The LSU Early Childhood Education Laboratory Preschool recently passed rigorous quality standards, gaining accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, becoming one of 7,000 national accredited programs.
NAEYC programs are required to meet standards grouped into 10 areas such as relationships with children, physical environment, staff qualifications, relationship with the community and nutrition and health. Staff at the preschool were especially proud of their healthy eating initiatives, which they have incorporated by growing their own gardens and flowerbeds.
“They were able to go from bed to bed to explore, they would explore and pick the weeds they found, they would ask questions,” said Ursula Pursley, an assistant teacher in the infant-toddler program. “We grew a potato, and they watched it grow. It had its vine all over the fence.”
There are gardens on all of the playgrounds, as well as out front. The children do cooking projects with the produce they grow, which makes them more interested in eating fruits and vegetables. During winter, most of the preschool’s gardens are bare, but next month the preschool plans to put down more plants.
“We determined that there was a need, essentially, for some life here at the preschool,” said Associate Director of Preschool Programs Kerry Sheldon. “The [LSU Agriculture] students helped us establish that.”
University students from all departments have been a significant factor in the preschool’s success. Student volunteers sign up for a minimum of three hours a week for a variety of initiatives.
“There’s students in and out here all the time, from all different aspects,” Sheldon said. “We have psychology students, we have psychology graduate assistants, we have interns from pre-K-3 programs, we have interns from student teachers here, we have students from the Family and Consumer Science Department that come over and do observations, we have communication disorder students here...we have a lot of people here.”
Sheldon described some of the preschool’s positive interactions with University students from apple taste-testing to helping preschoolers understand basic math. She said the preschool would be happy to have any University students with interest come in, as volunteers are always appreciated. The preschool’s success is attributed partly to the strong relationships within the University’s community.
“I think that’s the strength of the university with a program like this,’ said LSU Agricultural Center associate professor Edward Bush. “It’s a win-win. It involves a whole community.”