some additional silly ones: 


Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
And if you see a crocodile,
Don't forget to scream. 


Row, row, row your boat,
Down the Arctic river.
If you see a polar bear,
Don't forget to shiver.


Row, row, row your boat,
Gently to the shore.
If you see a lion there,
Don't forget to roar!



Newsletter Committee

Mary Beth McCulloch - Executive Editor
Jamie Wincovitch - Editor and Production Manager
Corrie Anderson - Photographer
Wendy Colbert - Editorial Staff
Jennifer Sneddon - Editorial Staff