September 2015
IN THIS ISSUE...
University Child 
Development Center

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

Director's Corner

Over the past few months I've been doing quite a bit of interviewing potential teachers and touring new parents.  I try to share as much information about the program as possible so that potential new families or teachers get a good overview and picture of what we do here at UCDC.  Everyone that I talk to typically has questions and at least a few things that are very important to them in terms of the center, the programming, the staff, etc.  Depending on your own individual needs, the priorities or "important" things can vary greatly.
Lately I've found myself talking a lot about our curriculum and how and what we teach the children that spend their days with us. 

Two points that I typically make are; we are a play based program and  use an emergent curriculum framework to guide the activities and educational resources that we provide for the children.
The second is that most of what we do is child-directed, as opposed to teacher-directed.  

Sometimes I think that this gets misinterpreted and that people think that means that children can do whatever they want, whenever they want.  
In a child-directed program, children select and initiate their own activities from  a variety of learning areas prepared by the teacher.  The teacher allows each child to choose which activity he or she wants to participate in and when.  Children are involved in concrete, meaningful activities.  Learning materials closely relate to children's daily life experiences and reflect things that they are interested in or curious about.  Teachers ask questions that encourage children to give more than one correct answer.  The sound of the environment is marked by pleasant conversation, spontaneous laughter, and exclamations of excitement.    Teachers use redirection, positive reinforcement, and encouragement as guidance and discipline techniques.

In a teacher-directed program, large-group, teacher-directed instruction is the primary form of instruction.  Separate times are set aside to learn material in specific content areas. The teacher tells the children what they will do and when.  Children use workbooks, ditto sheets, flashcards or other two-dimensional learning materials.  Memorization and drill are emphasized.  Teachers follow a strict schedule and use very detailed and specific lesson plans.  The sound of the environment is characterized by alternating excitement and noise or enforced quiet. 

Teacher directed and child directed advocates agree on many educational goals such as promoting self-esteem, encouraging emerging literacy, using materials and activities which are of interest to children, and encouraging parent involvement.   They differ however on practices such as the use of highly structured and teacher directed lessons, the demand for children to sit down, attend, listen and participate during lesson time.  All children are typically all making the same thing, with very specific instructions from the teacher, and the products that are produced are often all the same.   

Balancing the two methods to some degree can create an ideal environment.  Children can enjoy experiences that they are interested in and identify with, and teachers use the teachable moment to enhance the experience.  There does not need to be chaos, children function within a set of limits and a schedule, but teachers are flexible enough to know that not all children will want to do the same thing, in the same moment and for the same amount of time.  Allowing children to have some control over certain parts of the day, gives them the tools to be able to make good decisions at other times of the day.  It also allows to be spontaneous and social, learn communication skills and how to be a part of a group.  All of these skills will be necessary when children move on.  

Concepts and skills are important, learning about letters, and reading and math are important, but if presented in a very child-directed, open ended way, children can benefit from more than just academics. 

Curriculum in the Classroom
Toddler Three's Butterfly Story
 
"The time had come to say goodbye..."
The children in T3 passed around a small plastic cup containing five fuzzy caterpillars. They were careful and gentle, not wanting to disturb their new friends. Each day, the children examined the cup for signs of change, using words, like "chrysalis," as they anticipated what was to come. 

"...but a few butterflies just didn't want to leave."
Eventually, the caterpillars were hanging snugly in their cocoons. Toddlers gathered around the butterfly house as the creatures were transferred into their new home. After eating a few oranges themselves, the children set aside a big orange slice for the butterflies to eat. And then they waited, as patient as toddlers can wait, for butterflies to emerge. To pass the time, they sang silly songs and read many books about the life cycle of a butterfly. On walks, they kept their eyes peeled. Upon finding a caterpillar on the sidewalk, they formed a curious circle around it, singing their "Little Egg" song and making connections and observations, like "Was egg. Be butterfly next." 

"One insisted on staying on the orange slice"
One day, when the children peeked in to check on their friends, they were delighted to find that they had left their cocoons and spread their wings! "Eating orange with big tongue," "Came out of chrysalis," and "Wings are black and orange," are just a few of the observations the toddlers made. The time had come to say goodbye, but a few butterflies just didn't want to leave. One insisted on staying on the orange slice, while another fluttered around the children, landing on hands and shoes. The butterflies eventually flew off to explore the world, but, through photos, stories, and outdoor adventures, they still remain a part of the toddlers' days. 
School Choice: Open Houses 
 
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This is the time of year when private schools are opening their doors to prospective families. There are a lot of choices available when picking a school for your child(ren). Remember, there is no "best school" for your child, it's more like a "best fit." 

If your child is three years of age or older, this is the perfect time to start looking at prospective schools. There are many private school choices in the area to consider. UCDC will send out a comprehensive list in the near future of scheduled open houses, but this is a good time to start talking about the various options with your family and adding your child to the waiting lists of schools that your family is considering. 

Spotlight on Staff: Summer Fun!

Read on to hear how some of the teachers and staff at UCDC spent their summer...

  • "My favorite summer memory was when we got our puppy, Maya, and brought her home to stay.  Jayden and Anjali were so excited and in love with her." - Heidi Kalsani, Infant One
  • "Something I remember from this summer is turning the big 3-0.  I came into UCDC and Corrie made me a Jalapeņo Hanna birthday poster that was hanging up for me to see as I walked into the classroom.  Preschool 3 made me a delicious birthday cake.  To top off my day, my husband and kiddos surprised me by picking me up from work instead of having to take the bus home, and they made me my favorite dinner!" - Jen DeJulio, Preschool Three
  • "My favorite days this summer were the ones where my girls slept in, slowly got moving, spent some time at the pool, and had dinner on the grill. Those are the lazy days of summer that I remember from my childhood and I'm glad they were able to experience this as well." - Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator
  • "A relaxing summer memory I have is enjoying the ferry ride from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, New Jersey.  It takes about 90  minutes.  We had rain in Cape May but on the ferry ride back to Lewes the sun came out and it was beautiful!!" - Cathy Baier, Preschool Three
Monthly Family Gathering
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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 were interested in hearing the success of this monthly meeting. Please email me,  Jamie Wincovitch, at jmw170@pitt.edu to let me know if you've ever attended any of these events and how you feel your children enjoyed it. We would love to continue planning these events, but only if there is an interest with families. Thank you in advance for your feedback!

 

 

News to Know
 
  • It is clear that UCDC supports breastfeeding mothers by offering private spaces in the building, supporting on-demand feeding schedules for infants, and welcoming parents to nurse their children anywhere in our building. Fortunately, the larger University also supports breastfeeding by providing Lactation Rooms on campus. Click here for a list of spaces around campus.
  • Introduction to Early Childhood Education Observation students in the preschool and toddler classrooms will begin on September 21st.
  • Experimental Child Psychology student observations in the preschool classrooms will begin on Monday September 28th.

 

UCDC Philosophy Explained: PDD
By Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator
 
Parent Question: I heard the teachers had fun at the most recent Professional Development Day. What did you do?

We had the Kona Ice Truck come as a treat for our teachers to top off their picnic lunch on the playground. Delicious!
Answer: We had a ton of fun this past Professional Development Day (PDD)! There was a lot of laughter, learning, and collaboration. But all fun aside, we take these days seriously as administration since it's one of the only few times that we can all be together. In the field of Early Childhood Education, teachers have a lot of requirements including maintaining 24 hours of professional development annually. We help teachers to meet this requirement by offering certified hours on these days, but they are still required to obtain six to nine hours on their own each year. Teachers are also required several annual trainings that are held during each of the Professional Development Days at UCDC.

Our lunch buffet on the playground.
In order to make the days packed with all of these requirements, but still valuable and engaging to teachers, we like to add good food, team building, and fun! This past PDD, the classroom teachers spent time working with their teams on assessment, curriculum planning and environments. We also hosted a speaker who worked with the entire staff on working with diverse families. Team building was emphasized during our picnic lunch on the playground where teachers literally played together (and won prizes for their efforts!).

As early childhood professionals, requirements are many in order to keep the teachers updated with the latest research and trends in early education. We do take this seriously, but we make sure to add fun in the mix in order to help create a strong and cohesive UCDC team!
 
Did You Know?

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Did you know that the pizza served at UCDC is made with a whole wheat crust? Pizza day is very popular with the children and we found a way to make a favorite food just a little bit healthier. And it's delicious!