Program Profile: Iowa State University Child Development Laboratory School in Ames, Iowa
The Iowa State University (ISU) Child Development Laboratory School provides opportunities for students, researchers, and practitioners to observe and work with young children. The schools serves as a model early care and education program for young children and their families.
The program serves 56 children in four classrooms. The children are primarily the children of ISU faculty, staff, and students, many of whom come from other countries. Recently, the program counted 14 different languages spoken by its children and families, including Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic.
The Lab School, with a much more diverse population than the larger Ames community and Iowa, involves preservice teachers—many of whom are from rural parts of the state—in working with a diverse population of children and families. A grateful father notes, “The Lab School is the only preschool in town that has a true multiracial student population. This was important to us because we wanted our little guy to be around kids that looked like him…. As a multiracial family with two dads, we have always felt respected and welcomed by Lab School employees.”
Family Engagement Program Practices
Family Particiption in Decision Making
Another step the program takes is using enrollment paperwork to ask whether the family is comfortable with written and verbal communication in English. If a family indicates that they will need translation, the school seeks assistance through the university’s foreign language department, one of the foreign student groups, or, if the family prefers, a family friend.
The program staff encourage families to speak their native language at home with their children, and place special emphasis on dual language learning. For example,
A Comprehensive Program-Level System
In addtion to primary caregiving, the program practices continuity of care with looping; the teacher moves with the children from the infant/toddler room to the 2-year classroom and then to the 3-year classroom. Kerns explains, “This practice assists us in our work to engage with families. When children have the same teacher for their first three years, we find that the families develop a strong relationship and bond with that teacher. When families have this type of ongoing relationship with a teacher, they are comfortable in interacting and sharing information that is vital to the work we do with the children and families.”
Parents agree. One reports, “It’s a relief to not have to introduce our daughter to a new environment and a new teacher, which I’m sure she would find stressful. I also feel like this means we don’t have any interruptions in our assessment of her development and our working on certain goals. We’re all on the same page because we have been building a relationship and a set of teamed observations over a longer period of time.”
Developed for NAEYC's Engaging Diverse Families Project through a generous grant from the Picower Foundation.