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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 9, 2015) — From the basement of Erikson Hall to a 10,000 square foot, newly renovated facility, the University of Kentucky College of Education's Early Childhood Lab (ECL) has "come full circle," as ECL Staff Director Charlotte Manno says. The ECL moved into its new home, located on the former Lexington Theological Seminary campus, in January, and the relocation has afforded more than just a building upgrade.
The new ECL is more than double the size of the former location, and was enhanced with a $2.5 million renovation to create a high-quality early education environment, including new walls, workstations, classrooms, kitchenettes and bright furnishings. Funded with support from the university and a generous lead gift from alumna Carol Lee Robertson, the new facility and location also offer more convenience and accessibility, including an elevator — an important feature for a program serving children with disabilities — and a playground directly next to the building.
"We've been trying for 15 years to make this happen, and it really is a dream come true for us to be in such a nice facility," said Jennifer Grisham-Brown, professor in the College of Education and faculty director at the ECL. "And I'm very appreciative to UK superiors and central administration, the Board of Trustees, our college dean…for their support in all of this."
Established in 1928 and operated by the Department of Early Childhood, Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling in the College of Education, the ECL has a three-part mission. It provides high-quality early care and education to the Lexington community and UK faculty and staff; serves as a training site for pre-service teachers, and others who work with young children; and is used as a research site for child development and early childhood education.
“For decades, UK has provided care for Central Kentucky children at its Early Childhood Lab,” said Mary John O’Hair, dean of the UK College of Education. “The lab has the highest quality ratings of any early care and education program in Kentucky and the nation. UK College of Education faculty, staff and students are delighted to have a new and innovative space for the children we serve that will match the quality of this vital program.”
The ECL is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and maintains a 4 STARS rating through the state of Kentucky. The curriculum framework co-created by and used at the ECL meets the needs of diverse groups of children by collecting developmental assessment information on each child, creating group and individual goals based on assessment information, and designing, implementing, and evaluating group and individual activities and interventions.
In fact, with the relocation and expanded space, the ECL will be delivering high-quality instruction to more children than ever before. The ECL is now licensed for 104 children, compared to 54 previously, which will also allow twice as many UK students to train and observe in the new ECL.
Approximately 1,100 students train or observe at the lab each semester. Many of those are students in the Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education Program or Special Education Program, who are required to complete a thesis for their master's degree and frequently conduct their research at the ECL.
"It really mirrors the mission of the university. It's a teaching facility first and foremost, and so we allow for students all across campus in many disciplines to come here and observe," said Grisham-Brown.
Rachel Schilling, for example, is earning her master's degree in interdisciplinary early childhood education and has worked in the ECL for three years. She is researching the use of video modeling to teach social skills to preschool children. Specifically, Schilling is studying the effects of using video clips to increase a child's social interactions with peers, including conversation and play skills.
"It's a great opportunity to come to the lab and apply the practices and apply the teaching strategies…and see it all play out in real-life situations," Schilling said.
Grisham-Brown agreed, saying that UK students "get to see an example of the highest quality early care and education program that you can see in the state of Kentucky."
In addition to expanding in size, enrollment and student staffing, the ECL is also extending its services through a partnership with Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS), a nonprofit agency that offers educational and therapeutic services to visually impaired children. VIPS will be housed in the new building, allowing the agency to continue conducting its home visiting program in Lexington, but also to serve ECL children with visual impairments, and vice versa as the ECL will keep enrollment slots open for VIPS each year.
While the College of Education is currently developing an educator preparation program in visual impairments, Grisham-Brown expects ECL's partnership with VIPS to be especially valuable in training UK students who will someday work with children in home-based settings or with visual impairments.
With the new ECL and all it has to offer, UK's commitment to Kentucky's youngest citizens, as Grisham-Brown stated, continues growing stronger and reaching further.
To find out more information about the Early Childhood Lab, call 859-257-7732. Beginning in March, tours of the new facility will be scheduled by appointment.
MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Harder, 859-323-2396, firstname.lastname@example.org