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ECERS: CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER

ECERS: Child Development Center


Sarah Kushnar
Seton Hill University

ECERS: CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER

Setting the Stage


On Monday, February 11, 2013, I observed the morning session at the
Seton Hill University Child Development Center in its entirety in order to
complete the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS). The
morning session runs from 9:00 am until 12:00 pm. I arrived at 8:45 am,
fifteen minutes before the start of the morning session. During this time, I
got myself organized and was able to see the center before all of the
students arrived for the day. I was also able to review the subscales and ask
Mrs. Hallam and Mrs. Gourley any questions that I had regarding the
subscales. I split my time between Mrs. Gourleys room and Mrs. Hallams
room, because the rooms and teachers are different. Mrs. Gourleys room is
primarily for the older students, while Mrs. Hallams is for the younger
students. Also, I was able to see their gym time, which involved walking
from the Child Development Center to the McKenna Gym Aerobics room.
When I completed my observation, there were twenty-eight students
between Mrs. Hallams classroom and Mrs. Gourleys classroom. There were
also four work-study students present. The work-studies are education
students from Seton Hill University. The center can allow up to thirty seven
students at one time because of the space they have, but Mrs. Hallam told
me that it becomes crowded to the class size is capped at thirty students
maximum. The oldest student was born on April 19, 2007, while the
youngest student was born on August 19, 2009. There are disabilities
present in the classroom, but there are only language problems that require

ECERS: CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER

speech and language therapy and various food allergies. There are not any
students with physical disabilities because of the centers layout
unfortunately, these students have to be turned away because their needs
cannot be met.
Strengths
The Child Development Center is full of strengths. I believe this
because the center is accredited by the National Association for the
Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Out of the forty-three subscales in the
ECERS, fourteen of these were scored as seven and twenty-three were
scored as six. Since there were a large number of strengths, I will highlight
one subscale from each category that stood out to me the most.
One of the first areas I noticed that was one of the strongest was the
variety of interest centers for the students. When I observed there were
eleven centers: farm, loft, art, table toys, gross motor, blocks, activity
center, activity table, cave, train table, and housekeeping. These centers
are filled with various activities that are interchanged throughout the year
to fit the themes and special events that occur at specific times.
Another area that received a high rating was personal care routines
with snack and overall health. Because some of the students have food
allergies, extra precautions are taken when preparing snack. These students
have separate snacks that are prepared first and then whoever is preparing
the snacks thoroughly washes their hands to avoid cross contamination

ECERS: CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER

with the snacks for the other students. All of the snacks that are provided
are prepackaged and are for the most part healthy.
Literacy is a very large part of the curriculum at the Child
Development Center. There are around 3000 books available at the center
and they rotate which books the students have access to based on themes,
holidays, and interests. They are always accessible to the students and
these books can even be taken home to share with families. Also, the
students go to Reeves Memorial Librarys childrens room throughout the
year and they are able to choose books that they would otherwise not have
access to anywhere else.
The Child Development Center promotes and accepts diversity
exceptionally well. Books and activities show a variety of cultures and
people that expand the students global perspectives. During religious
holidays such as Christmas, the staff is sensitive to families who may not
celebrate that specific holiday. They will incorporate other religions and
traditions as necessary so as to not discriminate against those of other
beliefs and cultures. One particular event that I observed that stood out to
me was that Mrs. Gourley teaches her students the alphabet in American
Sign Language. She also told me that on occasion, the students are taught
the numbers one to ten in languages such as French, Spanish, Italian, and
Chinese. Family members of students who are from a different culture are
always invited to visit and share their traditions with the students.

ECERS: CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER

Through observing the staffs interaction with the students, I was able
to see that they put their heart and soul into early childhood education. The
amount of interaction and communication between everyone on the staff
and the students is awe-inspiring. Every conversation and interaction was
warm and positive, and the smiles that came from these were genuine. The
work/study teachers will sit on the floor and play with the students during
free play and all staff members are always willing to help students during a
lesson.
Play is one of the central parts of the program at the Child
Development Center, because students at this age learn through play.
There is ample time for play during the three-hour session, both indoors and
outdoors (weather permitting). Students play upon arrival and before
dismissal, and they are able to play with anything in the classroom and with
any other student. As previously mentioned, the staff gets involved in
playing with the students and the amount of imagination that these young
minds have has a powerful effect on the atmosphere of the center.
Keeping families involved in the program and up to date with the
events and educational topics throughout the year is a task that the Child
Development Center does exceptionally well. Parents are given information
about the program via monthly calendars, newsletters, and in conversations
with the staff members. Also, each family is given a handbook outlining the
program and its policies. Each week, one student from each class is chosen
as Top Banana. These students bring in pictures of their favorite things

ECERS: CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER

and their families to hang on the walls for the week. At the end of the week,
one of the family members will come into the classroom and read a story,
bring a snack, or share a special talent. Open houses are offered twice a
year, once each semester, so families of current and prospective students
can see what the program is like.
Weaknesses
Since the Child Development Center is NAEYC accredited, the only
weak areas I observed, out of the forty-three subscales of the ECERS, were
in areas that I did not see much activity in during the time I was observing.
The two lowest areas were using language to develop reasoning skills and
music and movement, both earning a score of four. In the area of using
language to develop reasoning skills, the students were guided through
activities with teacher created questions, but that was the extent of
developing reasoning skills. I did not observe any materials being used or
concepts introduced to stimulate reasoning. This is an important skill that
needs to be developed around this time, so it was sad to see that it was not
as prominent as I though it would be.
Music and movement are powerful tools in an early childhood
classroom and finding that this area was one of the lowest scored areas was
a large shock to me. Mrs. Hallam informed me that music is only available
for longer periods of time when it is made into a center in the classroom.
Otherwise, music and movement only occur during circle time and
transitions between activities. The Child Development Center is well

ECERS: CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER

equipped with the materials for musical and movement expression (they
have a box that contains rhythm sticks, small drums, tambourines, and
other small instruments as well as ribbons for movement) but, for the
majority of the time, this box sits on top of one of the storage closets and
only comes out when music is a bigger part of the day. One of the items
that I did like about music that Mrs. Hallam told me about is that music
therapy students from the university come every Friday to share their gift of
music with the students.
Areas of Improvement
Although the subscales for science and math were both scored as six,
these areas could be improved because these are only available for around
ten to fifteen minutes collectively. On a daily basis, science consists of
discussing what the weather is for the day and dressing the bear properly
for the conditions outside. Mrs. Gourley incorporates math into circle time
with a daily math problem to figure out how many students are present and
how many are missing. There was more math present on the day I observed
because they were doing a Valentines Day themed math project. During
snack, each child got a conversation heart and Mrs. Gourley and Mrs.
Hallam would ask the students to raise their hand if they had a specific
colored heart. These numbers would be tallied on the board and an addition
problem would be created to see how many hearts they had together. This
was the extent of math and science in the classroom. I believe that there

ECERS: CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER

should be some type of math and science discovery center present at all
times so students can use the inquiry method to learn on their own.
The use of technology in the classroom is an area that could use
some improvement since we are now living in the age of technology. The
Child Development Center has fifteen iPads with various apps that are both
fun and educational. However, these are only used when reinforcing a
lesson or the students are permitted to use them during free play. There are
no computers for student use and there is not a television. Lessons could be
enhanced with videos or virtual tours of places that they would normally be
unable to visit, but since these forms of technology are not present, this
cannot happen.
I see the need for major improvement in all areas regarding students
with disabilities. The subscales that focused on these I had to score as not
applicable. Since this center is NAEYC accredited, I was very disappointed to
see that inclusion for students with disabilities does not exist. Because of
the way the center is laid out, it is not wheelchair accessible. This
unfortunately means that students with disabilities have to be turned away
because their needs cannot be met.
Action Plan
The main area that my action plan would affect is in regards to the
inclusion of students with disabilities. The Child Development Center is an
older building, so it is in need of a facelift. Inside the center, the only access
to the classrooms is down a set of small stairs. This is problematic for

ECERS: CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER

potential students who have difficulty walking or are in wheelchairs. I would


turn one side of the stairs into a ramp to provide easy access. Also, the
bathroom for the students is not accessible to students with disabilities
because it is very small and would not be accessible with a wheelchair. I
would also make the doorways wider as to give more space for movement
for all students. I believe that students with disabilities are just as wonderful
as those without, so I would do whatever it takes to include them in the
classroom.
In the areas of math and science, I would keep the daily weather
report and counting during circle time. However, to incorporate the inquiry
that comes with math and science, I would have a discovery center full of
manipulatives, books, and a large variety of items (i.e., wooden shapes,
rocks, counters, shells, etc.) that the students could explore on their own.
Also, I would begin each week with a science activity and build on it each
day throughout the week so the students minds will be wondering what is
going to happen during the week. Their minds are full of wonder and it is
the teachers job to fulfill that curiosity.
I am all for the incorporation of the iPads, but I would also get a
SmartBoard for the classroom because it is one of the best teaching tools in
the world of education. The students would be able to interact with the
Internet, view videos, and get even more into the lessons that they are
learning. I would have the SmartBoard on wheels that way it could easily be
moved from classroom to classroom. Because there are only fifteen iPads,

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this means that there are not enough for each student to have one, so
having the SmartBoard would allow all students to participate at one time.
How Will These Changes Affect the Classroom?
These changes will affect the classroom in a positive way because
they will benefit all who are involved at the Child Development Center.
Lessons and learning will be enhanced with the introduction of technology
and inquiry learning. Incorporating more technology would make the
learning more interactive, accessible, and adaptable to meet the needs and
ability levels of all students. I believe that students will be more interested
in learning about why things happen and what things are as a result of the
introduction of the inquiry method. This is one of my favorite approaches to
learning because it teaches children problem solving skills and keeps their
interest in the subject matter.
By changing the layout of the center, students will not have to be
turned away because of the disabilities. These students will feel more
welcomed and enjoy going to school. Overall, the students will be more
positive in their attitudes and behaviors with the implementation of these
small yet incredibly effective changes.
Reflection
When I first saw everything that goes into rating a center using the
ECERS, I was honestly intimidated. I didnt know how I was going to be able
to do it all in one observation. But the training day came and, after seeing
the video, a sample, and having Dr. Harris explain the scale, I felt more

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comfortable. I was able to score most of the subscales on my own through


my previous knowledge of the center or through observation, however, I
had to ask about items that I did not see or if I did not know. After spending
the entire morning session filling out the forty-three subscales, I had
enough information to begin filling out the score sheet. I thought that this
was the most tedious part of filling out the ECERS because of all the
information that needed to be included on the score sheet. Once I finally
understood what I was doing, I flew through the rest. I really like how this
rating goes in-depth to see where the strengths, weaknesses, and areas for
improvement are within a center. Many of the items in the subscales are
items that people would normally overlook when rating centers, so it is very
beneficial to get into the behind the scenes action of how centers like this
run. I learned what to do and what not to do when I get out into the field.
This experience will help me as I continue my path as a future educator.