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Eastern’s child center celebrates 15 years of caring for Windham children

Published on February 25, 2021

Eastern’s child center celebrates 15 years of caring for Windham children

Aerial view of the CFDRC

The Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) at Eastern Connecticut State University is celebrating its 15th anniversary this February. Over the past 15 years, the on-campus preschool and student-teaching facility has served more than 1,000 children and families from the Windham area, while providing thousands of hours of on-campus field experience for Eastern students preparing to be early childhood educators. In the process, the center has supported dozens of scholarly research projects, led by Eastern faculty and staffed by undergraduate and graduate students.

CFDRC Director Niloufar Rezai noted that the preschool’s first toddlers from 2006 will be of college age this coming fall. “I am certain there will be some CFDRC alumni on our campus as freshmen this fall!” 

Speaking of the center’s teachers and staff, Rezai said, “These professionals dedicate themselves daily to fostering a nurturing and caring environment to meet the needs of young children and their families while mentoring Eastern students and collaborating with faculty, staff and the Willimantic community.” 

A student researcher observes the play of CFDRC children from the control room of the adjoining Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE). *Photo prior to pandemic

Children develop gross motor skills on the CFDRC's climbing wall, supervised by Eastern students. *Photo prior to pandemic

Students and children get dirty during the Fun Mud Day obstacle course. *Photo prior to pandemic

This past year was a particular challenge for the CFDRC, as it was forced to overhaul its daily operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers and staff developed innovative ways to meet the needs of children and families remotely, conducting drive-by parades, recording themselves reading and singing, dropping off books and learning materials at families’ doorsteps, and serving as an early childhood resource in myriad other ways.

Playing
Children play in one of the CFDRC's preschool classrooms. *Photo prior to pandemic

“We worked together as a team to develop a safe reopening plan to best meet the needs of children on-ground during a worldwide pandemic while staying within countless health and safety guidelines,” said Rezai. “The daunting tasks faced daily included socially distancing from the very population that needs hugs and cuddles to sooth ‘boo-boos’; fostering cooperative play and sharing among children when materials are now portioned out in personalized bags; promoting language development when faces are half covered with a mask; and entirely rethinking how we teach young children.”

Rezai noted that 95 percent of the CFDRC’s children were eager to return to the center’s physical campus in some capacity this past August, demonstrating families’ confidence in the CFDRC’s ability to provide a safe and healthy learning environment during the tides of the pandemic.

“For 15 years and counting, our teachers and staff continue to support children and families with flexibility and creativity,” said Rezai. “This year especially, they checked their fears, anxieties and uncertainties at the door to do what they love most — teach young children. While this year may not have been the easiest year, in some ways it has been the most rewarding.”

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Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, serving more than 4,000 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 162 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 33 other states and 20 countries. A residential campus offering 40 majors and 60 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in a variety of applied learning opportunities. Ranked as the #1 public regional university in New England by U.S. News and World Report in its 2021 Best Colleges ratings, Eastern has also been awarded “Green Campus” status by the Princeton Review 11 years in a row. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Categories: Early Childhood