We thoroughly enjoyed our two-week experience with the students from Duksung Women's University that occurred during the latter part of January. Part of the Duksung University Practicum experience includes planned events that we feel would be of particular interest to the students that are here with us in order to allow them to fully experience the culture and philosophy of early childhood education.
Three UCDC teachers, Ji Yun, Ye Seul and I attended an evening dinner and discussion with Dr. Junlei Li from St. Vincent's College and the Fred Rogers Center as one of the planned activities. I've been fortunate to hear Dr. Li speak more than once and we have had him here at UCDC to present to all of our staff. Dr. Li is a huge supporter of early childhood education, minimal screen time and the fact that healthy supportive relationships are the most important thing for a child to experience while in any type of group setting or school.
One of the most interesting aspects of his discussion was the attention that he drew to an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood that aired sometime in the late 1960s which was about Daniel Tiger and his fear of going to school. After we watched the short video clip of the episode; we discussed the fact that even though it is well over 40 years later and many things have changed, children have not changed. We talked about the fact that the same fears that Daniel the Tiger had then are the fears that children have today about going to school for the first time. Dr. Li also pointed out that children need the same supportive interactions from adults to help them overcome those fears.
Another part of his presentation included video clips from four different childcare centers. Two of them were childcare centers in China, one in a very rural area and one in a more affluent area of China. He then showed us another from a Pittsburgh Public School kindergarten and finally one from one of our preschool classrooms here at UCDC. The discussion about these clips focused on the importance of high quality interactions and relationships, which proved to be much more important than the setting or environment. Included in his discussion were four very important points to consider when thinking about high quality interactions. Those points included:
- Serve n return (reciprocal interactions)
Additionally, he cited a beautiful quote from Fred Rogers:
"Deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex."
When you think about this in terms of young children, it is a very profound statement. You can read more about Dr. Li's work and the Fred Rogers Center
I strongly believe that much of what both Dr. Li and Fred Rogers believe in exists here at UCDC. Especially when you consider the way in which the teachers and staff develop relationships with children and support their unique needs. The genuine care and guidance that teachers provide allows children to feel safe in their environment. Naturally following this feeling of safety and security in children is the ability to play, work and learn in a very natural and simplistic way. Please take a moment to visit the Fred Rogers site to learn more about the Center, Fred Rogers's legacy and Dr. Li's work.
Curriculum in the Classroom
Sensory Exploration in Infant 3
In Infant 3, our children enjoy learning about the world around them through sensory play. The sensory table is a great way for older infants to explore texture, smell, sight and sounds of materials. For younger infants, one-on-one activities such as lap reading, as well as materials geared toward touch, sight, sound and taste are great ways to encourage children to learn about their world.
Teachers in the classroom will often look to see what developmental stage a child is currently in and then match their goals with activities that will help meet their needs. A 3-month-old may be learning to bring their hands to their mouth for exploration, for example. A teacher will look at that developing skill and use different textured toys, cold teethers or wet cloths to help that child explore all the different properties of the items in their world, all the while naming the properties for the child so they begin to learn the language (ex. "That teether is cold!" "This toy is so smooth."). A 7-month-old who is just learning to sit unsupported may enjoy reading touch and feel books with a teacher who helps her reach out to feel the different textured pages while using language to describe what she sees. Meanwhile, across the classroom, another teacher sits at the sensory table with a group of 12-15 month-olds who are exploring water in the sensory table-splashing with friends while dumping and filling containers.
While there are many different areas of development, learning through sensory exploration is a common thread for infants who often need to touch or mouth items as part of learning. Here are a list of things you can do with your child to encourage sensory stimulation...
- While using silky scarves, gently touch your baby's skin. Let them feel the fabric and the way it is smooth and gentle on the skin.
- Hold your baby at face level with your own. Roll your tongue, make faces, smile brightly as you talk to them in a sweet voice (but not "baby talk"). Sight and the sound of your voice are a wonderful combination for your baby who is learning to adore your very essence!
- Lap reading using soft, cloth books or books with different textures is a great way to encourage language while providing a sensory experience. They will likely want to chew whatever items you select. This is normal development and, as we say in Infant 3, at this age toys are often only fun if they taste good!
- Use meal time as a sensory experience. As your child begins to try new pureed foods, allow them to have a scoop on their tray to touch, rub, smell and taste on their own.
- Playing in water is a great sensory experience. Allow them some extra time in the bath to splash and provide empty containers for them to fill and pour.
- Make "goop!" It's nice and messy but so easy to clean afterwards. Add ½ box of cornstarch to a big bowl. Slowly add in water and mix with your hands (not a spoon) until the consistency is liquid but it will also have a "plastic" effect, running slowly through your fingers and separating from itself. You can put it in a pie plate for your child to use or, better yet, make a big batch and put it in a plastic tub for them to step on. You can actually walk on it if you do it fast enough! When it dries, it dries to a powder and is easy to clean. Be cautious when using "goop" with babies because they naturally want to put everything in their mouths. "Goop" can be a choking hazard to young children, but with proper supervision can provide an awesome sensory learning experience for your child.
Good Eats: Chicken Salad
Chicken Salad (adapted from The Pioneer Woman)
The Head Teacher in Infant 1, Heidi Kalsani, shared this family favorite. It's great to involve young children in the kitchen. They can help in this recipe with combining ingredients and whisking - enjoy the family time!
2-3 chicken breasts, boiled, then shredded or cubed/or 1 tofu (halve the rest of the ingredients when using tofu)
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
3 whole green onions, chopped
2 cups grapes, halved
3-4 tbsp mayonnaise
2-3 tbsp Greek yogurt (or sour cream, regular unflavored yogurt)
1/4 cup dill, minced fresh (I used dried about 2 tsp.)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1-2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
- Boil chicken breasts for about 10 minutes or when cooked through. Let cool, shred into large shreds with a fork, and then chop into bite-sized pieces.
- Chop celery, green onions, grapes, and apple, and combine in a bowl with the chicken and almonds.
- Whisk together mayo, Greek yogurt, brown sugar, lemon juice, salt, pepper and dill. I like to add quite a bit of salt and pepper because the chicken can be bland otherwise - probably about 1/2 tsp pepper and almost 1 tsp salt, but definitely taste as you go.
- Pour over the chicken mixture and toss until coated.
- Let chill overnight or for a few hours.
- Put on your favorite bread or wrap.
Spotlight on Staff
What do UCDC staff like to munch on?
- Nachos. I always have salsa, cheese, and chips at my house. If I don't, I'm broke! - Emily Marsh, Preschool Two
- Hershey's kisses - Maureen Sahr, Toddler Two
- Wine, chocolate and popcorn - Marlene Schenck, Business Manager
- Potato chips, microwave popcorn, Swedish fish, chocolate covered pretzels, Rolo's, oh wait did you say just one? - Ammie Ribarchak, Preschool One
- My favorite snack is granny smith apples with brie cheese. -Michelle Mattys, Preschool Four
Salsa with chopped fresh cucumber and avocado added to it, with lime tortilla chips. My family calls it "Sandy G. Salsa" (our friend Sandy shared the recipe with us). Delicious!! - Mary Beth McCulloch, Director
Welcome to UCDC!
We would like to welcome our newest member of the UCDC family, Laurie Spengler. Laurie joined us in January and will be one of our substitute teachers in the building that works in the afternoons. We are excited to welcome her to UCDC! Please introduce yourselves when you see her since she will be in every classroom at some point. Here's a little more about our newest teacher:
My name is Laurie Spengler. A long time ago, I earned my Master's degree in Child Development here at Pitt and even worked as a student in this center. I am excited to be here and feel like I've come back home! In the years since, I've married my college sweetheart and we are raising our four children and goddaughter ranging in age from 15-22. For the past 20 years, I ran my own family child care in my home and loved every minute of it. My other hobbies include reading, gardening, camping and being outdoors as much as I can. I also have a dog named Jojo and five chickens! I can't wait to meet all of you and your children. Oh, and did I mention my daughter's name is Sweet Caroline? Let's Go Pitt!
- UCDC will be closed on Thursday, March 9th for Professional Development Day for our staff and Friday, March 10th for Pitt's Spring Holiday. Enjoy the extra long weekend with your family!
- Vision screening will take place at UCDC on February 15th and 16th. Screenings will be available with signed permission slips for children two years and older.
- Early childhood education students have started their toddler and preschool observations in classrooms and will be observing either early morning or late afternoon through this semester.
- The older preschool classrooms will have a visit from ALCOSAN on February 28th through their Outreach Program in order to teach the preschoolers about weather.
- The librarian from the Carnegie Library will come to read to our toddlers and preschoolers on February 23rd. The kids always enjoy this monthly visit!
- February 7th is Take Your Child to the Library Day - please consider a visit to your local library.
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.
Reminder - UCDC never closes independently of the University for inclement weather. We also do not have two-hour delays as you may see in some schools.
Please remember that UCDC does not celebrate Valentine's Day. Please
look for a letter in your child's mailbox explaining this in more detail.
You should have received a packet regarding updated paperwork that the office needs. Please return updated forms on or before February 17th. Thank you!
UCDC Philosophy Explained:
Handwashing Practices at UCDC
In the course of a day at UCDC, the children wash their hands very often! As parents, you're aware of their first experience with hand washing as you bring them into school for the day and we ask that you wash their hands with them. After you leave, there are numerous other times where we require children to wash their hands in order to help stop the spread of illness. This includes:
- Before preparing food (children often help to make cakes or prep the food for snacks and meals at UCDC)
- Before eating food
- After eating food
- After using the toilet or having their diaper changed
- After blowing their nose or sneezing into their hand (we attempt to teach children to sneeze into their elbow as a more sanitary practice)
- Upon returning to the classroom (coming from another classroom, the playground, a walk or the gym)
- Any time the hands are visibly dirty from a play activity
- After playing in the water table
Another important lesson that we teach the children is
HOW to wash their hands. Typically, hand washing is fun for a while as the children enjoy the running water and the soapy bubbles, but it soon becomes mundane and children are known to rush through this activity. At UCDC, this is how we teach the children to wash their hands in order to be effective in stopping the spread of illness:
- Wet hands with clean, running water and apply soap.
- Lather hands by rubbing them together with the soap. We help them to make sure they lather the backs of hands, between their fingers and under their nails.
- Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. In order to help children wash long enough, we sometimes use a timer or have them hum or sing the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry hands using a clean towel.
- Turn off the faucet with the paper towel before throwing it away.
Illnesses are spread easily in group care, especially during the colder months when we are spending longer times indoors in close quarters. Being diligent about hand washing in very important in helping to reduce the spread of illness in child care.
This month, we asked the three and four-year-olds of Preschool One who they believe to be the strongest person in the world. Their answers may surprise you!
My mom - Holden
The Hulk - Nicholas
My Daddy - Mila, Grace, Marina, Sam and Sylvia
My mommy & Daddy - Jessica and Anna
Anna - Wolf
Captain America - Jack
Mommy - Riley
Hannah - Aurora
Momma - Ayana
UCDC utilizes a child centered, extended family approach that is fostered by supporting the developmental needs of all children. We foster children's self esteem, creative abilities, sense of belonging and success by implementing a developmentally appropriate curriculum based on NAEYC and Keystone STARS standards, through a play-based approach to learning. We support families and partner with them to provide an environment that welcomes their collaboration and supports both cultural and family preferences.