Who are the youngest students at Adelphi? Not the freshmen, nor the high school students coming for campus visits or summer programs.

By Ela Schwartz

Who are the youngest students at Adelphi? Not the freshmen, nor the high school students coming for campus visits or summer programs. The title goes to the 18-month to 5-year-olds attending the Alice Brown Early Learning Center (ELC), a spacious, state-of-the-art child care center that provides care to the children of Adelphi students, faculty, staff and local residents.

It’s a Friday in late April, and the kids are not in the ELC constructing block towers, pretending to be firefighters or even hunting for ladybugs in the adjacent garden. They’re outside getting a basketball lesson, courtesy of the Adelphi men’s team. What the pint-sized players lack in height they more than make up for in enthusiasm. Ben nails a bounce pass on his first try and earns a high-five from his coach. Hayden, dressed head to toe in pink, puts her own spin on the sport by executing a perfect pirouette followed by a forceful overhead pass. Lizzie prefers to watch from the sidelines and contemplates her teacher’s suggestion to do one of the cheers taught to the kids when the cheerleaders visited the ELC: “Let’s go Panthers! Go AU!”

The children are far from the only ones learning from this basketball lesson. John Galarco, a junior majoring in exercise science, said that while a professor can lecture about what children are physically capable of, actually working with them truly shows the difference even a year can make in a child’s strength and coordination. He smiles when Laura Ludlam, M.S. Ed. ’00, director of the Early Learning Center, praises, “You’re applying classroom theory to practical experience.”

Thanks to generous support from Amy Maiello Hagedorn ’05 (Hon.), Adelphi was able to construct the bright, spacious Alice Brown Early Learning Center, which opened in 2008. According to Ms. Ludlam, who succeeded Ms. Brown as director in 2006, “Dr. Scott said he wanted the Early Learning Center to be the model program for best practices in early care and education and a hub of learning for students who have anything to do with families and children.”

The ELC largely follows the Reggio Emilia approach, which purports “that children are born competent and ready to learn, at their own pace and in their own way, and to incorporate the community into the children’s learning,” Ms. Ludlam says. The center puts this theory into action by taking full advantage of the Adelphi campus. In addition, the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education, the Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies and the schools of Social Work and Nursing have had students gain valuable experience as they perform classroom observations, learn how to develop lesson plans or provide services to children and their families.

About 35 undergraduate and graduate students are employed at the ELC. No matter what their major, students say they have benefited from learning how to communicate with and motivate children of so many disparate personalities and will carry this knowledge into their careers, whether they plan to teach young children or high school students, or even work with adults in the corporate world. “It’s been an amazing experience,” says Melissa Stotsky, a graduate student in the Ammon School of Education. “The center is so welcoming and they really support you.”

“We offer a deep sense of respect and understanding of the individual, and we’ve extended our community out to the Adelphi campus,” Ms. Ludlam says. “I hope students and campus visitors now know who these kids are and that they’re part of the Early Learning Center.”

This piece appeared in the Adelphi University Magazine Fall 2012 edition.

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