Did you know?
Early childhood programs at UNR can be traced back to the early years of the 20th Century. Before 1972, children and families were selected from community applicants. In 1972, the center began to shift from being a traditional lab school to one that served campus families. This shift was prompted by the ASUN president (then Frankie Sue Del Papa) who brought attention to the fact that an increasing number of students were also parents and could use on-campus child care.
The children’s center was originally part of the School of Home Economics, which was part of the College of Agriculture. As Nevada’s Land Grant University, UNR provided training in these areas. In the late 1960s, Home Economics became an independent school and, in the late 1980s, it was discontinued as a UNR program. The majority of the remaining faculty formed the Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS), which is now in the College of Education. The CFRC has always been and continues to be an integral part of the HDFS program.
On December 9, 2016, UNR sent out a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to national child care chains, inviting them to submit a proposal to build a child care facility on the UNR campus that could serve 200 to 250 children. UNR committed to providing land on which such a program could be built, designating the northwest corner of campus for such a facility. UNR has continued to ignore the CFRC’s requests for permission to raise funds for an expanded child care facility.
In 1998, the CFRC was awarded a federal Early Head Start (EHS) grant, which now serves 210 children, from birth to age three, and their families. EHS works with some of the most vulnerable families in the community. The EHS program is housed in several facilities, including the Nelson Building, on West 2nd Street; the Comstock Building, at the northwest corner of campus; the Early Intervention facility, north of the Medical School; and on Sage Street. UNR is in the process of selling the Nelson Building, thus displacing EHS support staff offices and four infant/toddler classrooms. Currently, EHS and the CFRC use combined administrative staff, but are separate from each other in terms of teaching staff and facilities.
Our Early Head Start program was named one of ten “Centers of Excellence” in the country. This award was given because of the quality of the program’s curriculum and its impact on the children and families who are served by it.
The CFRC, including EHS, is one of the largest employers on campus. It includes 14 administrative staff, 37 teaching staff, and 6 home visitors. In addition, the CFRC and EHS employ about 75 student workers each semester. Students who work in the CFRC are mostly HDFS majors, but also come from many other departments, including Education, Psychology, Engineering, Biology, Nursing, Speech Pathology, Music, Art, Social Work, Business, and Liberal Arts.
The CFRC was the first program in Nevada to earn accreditation from The National Academy of Early Childhood Programs. This accreditation process is sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the largest professional group in the field, with a membership of well over 100,000. The CFRC has been continuously accredited since 1988.
Many UNR students utilize the CFRC as part of course expectations. All HDFS majors take a practicum course, which helps them learn about children’s development and appropriate methods for teaching and caring for children. Students from other departments use the CFRC as an observation site or engage in projects involving children and families. Elementary Education students who are pursuing an emphasis on Early Childhood Education may also use the CFRC as a site for implementing curriculum projects.
The Child and Family Research Center is inspired by the world-renowned municipal schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. What distinguished this approach to early education is the involvement of very young children engaged in complex small group investigations. Teachers observe and reflect on children’s interests, and strive to inspire them by transforming ordinary opportunities into extraordinary experiences. As children work, generating and testing their hypotheses, they are encouraged to depict their ideas in many ways, including drawing, painting, sculpture, dramatic play, stories, music, and movement. They work together to share their thinking, resolve problems, and create deeper understanding. Thoughtfully arranged environments support the children’s learning and their co-construction of knowledge. The Reggio Emilia approach is well grounded in contemporary research and theory, which results in developmentally appropriate curriculum for the children of the Child and Family Research Center and Early Head Start.
In 2009, after three years of intensive fundraising, a group of 42 CFRC staff and UNR faculty were able to go to Italy to learn first-hand about the programs of Reggio Emilia.