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CFDRC Achieves Accreditation Renewal

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, Conn. - On June 24, The Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) at Eastern Connecticut State University achieved a new, five-year term of accreditation with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The accreditation--recognized as "the mark of quality in early childhood education"--is valid from June 24, 2014 - Oct. 1, 2019.

  "The administration, teaching staff and families of the CFDRC are all to be congratulated for continuing to uphold the mark of quality represented by the NAEYC accreditation," wrote the association in its congratulatory letter.
 Among the tasks of becoming NAEYC-accredited, programs must score at least 80 percent on each of the association's 10 program standards. Scores are based on a site visit, which includes an observation of classroom sessions and an overall environmental assessment, as well as a review of the program's portfolios. The CFDRC scored 100 percent on every standard.

The 10 program standards evaluated include promoting positive relationships and personal health; utilizing relevant curriculum and effective teaching and assessment approaches; employing qualified and committed staff and management; interacting with families, communities and outside agencies; and providing indoor and outdoor environments that foster growth and development.
 
"The process for NAEYC preparation led to further reflection, team-building and opportunities for growth and development for our staff," said Niloufar Rezai, director of the CFDRC.  "To surpass the expectations of NAEYC accreditation highlights our commitment to providing quality early learning experiences for children and their families, as well as fostering a model environment for future teachers to gain experiences."

The NAEYC is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on improving the well-being of young children, with particular emphasis on the quality of educational and developmental services for children from birth through age eight.

 

Eastern Graduates 1,227 at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

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Willimantic, Conn. - More than 12,000 family members and friends filled the XL Center in Hartford on Tuesday, May 13, to cheer on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,162 undergraduates and 65 graduate students received their diplomas at Eastern Connecticut State University's 124th Commencement exercises.

Nicholas Lawson, director of field human resources for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa during the Commencement Exercises, and offered remarks following presentation of his honorary degree.

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Lawson has worked with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) for the past 17 years, a group he proudly describes as the "preeminent emergency medical humanitarian organization in the world." As Director of Field Human Resources for MSF since 2007, Lawson is responsible for the oversight of 35,000 staff across the globe, and leads the development and implementation of MSF's vision as a member of the MSF Executive Management team. Over the years, he has traveled to and coordinated humanitarian and medical relief efforts in Uganda, Pakistan, Burundi, East Timor, South Sudan and Afghanistan.

Lawson spoke of the organization's core principles of service, independence, impartiality, neutrality, ethics and engagement, and described his early years with MSF, when he faced the challenge of bringing medical supplies to civilians in Afghanistan caught in the crossfire of that nation's civil war.  In the end, he said MSF's focus was simple: to "alleviate the suffering of vulnerable people in crisis."

His charge to Eastern's 2014 graduating class was equally simple:  "What place does service and engagement in the public realm have in the careers we dream for ourselves? Is that activism? Is it volunteerism? Is it civics? Will it be a lifelong professional choice? . . . You will be richer than you can possibly imagine if you do actually make that choice."

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                                             Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, who represented the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Senior Class President Zachary Yeager; and Brittany Lane '14, who delivered the Senior Class Address. Other members of the platform party included Gregory Gray, president of the Board of Regents; Willimantic Mayor Ernie Eldridge; and other Eastern officials.

Nunez gave her traditional charge to the graduates, telling them, "I hope you look forward to the next chapter in your lives with optimism and expectation, knowing that the faculty and staff on our campus have done their utmost to prepare you for this day."
 
Nunez cited examples of applied learning experiences ranging from internships at ESPN and Cigna to study abroad trips to Costa Rica and Switzerland, to undergraduate research into genetics and emotional health among senior citizens, to working in South Carolina on anti-hunger efforts, as examples of the hands-on experiences that Eastern students receive in applying their liberal arts education.

 "Never be satisfied with a half-hearted effort, never assume that the way things have been done is the way we should do things in the future. Intellectual curiosity and a moral commitment to a better life for all people are hallmarks of a liberal arts university in our democracy. The best way to honor Eastern and our faculty is to remain true to what you have learned here."

 Nunez closed her remarks with a quote from the 19th-century Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda:  "Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life -- think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success."

More than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor's degree. As Connecticut's only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 164 of the state's 169 towns. Approximately 90 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Senior Class President Zachary Yeager presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez--an annual Class of 2014 scholarship--and said, "College has been the time to make mistakes and learn from them, a time to challenge ourselves, and a time to step out of our comfort zone . . . We will carry the memories that we have made in the past few years at Eastern with us for a lifetime."

Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, offered remarks on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.  "I want you to know how deeply moved and excited we are about the great work you have done to earn your degree tonight," said Smith. "This is a significant milestone, and you should be very proud. The journey isn't easy, and there are no shortcuts to earning an undergraduate degree, but the benefits are enormous. Eastern has prepared you well for all the challenges you will face as the 21st century-economy continues to change. Pursue your career with the same dedication that has brought you to this fabulous day."
 
In her Senior Class Address, Brittany Lane urged the graduates to "pack your bags" and get ready for a new journey. She listed five items to include on the trip. First on the list: a belief that "every day is a great day to be alive," something she learned from one of her professors, Dan Switchenko. Second on her list was a commitment to helping others. "Volunteer; give back to your community; give back to your school. It is far more rewarding than a paycheck." 

  The third item on her list was to live life with kindness. "You never know the impact that your kind words could have on someone's day or even their life. Make your mark." Lane told her peers to also "remember to take the memories you have made at Eastern with you . . .  These are the moments that stand the test of time."

 Finally, Lane reminded her classmates that "there is no place like home. For your duration of time spent here at Eastern, it has become a second home . . . a close community of students from different walks of life coming together to live and learn in harmony . . . No matter where your journey takes you after today, no matter how many bumps in the road you may hit, always remember that we all have a place here at Eastern. You are all important. You will all accomplish incredible things; and our journey starts today." 
 
From the Governor's Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick's Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, this year's graduation ceremonies again reflected the University's Commencement traditions of dignity and grace. University Senate President Gregory Kane presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Emily Chuber, Rachel Jung and Emma Kuehnle sang "America the Beautiful"; Senior Mame Fatou Diop gave the invocation; and History Professor Anna Kirchmann was recognized as the 2014 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

 

Toddlers Participate in the "Fun Mudder" at Eastern

Written by Michael Rouleau

 

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Willimantic, Conn. - On April 28, the normally tidy playground of Eastern Connecticut State University's Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) was transformed into a muddy obstacle course for the "Fun Mudder"--a preschool version of "Tough Mudder," a military-style mud run.

The event hosted groups of children ages three to five who are enrolled in the CFDRC's preschool classroom. The two groups, each with approximately 25 children, were allowed one hour of play in the Fun Mudder course.

"The goal was simply to complete the course; not to win or get a fast time," said Darren Robert, health and physical education professor. "We want the kids to try things they normally wouldn't; to get out of their comfort zone a bit."

Some of the mud-ridden obstacles included a crawl through wet leaves under a bridge; a walk through kiddie pools filled with ice water; a slip and slide into a puddle; a balance beam; and more. The children were chaperoned and cheered on by parents, students and staff--many of whom also participated in the muddy mess to encourage the toddlers.

"This event was the culmination of the last few months of physical education work," said CFDRC Director Niloufar Rezai. "Today's obstacles required motor skills such as climbing, balancing, jumping and crawling."

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The CFDRC is an early childhood development center that encourages faculty and student participation from various university departments in its events. "I wish I had this when I was a kid," said Mitchell Nysor, a junior majoring in physical education. "It's a blast; the kids have so much fun."

The real "Tough Mudder" has a charitable component to support the Armed Forces. Veteran and Eastern alumnus Brandon Strout '09, a physical education teacher at Windham Tech who helped out at the event, said, "The Fun Mudder is good because it shows the kids that fitness can be applicable to every day play. Plus, they don't often get to play in the mud."

The CFDRC would like to thank students of Windham Tech who built signs for the obstacles; all those who helped build and chaperone the course; and the late Nancy Tinker, whose work as director of the offices of Facilities Management and Planning was instrumental in the construction of the CFDRC.

Center for Early Childhood Education Releases New Video

Written by Jordan Sakal

Willimantic, Conn. - The Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University is pleased to announce the release of "Investigating Containers," a new video highlighting the work of teachers at the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC). "Investigating Containers" explores how teachers engage toddlers and preschoolers in a variety of learning experiences while developing an understanding of the properties and uses of containers. This video features teachers Claudia Ahern, Amy Tyler and Amie Theriault, as well as CFDRC Director Niloufar Rezai.

"Investigating Containers" is the fifth film in the "Investigating..." video series. Each video in the series captures one topic of investigation in the CFDRC, and illustrates how teachers involve children in literacy, math, science, art and other experiences during the three to four months of investigation. "Investigating Containers" was directed by Media Production Specialist Ken Measimer. Communication students Megan Saunders, Sarah Pierce, Amy Dillon, Justin Bedard and Sean Leser were production assistants responsible for shooting footage, editing video and assisting with graphics.

To watch the 11-minute video, visit http://www.easternct.edu/cece/investigating_containers.html

 

 

Chief Justice Rogers and Judge Kahn to Speak at Eastern

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, Conn. - Two high-level Connecticut court officials will speak at Eastern Connecticut State University on March 26 for Eastern's University Hour series. At 3 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre, Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers and Superior Court Judge Maria Kahn will speak with the Eastern community about justice and the judicial system in today's world. 

Born and raised in Angola, Africa, Kahn was appointed a Superior Court Judge in 2006 and currently is assigned to hear criminal matters in the Fairfield Judicial District Courthouse. She moved to the United States at 10 years of age, is fluent in three languages and serves on a number state and national Bars. 

Rogers, a Connecticut native, was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court in 2007--the second woman ever to reach this designation in Connecticut. She was also appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the State Justice Institute's Board of Directors. In addition to serving on a number of prestigious Bars and committees, Rogers is also an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

"The event is open to the public and will be organized in a question-and-answer format," said Starsheemar Byrum, coordinator of the Women's Center. "Arrive early at the Student Center Theatre to ensure a good seat."

"Eastern in 4," Eastern's Revamped Academic Plan

Written by Michael Rouleau


Willimantic, Conn. - As part of Eastern Connecticut State University's 2013-18 Strategic Plan, "Eastern in 4" is now a requirement for current students and incoming freshmen. The goal of "Eastern in 4" is to lay out a tight and comprehensive plan--including academic and career goals--that will lead students to their bachelor's degrees in four years.

"Eastern in 4" has existed as an informal objective for several years now, but recent data supporting the need for college-career planning has caused the University to revamp and mandate the program. "There are so many options and requirements in a college setting," said Alison Garewski, a professional advisor with the Advising Center. "Students unknowingly taking courses they don't need--costing them more money and prolonging their time in college--is an issue nationwide."

With nearly 1,000 freshman at Eastern this year, approximately 650 have completed their academic plans. Though the plans are designed in group sessions of five to 20 students, each four-year plan is individualized according to a student's degree requirements and preferences--taking into consideration which liberal arts courses to take, internships and study abroad opportunities.

"Every semester when registering for classes I use my four-year plan to aid in my selection," said Christina Harmon, a sophomore majoring in psychology. "'Eastern in 4' was a great way for me to learn what classes I need to take and how to stay on track in order to graduate on time."

While "Eastern in 4" is available to all students and majors, it is especially useful to transfer students, continuing education students and those switching majors. "This program is ideal at Eastern because we're a liberal arts school," said Chris Drewry, a professional advisor with the Advising Center. "Students are required and encouraged to take courses outside of their major, so having this direction is really helpful."

"Before making my 'Eastern in 4' plan, I had no idea if I could fit a double major's worth of classes into my schedule," said Thomas Hacker, a freshman with a double major. "Now I have a roadmap to double major in music and communication in four years."

Ready to Climb

Written by Akaya McElveen

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Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) recently introduced two climbing walls for its preschool children; the wall are documented in the short film, "Ready to Climb: Bringing the Climbing Walls to the CFDRC."

"Ready to Climb" was produced by Eastern communication students Sarah Pierce, James Nixon, Dylan King and Attah Agyemang in their Documentary Production class taught by Denise Mathews, professor of communication. Students gained hands-on experience in directing, field shooting, conducting interviews, editing and other production skills. The video will be used to highlight to prospective families and students some of the experiences available to children at the CFDRC.

The indoor and outdoor climbing walls serve to support children's cognitive, social-emotional, creative and physical development, and provide critical experiential learning opportunities for Eastern students who hope to work with young children in their careers. Niloufar Rezai, director of the CFDRC and Darren Robert, professor of Health and Physical Education, detail the benefits of the addition of the climbing walls, citing risk-taking and peer motivation as a few. For instance, children in the center use the climbing walls to improve their hand-eye coordination, said Rezai.

Health and Physical Education students Teresa Rozycki, Mattie Brett and Josh Tamosaitis appear in the video as they work to support the children. Claudia Ahearn, CFDRC lead teacher, also appears in the video.  
The climbing walls were made possible through the support of the ECSU Foundation.

Written by Akaya McElveen

 

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The Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC), which serves children ages 18 months to 5 years, recently unveiled two climbing walls; one indoors and one outdoors.  The climbing walls will be used to carry out the CFDRC's mission to foster children's cognitive, social-emotional, creative, and physical development.  The climbing walls are expected to help preschoolers build confidence and gain a sense of accomplishment, socially and emotionally by having them work collaboratively and cooperatively.

Physically, the children will be able to develop upper body strength; increase eye-hand coordination; and develop a better sense of how to move their bodies in a space. Cognitively, the wall is expected to develop spatial awareness; allow for literacy/numeracy development through the use of magnetic letters and shapes; and expand children's oral language. Finally, the climbing wall will help children move their bodies in expressive ways fostering pretend and imaginative play.

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The CFDRC is also using this opportunity to provide experiential opportunities for Eastern students.  Under the guidance of Health and Physical Education Professor Darren Roberts, students in physical education will develop and implement lesson plans surrounding the climbing walls, affording valuable experiences in teaching, as well as individualizing based on children's needs. In addition, Communication Professor Denise Matthews is supervising students in the production of a documentary video featuring the climbing walls from their inception to their use with children and staff.

CECE's New Video

Written by Jordan Sakal

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The Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE) has announced the release of "Investigating Trees," a new video highlighting the work of teachers at the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC).  Investigating Trees explores how teachers engaged toddlers and preschoolers in a variety of learning activities while studying trees and the animals that live in them.  The video features teachers Patty Gardner, Amy Tyler and Amie Theriault, as well as CFDRC Director Niloufar Rezai.

Investigating Trees is the fourth in the "Investigating" video series.  Each video in the series captures one topic of investigation in the CFDRC, and illustrates how teachers involved children in literacy, math, science, art and other activities through the three to four months of investigation.

Media production specialist Ken Measimer directed Investigating Trees. Communication student Sean Leser served as editor and videographer; Communication students Amy Dillon and Sarah Pierce served as production assistants. To watch the video, visit http://www.easternct.edu/cece/investigating_trees.html.

CFDRC Unveils New Rock Walls

Written by Jordan Sakal

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Willimantic, Conn. - The Child and Family Development Resource Center at Eastern Connecticut State University unveiled two new climbing walls for use by the center's preschoolers. One wall is located inside the facility and the other is in the main playground area.

According to Darren Robert, professor of health and physical education, "Over the past decade of professional physical education, I have noticed a low degree of upper body strength among preschool children."

The goal of the rock walls, according to Robert, is to increase the amount of outdoor playtime for the children so that they will have access to exercise activities that improve their upper body strength and overall physical conditioning. Rules and policies regarding the correct and safe use of the rock walls have been taught to all of the professionals on staff at the early childhood center and the children have been told the rules regarding the walls to keep both themselves and the faculty out of harm's way.

Students in Eastern's Education and Health and Physical Education programs work with the children of the center in order to provide educational experiences for both the children and themselves. Professional educators who teach preschool at the CFDRC and serve its 68 students will also make use of the new rock walls. Using the walls' magnetic surface, the teachers will be able to display numbers and letters as a fun way to interact with the students and use the new materials at their disposal.

The overall impact of the rock walls' on children's learning has yet to be measured but a bright future awaits the students of the CFDRC, as they have fun, develop cognitive skills and, strengthen their physical conditioning all at the same time.

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