Childcare for the community, education for the future
Located in the Janice A. Pattillo Early Childhood Research Center, the Early Childhood Laboratory offers early care and education programs for young children in the Nacogdoches community.
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The history of the Early Childhood Laboratory
By Dr. Janice A. Pattillo
The provision for quality education and care for young children has been a vital aspect of the academic program at SFA for many years.
In 1969, the SFA University Kindergarten 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 classroom operated on a half-day basis.
The following year, the program moved to the SFA campus. From 1970 until 1975, 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 1936. This school served infants through four-year-olds in a half-day format.
The Early Childhood Laboratory opened in 1975, designed to serve infants through five-year-olds. Meeting the growing demand of educational needs 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, serving as a model in the field. The Home Economics Nursery School continued to operate until 1979, when the programs merged. This allowed the addition of a new first-grade classroom, expanding the age of children served from infants to first grade.
The ECHL was well-received by parents and children. This, combined with the rapid growth in the field of early childhood education, resulted in a 1983-84 building expansion that doubled the size of the facility. Additional space also allowed children to be grouped according to age, a structure designed to better serve children and SFA students.
In 1995, public school educators requested the ECHL be extended to include a second-grade classroom. Over the next several years, classrooms for third-grade and fourth-grade were added. These two new classrooms, combined with the ECHL's previously existing kindergarten through first-grade classrooms, became a collaborative charter school between SFA and Nacogdoches Independent School District.
The Early Childhood Laboratory is a facility maintained for the education of SFA students preparing to work with young children and their families. The ECHL is programmatically dedicated to meeting the needs of SFA students in various early childhood education and human sciences child development courses.
The curriculum is intended to develop intellectual and personal competence rather than to train children in performing a limited set of academic skills. Designed to facilitate the total development of young children, the 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.