February 2015
University Child 
Development Center

635 Clyde Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
(P) 412.383.2100
(F) 412.383.2120

Director's Corner


We cannot be happy if we expect to live all the time at the highest peak of intensity. Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony. 


~Thomas Merton, 1955


In the past few months and on more than one occasion, visiting parents, faculty and students have made comments on how happy the children are in the building.  A few were surprised to see that so many children were laughing and smiling, being silly and having what seemed to be a lot of fun.  A few commented on how they did not hear many children or babies crying (although babies crying is not unusual and does happen, it was nice to hear this observation).


As I sit in my office and listen to the children in the gym, the sounds of joy and happiness resonate through the building.  I'm often a little surprised myself at the joyous laughter that confirms my relief at knowing that children are thriving, happy and connected to their world at UCDC. 


I know that in my professional child development mind, the reasons for that are: a warm yet stimulating environment, a variety of materials to choose from, teachers who truly connect with and care about the children and their feelings and needs, familiar faces throughout the day, approaches that reflect best practices in early childhood education, a play-based approach to learning, consideration of children's interests and ideas and space and time to do the things that 

mean the most to them. 


I know that in my personal mind, I believe the reasons for the laughter and joy are not so much about best practices but more about a genuine depth of care and consideration for children and families. I also know that this is directly related to the quality care, from all of the staff at UCDC. I have been in many Centers and schools over the past 20-25 years and know that while there are many different ways to approach early care and education,  joy and happiness can come from the most basic and consistent approaches. New trends come and go, and yet the highest quality centers often remain true to their personal philosophy and approach which may have been developed many years ago. Often when I tour new families, I tell them that we are not a "bells and whistles" or "shiny blinking lights" kind of center.  Focusing on the needs of the children and what makes them happy and successful and connected is much more important and valuable than the latest device and expensive toy could ever be.  Having a human presence among the smallest children speaks much louder than any new piece of technology or approach ever could.   

For me, eliciting a smile from a baby going by in a buggy, hearing loud and fulfilling laughter, or getting that unexpected hug from a smiling and happy child in the hall truly says it all. 


What are you seeing and hearing when you arrive at UCDC?  How do you measure joy and happiness in your life and in your child's life?  What makes you and your child truly laugh?  Think about it and then spread the laughter and the joy!



Mary Beth

Curriculum in the Classroom
Preschool Three

A jazz band has been formed in Preschool 3! A musical fury swept the classroom after we read two books about instruments and sounds.  Squeak, RUMBLE, WHOMP! WHOMP! WHOMP! by Wynton Marsalis and illustrated by Paul Rogers inspired exploration of sounds and introduced a variety of instruments with colorful illustrations. The Jazz Fly, both written and performed by Matthew Gollub and illustrated by Karen Hanke, proved to most influential in shaping our band. The story includes a musical audio recording which the preschoolers became immediately fascinated with. The Jazz Fly tells the story of a drumming fly, as he makes his way to the jazz club for a show. The book features piano, upright bass, drums, and a saxophone. Accordingly, the children started acting as if they were playing the instruments along to the story; they would even pick up our classroom's paper guitars and strum along to The Jazz FlyBecause they enjoyed playing along with the guitars, we created paper cut outs of some of the instruments from the books. The children were excited as the paper instruments were presented: a saxophone, trumpet, tuba, violin, upright bass, piano, bass drum and a trombone. Through their pretend play, the preschoolers learned about the instruments, including their names, what sound they make and how they are played. Some of the children began listening for the sounds of their instruments in the song and would call them their "parts." Additionally, the interest in music created a sense of community. Not wanting to play his or her instrument alone, the students would request a friend (and sometimes a parent or teacher!) to join and choose an instrument.


School Choice:
Kentucky Avenue School


Navigating the number of school choices that are available in the Pittsburgh area for your child can be a daunting task. There are so many private, magnet, and charter school choices out there. In our newsletter, we plan to highlight one school a month in order to help inform families. UCDC does not endorse the schools that are highlighted in this section - we are only offering the vast choices that are available. A great resource for finding options is the website - Great Schools 


Kentucky Avenue School (KAS) is a small independent school serving a diverse population of students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Located in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood, KAS offers small classes, a child-friendly environment, experienced teachers, and a challenging curriculum conveyed through both traditional and innovative methods. KAS sponsors extended-day/after-school programs, ranging from free play and homework time to topic-specific activities such as art, filmmaking, and creative writing. The school day begins at 8:15 am and concludes at 3:00 pm. Extended day is offered until 5:30 pm. To schedule a tour, please email admissions@kentuckyavenueschool.org or call 412.228.7127. Visit our website at www.kentuckyavenueschool.org.


Spotlight on Staff


What is your favorite way to spend a winter weekend?

  • In bed under 10 blankets with coffee and a book, leaving only to get take-out food (unless the sun's out!) - Sam Mudrinich, Office Assistant
  • I love spending a cold winter weekend in our home! Playing in the snow, snuggling up on the couch to watch a movie, enjoying hot chocolate with marshmallows, baking cookies, playing board games, and building blanket forts are a few of our family's favorite winter activities. - Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator
  • I love to visit Games N'At on Josephine Street in the South Side. They have tons of old video games--Dig Dug, Asteroids, and pinball are some of my favorites--as well as air hockey, skee ball, and Duckpin Bowling. Most games are included in the hourly price; you pay by the hour and play as many games as you can. It's so much fun! - Shelley Martin, Infant Three Head Teacher
  • My favorite way to spend a winter weekend is curled up with my family building Lego fortresses, magnet block towers or having a movie night with hot chocolate and popcorn! - Ammie Ribarchak, Preschool One Head Teacher
  • Baking and decorating sugar cookies for my business! - Lindsay Hollinger, Toddler One Head Teacher
  • My favorite thing to do on a winter/snowy weekend is to sit and watch movies all day with my puppy Kovy and drink hot chocolate. - Justin Siegel, Preschool One Assistant Teacher
  • Drinking hot chocolate and watching the snow fall from inside my warm house or spending the afternoon cooking something cozy, like a big pot of soup. - Katie Anglin, Infant Four Head Teacher
  •  Preferably at the spa at Oglebay, but otherwise going to see nominated movies. -Cathy Baier, Preschool Three Head Teacher
  •  Time with my hubby by the fireplace with a blanket and glass of wine! - Marlene Schenck, Business Manager
  • I would like to invite my friends to come to my house to eat hot pot. We fill different flavored broths in each section of a hot pot and make different flavored dipping sauces, like soy sauce, tahini sauce, garlic, chive flower paste, and pickled tofu. - Jing Hu, Afternoon Substitute Teacher
Monthly Family Gathering
Carnegie Science Center
Each month, UCDC picks a family friendly location for families to meet and spend time together. UCDC teachers or staff may or may not attend, but this is a time for families to get to know each other and explore the city. UCDC will not host the event, but will just suggest a date, time, and location for families to spend time together.

This month, we are featuring the Carnegie Science Center. This location is perfect for toddlers to tweens. They even have a specific floor for the preschool-aged child. We are suggesting that families meet in the Exploration Station Jr at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 21st if they are interested in enjoying a large play date with other UCDC children. 



News to Know
  •  Through these winter months, we just wanted to remind everyone that UCDC never closes independently of the University.  Unless you receive a message that the whole University is closed, we are still open.
  • When children are sick, they must be symptom free, fever free, and/or on antibiotics for 24 hours before returning to school.  They should also be able to participate in classroom activities at the level that they typically do when they are well.
  • We are closed March 12th and 13th, for Professional Development Day and spring break. Enjoy this long weekend with your family.
  • It is imperative that you use your ID card to enter the building each day.  If you need a new card, please make plans to get the card so that you have access to the Center when you arrive and pick up.
UCDC Philosophy Explained - Saying Goodbye
By Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator


Parent Question: My child has a really hard time separating from me in the morning. How do you help children who have separation anxiety?


Children thrive on routine and they "tell time" based on actual events as opposed to hands on a clock. A child knows that it's time to eat dinner because of the clues that they observed before the event, not because it is 6:00 pm. They know that shortly after you have the table set and you ask them to wash their hands, you will invite them to the family dinner table to eat. This principle can be easily translated to separating from a parent in the morning at UCDC. Children do best when they know what is going to happen next. So if you create a predictable routine for your child in the morning, they are going to be more successful with separating from you since they know what to expect. For example, a routine for one family might be arriving at school, hanging up the child's coat, washing hands, and then settling in for one book with their parent before giving the parent "handprints" at the door. This child knows what is going to happen next based on past experience. If a parent reads a book one day while scooting out the door in a hurry the next day, this creates an unpredictable routine for the child and will sometimes make separations more difficult. So, it's important to create a routine that you are able to keep every day (which means making sure you get your child to school in enough time to complete the full routine and allowing you enough time to get to work).


Saying goodbye is also a very important part of a successful routine. Sometimes, parents may be tempted to try and "slip out" of the classroom unnoticed in order to avoid having to see their child get upset. This practice only creates more anxiety in a child because they become unsure of when a parent will "disappear." They may become clingier in fear of the parent leaving unexpectedly. So even if your child has a hard time saying goodbye, it's always better to allow them to see you leave the classroom and experience the separation as opposed to noticing later, which creates a feeling of anxiety and distrust.


After you leave your child, our observation booths are always open and they are so helpful in allowing the parent to calm their feelings when leaving a child that is visibly upset. Very often, a child will stop crying within minutes of their parent leaving and the ability for a parent to observe this is day changing. We would rather you leave your child with the peace of mind that they are happy and ready for a great day as opposed to leaving with the vision of your child crying. Also, if you're unable to spend time in the observation booth, we invite parents to call throughout the day to check on their child if interested.


Following these steps will assist your child in successful goodbyes. This process may take some time since it will take the child time to learn the routine, but once implemented, it relieves anxiety on the part of the child and family. Although - children are changing constantly and going through many developmental changes, they may still experience difficult goodbyes. This could be influenced by a developmental change, a rough night of sleep, or changes in the child's routine elsewhere. But for the most part, a predictable morning routine helps a child to have a smooth start to their day in childcare.


Did You Know?


Did you know that our teachers are required to have at least 24 hours of professional development focusing on current trends in early childhood education annually? Teachers are constantly keeping their knowledge base up-to-date with trainings in a variety of areas of focus including families, assessment, curriculum, and special needs (just to name a few). 


Preschool Wisdoms


This month, we feature the children of Preschool One who are presented with the question...


What is your favorite book?


The best critics of children's literature are children themselves, so stock up your library with some of Preschool One's favorites below!


  • My favorite book to read is My Truck is Stuck (by Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk).
  • I like to read at home with my Mommy and Daddy at nighttime in my bed because I love them. My big Frozen book (Disney).
  • I like to read at home with my Daddy and Mommy. The Hat (by Jan Brett).
  • Racing Cars at home
  • My Cookie
  • I like to read the construction worker book.
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar (by Eric Carle)
  • Frozen and the Everything is Awesome book (The Lego movie book)
  • Chicken book
  • Sleepy books
  • "Stand Back," said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" (by Patricia Thomas and Wallace Tripp)
  • Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock (by Eric A. Kimmel)