History of the Early Learning Center
The Early Learning Center was established in the mid-1950s for children aged 3 to 5 years old as the Shepherd College Nursery School. It has an annual enrollment of 32 children in two 2.5 hour sessions. The Early Learning Center is housed in a large room in Stutzman-Slonaker Hall, a Shepherd building with classrooms and faculty offices.
The model classroom has an adjacent observation room large enough to accommodate 25 adult observers and an outdoor play area. In addition to serving community needs, the center is an integral element of the teacher education specializations of Family and Consumer Science and Early Education. All students working for licensure in either of these areas must complete a supervised experience in the Early Learning Center. These and other students who enroll in the course, Child Development, must assist in the Early Learning Center. (Outside of education, the social work program requires this course.) Students, staff, faculty, and administrators throughout the university volunteer in the center.
Purpose and Curriculum of the Early Learning Center
- To provide an inclusive, culturally diverse laboratory in which Shepherd University students observe, participate, and study under the supervision of professionally educated and experienced personnel.
- To provide learning experiences that promote physical, social, motor, and emotional development.
- To promote a greater understanding of child development and early education.
The curriculum is patterned after the High/Scope “child initiated” curriculum, developed over 30 years of research. It is based on the Perry Project and ideas of Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget. His premise was that children learn best from activities they plan and carry out themselves. The High/Scope curriculum emphasizes that children learn through play and by making decisions and solving problems on their own. The adult’s role is to provide a stimulating environment and guide the children’s play into challenging and meaningful activities.
The curriculum is built around a “plan-do-review” core. Children begin the half-day sessions by planning activities with their teachers. After planning time, they move to different centers to carry out their plans. After clean-up time, children see they can make things happen. They are expected to grow in confidence and self-esteem.
Activities in the early learning center
The class meets daily Monday through Friday. The class time is 8:45 to 11:15 for the morning session. Afternoon classes are from 12:30 to 3. Here is the general pattern for each session.
- Arrival – Greeting Circle
- Small Group Time
- Planning Time
- Do Time
- Recall Time
- Outside Time
The classroom space is divided into centers organized around specific types of play: Block and Truck, Housekeeping, Music and Science, Art, Computer, and Library.
The two teachers, as well as the Shepherd University students who are studying child development, plan and carry out developmentally appropriate activities. Nursing students, physical education students and music students occasionally present special activities for the children.
Occasionally the children have a snack at the dining hall or Ram’s Den in the Student Center. The children at the Early Learning Center have also visited the Butcher Center for an active clinic with the Shepherd Rams Basketball teams, been bowling at the Student Center, and participated in the Homecoming Parade.
Every other week children go to the Shepherdstown Public Library for story hour. They are allowed to check out one book of their choice. They visit a pumpkin patch in the fall and theater production in the spring semester, as well as other Shepherd University campus activities.
Costs and Registration Information
The cost for the 2016-2017 school year is $640 per year (eight, $80 monthly payments). Current students, faculty and staff at Shepherd pay a reduced rate of $480 per year per child. Tuition assistance is also available to those who qualify based on financial need.
This program is for three and four-year-old children (age as of September 1). There are approximately 16 students in each class. Children are admitted to the Early Learning Center in the order of date of application with some of the spaces being allotted to children of faculty, staff, and students and some spaces being allotted to children of the community. Wait lists are compiled as applications are received.