The provision for quality education and care for young children has been a vital aspect of the academic program at Stephen F. Austin State University for many years. In l969, The Early Childhood Laboratory started as The University Kindergarten and consisted of one classroom. This classroom was used as a laboratory for Elementary Education students who planned to teach in the newly funded state kindergartens. Located in the Manse of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, the SFA University Kindergarten operated on a half-day basis.
The following year the program moved on the SFA campus. From l970 until l975, this classroom was housed in an old church building on Baker Street behind Wilson Dormitory. During this period, the kindergarten was expanded to two, half-day kindergarten sessions.
Also operating on this campus during the same time period was a Home Economics Nursery School which started in l936. This school served infants through four-year-olds in a half-day format.
The Early Childhood Laboratory which opened in l975 was designed to serve infants through five-year olds. This new facility met the educational needs of a growing demand for early childhood students in both Elementary Education and Home Economics. The new facility provided the community with provisions for all-day, childcare in an educational setting that was to serve as a model in the field. The Home Economics Nursery School continued to operate until l979, when the programs merged. At this time the space in Home Economics became the new primary or first grade classroom expanding the age of children served from infants to first grade.
Ready acceptance of the Early Childhood Laboratory by parents and children, and the rapid growth of the early childhood program, as well as the field of Early Childhood Education, resulted in severe space problems before the building was yet ten years old. In l983-84, another expansion doubled the size of the Early Childhood Laboratory allowing age groupings to be designed to better serve children and college students.
In 1995 public school educators requested that the Lab be extended to house a Nacogdoches Public School, second-grade classroom. After several years of operation, the Lab's kindergarten, first and second grades plus an additional third and fourth grade became a collaborative charter school between SFASU and Nacogdoches Public Schools.
During each long-term semester more than 2000 college students use the laboratory for observation, participation, and other educational purposes. Using a Constructivist Curriculum, The Early Childhood Program at SFASU is recognized as one of the most outstanding Early Childhood programs in the nation. The college program is accredited by NCATE and the children's program is accredited by NAEYC. Serving over 2000 college students and 130 children each year, this dynamic program continues to meet the demands of a changing university, community and state.
By Dr. Janice Pattillo
The Early Childhood Laboratory (ECHL) is a facility maintained for the education of university students preparing to work with young children and their families. The ECHL is administratively associated with the Elementary Education Department, but is programmatically dedicated to meeting the needs of university students in various early childhood education and human sciences child development courses.
The Early Childhood Lab's program is designed to facilitate the total development of young children. The curriculum is intended to develop intellectual and personal competence rather than to train children in performing a limited set of academic skills. The ECHL program is based on the following tenets:
- Children have an intrinsic motivation to act and to organize their actions
- A variety of educational opportunities is more intellectually producing than a specified set of lessons offered in sequential order to all children.
- Behaviors that reveal autonomy, openness, problem solving ability and personal integrity are critically needed in a modern, technological, democratic society.
For the Community
The ECH Lab offers early care and education programs for young children in the Nacogdoches community. The childcare facility is available to anyone on a tuition basis. There are five separate age groups, including classes for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The program offers year-round, full-time care, five days per week. The hours of operation are 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
In the Infant classroom there are eight spaces for children ranging from 2 to 12 months of age. There are two full-time teachers and a student assistant in the classroom who care for the children. The individual needs of infants are met as teachers individualize each child's feeding, sleeping and diapering schedule.
In the Toddler I classroom there are twelve spaces for children ranging from twelve to twenty-four months of age. There are two full-time teachers and a student assistant in the classroom who care for the children. A learning centers curriculum is introduced and implemented with this age group. These toddlers are given many opportunities for hands-on, multi-sensory activities throughout the day.
In the Toddler II classroom there are sixteen spaces for children ranging from 24 to 36 months of age. There are two full-time, certified teachers as well as a student assistant who teach and care for the children. A learning centers curriculum is implemented and toddlers are given many opportunities to become autonomous learners as they work and play in this hands-on, multi-sensory classroom.
In the Pre-Kindergarten I classroom there are twenty spaces for children who are three to four years of age. There are two full-time certified teachers who teach and care for the children. The learning centers curriculum is geared to meet the cognitive, physical, and social-emotional needs of this age group. Children are building the foundations needed to learn to read and write as well as developing math and reasoning skills.
In the Pre-Kindergarten II classroom there are twenty-two spaces for children who are four to five years of age. There are two full-time certified teachers who teach and care for the children. The expanded learning centers curriculum is geared to meet the cognitive, physical and social-emotional needs of this age group. Children continue to build the foundations necessary to learn to read and write as well as developing math and reasoning skills.
Food Service Information
The Early Childhood Lab houses a modern, institutionally equipped kitchen with two full-time food service employees. The staff prepares nutritious lunches and snacks to serve to the children. Lunches and snacks are served 'family-style' in the children's classrooms.