March 2015
University Child 
Development Center

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

Director's Corner



As a parent, it's hard to be certain if what you are doing with your child or what you are teaching your child is really having an effect.  You parent based on different things at different times in your life and in your child's life.  As a parent, I often  wondered (and still do) if the decisions that I was making, the rules that I was enforcing and the support that I was providing was enough. I sometimes felt as though it was all a guessing game and that I could and would make mistakes.  This is all a part of the learning curve I suppose.  You hope and you wonder if your child will become all that you know they can be given your guidance and fair share of motherly or fatherly advice. I recall how I would often have a quick debate in my head about the approach I would use.  Should I tell her what to do, should I just listen, should I share my thoughts, should I stay quiet?   You dream big for them and at some point let them spread their wings and fly off to kindergarten, elementary school, high school, college and new jobs and families.  At this moment, you are always wondering if they will be ok, if they will make friends, if they actually do know right from wrong and whether or not they will make good choices and decisions. Phew, that is quite a lot.


Recently my daughter, in her second semester at Slippery Rock University, sent me an email with the following message: "a paper for interpreting literature that I thought you might enjoy. I love you so much."  Attached to the message was a one-page reflection that she had written for her literature class about the book- Two Kinds by Amy Tan.  To say that I was shocked by the paper is an understatement.  The paper, as it turns out, was more of a reflection on our relationship than it was about the book or the mother and daughter in the book.  I was surprised at Meghan's candor and honesty in regards to her thoughts on the type of parent that I was during her years growing up.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find that maybe I didn't do that bad of a job. 


Throughout the paper, she used words like support, love, inspirational, role model, and encouragement. She listed things that she admired about me and acknowledged the struggles that all parents and children go through. She also reflected on how those struggles made her learn to never give up and to always give her best to every situation.  She acknowledged that she felt like I was always there for her, through the good and bad, through her successes and failures and that I loved her the same through each one.  That put a smile on my face.  And perhaps tears in my eyes. 


When your child or children are younger, it seems as though adulthood is a long way off.  And then suddenly, there it is.  When that day comes, seeing that you did in fact make a difference and have an effect is very rewarding.  I'll never stop parenting, but knowing that I gave my daughter a good foundation and that she actually listened is very reassuring.



Mary Beth

Toddler Two Fishes for Knowledge


graphic-fish-header.jpg Toddler Two has had an active fish tank in the classroom for three years now.  It was initially set up with help from a parent utilizing an unused tank from another classroom. It is maintained by Wendy with help from children in our class. Our fish tank creates a home-school  connection for those children whose families maintain fish tanks at home.  We have a child that looks forward to helping feed the fish when he arrives at school, while at home he also helps care for the family fish.

Children learn science from observing our fish eat and swim. They stand at the tank and watch the fish eat, which opens a discussion about nutrition. Often we hear comments about how the fish open their mouth when they swim and the teachers explain how fish breathe water and humans breathe air. Sometimes the children ask if they can hold the fish and this comment leads to a discussion about a fish's habitat and basic needs. All of these questions lead to science based discussions on different animals and habitats. We also often discuss how fish are different than people (e.g. how food for fish differs from the food we eat at lunch).


Due to the high interest of fish from the children, we have introduced books about fish to our classroom. Some of the books are fiction stories, while others are non-fiction which covers tropical fish and care of aquariums. The children love to look at the pictures of fish and fish tanks. Many of the children look into our tank to find and count the fish, which led us to introduce the book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss. This book was an instant favorite that has been read repeatedly.


We love being the fishy classroom.



Spotlight on Staff


If you could live anywhere, where would it be?


  • "This is a tough one- I love that I live close to my family, but I think I would love to live in the country, in a log cabin.  Still in Pennsylvania so that I was kind of close to them."  - Mary Beth McCulloch, Director
  • "I love so many things about raising a family in the city of Pittsburgh; it would be very hard to leave. But I would love to have the ocean as my backyard." - Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator
  • "I honestly would stay right where I am.  I grew up with family all around me and it was such a wonderful and loving environment.  Now my son has that same experience.  I love that he gets to grow up and know and feel that constant love of his immediate and extended family.  Since we have taken the fence and hedges down between our house and my parents we have a lot of impromptu summer picnics with the entire family in the backyard. I would not change that for anything!" - Ammie Ribarchak, Preschool One Head Teacher
  • "If I could live anywhere, I'd rather have little homes all over than have one nice home in one place.  I'd love an apartment in Paris and a cottage in Vermont, a boat house in the Delta and a cabin in Northern PA, preferably adjacent to a winery and Lake Erie!" - Shelley Martin, Infant Three Head Teacher
  • "If I could live anywhere in the world I would choose Capri, Italy! It is a gorgeous city near the water with fabulous food. Driving is a little dangerous so I would need to hire a driver, ha, ha!" - Michelle Mattys, Preschool Four Assistant Teacher
  • "I would love to live by the ocean.....Anna Maria Island in Florida or Carmel, California" - Cathy Baier, Preschool Three Head Teacher


Monthly Family Gathering
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 inviting families to meet at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Oakland. This museum is a popular one among our fellow dinosaur lovers, but also has a lot of other exhibits to offer for young children. If your family is interested in meeting up with other families from UCDC, plan to be at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History on Saturday, March 14th at 11:00 am. Families can meet in the Discovery Basecamp, a great place for hands-on learning!
News to Know
  •  UCDC will be closed on Thursday, March 12th for a Professional Development Day for staff as well as Friday, March 13th for Pitt's Spring Holiday. Enjoy the long weekend with your family!
  • UCDC will be starting the Annual Plant Sale fundraiser soon as we impatiently await the arrival of spring! The plant sale forms will be in your child's mailbox next week, so keep an eye out for them. Invite your family, friends, and neighbors to purchase plants this year. Think Spring!
  • Construction is scheduled to begin on the staff lounge/training room on Sunday, March 15th. The construction workers will work from 6:00 pm until 4:00 am every day. Throughout the duration of the construction project, a dumpster will be placed in our parking lot, taking up one parking spot along the curb closest to the building. 
UCDC Philosophy Explained: 
Praising Young Children

By Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator


Parent Question: I have been hearing a lot about creating "praise junkies" in the media and was wondering how UCDC handles this idea of praising children appropriately.


Answer: This topic is one that we address at least a thousand times a day in a typical day (cumulatively) here at UCDC as each teacher thinks through his/her response to each child as they proceed through their daily activities. What we know is that praise is effective (in the short term) to mold a child's behavior (for that moment) and so it is tempting to use this tactic to gain compliance. What we also know is that praise can be manipulating (for the child being praised and all of the listeners) and can also be detrimental to that child's development of self-worth, intrinsic motivation, and empathy.


Unspecific praise from adults robs a child from feeling their own pride in their accomplishments and forces them to seek adult approval for their actions. This creates more reliance on the adult for approval as opposed to doing an activity for the pure joy of the activity. It can also make them more dependent on the opinion of others.


Telling a child that they are smart may also teach them that their intelligence is fixed - that it is something that can't be changed in life. If a child is praised for their effort, they start to see this as something that can change over time with practice and effort.


So how do teachers at UCDC respond to children?

  • By providing genuine love and attention for who the children are as opposed to what they've done.
  • By problem solving with the older children on behavioral issues as opposed to manipulating them with praise.
  • By noticing what was seen in an evaluation-free statement ("You put your coat on by yourself!").
  • By showing interest in a child's work without evaluating it ("You used so many colors on that painting today!")
  • By pointing out the child's effect on others ("Look at Jarrett's face. He seems happy that you helped him fix his block tower." Notice that there is no emphasis on how the teacher feels about this sharing-).
  • By asking questions about a child's work ("How did you get the idea for this drawing?").

Before responding to a child, the teachers consider the motive for their responses in order to assure that they are pure, non-manipulating, and that they assist in the contribution to a child's self-esteem. Our goal is to help children find intrinsic motivation as opposed to seeking adult approval for their actions.



In Praise of Better Praise by Maria Konnikova

Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!by Alfie Kohn 


Did You Know?


Did you know that parents are invited to participate in their child's classroom in various ways? This could be coming to read a book, sharing a talent, or simply coming to play. 

Preschool Wisdoms

This month, we asked the children of Preschool Two the question:


What makes your family special?

  • I like to play play dough with my mommy. 
  • Because we're all together.
  • I like to watch shows with my mommy and daddy.
  • When my mom and me draw pictures together.
  • They kiss me every night.
  • Playing trains with them.
  • Love.
  • Helping mommy cook.
  • I like playing with my bat cave with my sister.
  • I like to clean up with my family.
  • I love my family.
  • I play Uno with my parents and brother.
  • Because I kiss them.
  • I like to go bowling with my mom, dad, and sister.
  • I like to bake cakes when its my families birthdays at my house.
  • I like to watch movies with my family.
  • I play with them. We play Skylanders.
  • That they love me.