Colorado State University’s Early Childhood Laboratory Celebrates 70 Years of Community Partnership

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its Early Childhood Laboratory this month. The laboratory school, part of the College of Applied Human Sciences, has served hundreds of Colorado State students, children and families in the Fort Collins community.

The laboratory preschool began in 1929 as a summer session activity and became a year-round operation in 1936. The school grew out of the Department of Home Economics at Colorado Agricultural College (now Colorado State University), which offered its first course on children and families in 1919. The facility originally was located where the Rainbow restaurant now stands on Laurel Street. In 1972, the laboratory school was moved into Rockwell Hall and, in 1976, it was moved to its current location in the Gifford Building on campus.

Ruth McBride, director of the laboratory, said that although the location of the laboratory has changed and the field of early childhood development has evolved, the laboratory’s mission of teaching, research and service to the community is the same.

"The philosophy of the laboratory school remains unchanged," she said. "Meaningful educational experiences are planned in a caring atmosphere to promote the physical, social, emotional and intellectual growth of the children."

Families who enroll their young children in the laboratory school benefit from the rich pre-school environment the facility provides. In turn, Colorado State graduate and undergraduate students learn from observation and interaction with the children. The laboratory school also provides subjects for student and faculty research projects.

The Early Childhood Laboratory was recently granted accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. This prestigious recognition has been achieved by approximately 7% of early childhood programs nationwide. The accreditation is a rigorous, voluntary process by which early childhood programs demonstrate that they meet national standards of excellence. Programs seeking accreditation undergo an intensive self-study that involves collecting information from parents, teachers, administrators and classroom observations. The self-study is followed by a site visit from a team of early childhood professionals selected by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Information collected through the self-study and by the site visit team is independently reviewed by a team of national experts who grant or defer accreditation.

"The laboratory school provides an extraordinarily diverse environment," said Linda Carlson, the laboratory’s assistant director. "It has an international atmosphere with students from around the world.

We also collaborate with Poudre School District Early Childhood Team to work with children with special needs and their families."

"Students studying to be everything from pediatricians to basketball coaches choose to do their internships here," said Pris Patti, master teacher at the laboratory. "They communicate their expectations very well to us, and we help to tailor internships to fit their needs that best benefit them to work in the real world."

Marie Macy, former director of the lab school, said, "This preschool was once one of only four or five in Fort Collins, and it enjoyed a distinctive and eminent reputation. Many parents would call for their newborn children to be placed on the coveted waiting list."

Today, the lab school’s waiting list continues to testify to its highly regarded programs.

The Early Childhood Laboratory anniversary celebration is open to the public and will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. April 18 in Rooms 124 and 137 in the Gifford Building on campus. The evening will include self-guided tours, a historical photo essay presentation, singing and signing performances by the children currently enrolled at the lab and a silent auction. Remarks will be made by Clif Barber, chairman of the Human Development and Family Studies Department; Nancy Hartley, dean of the College of Applied Human Sciences; McBride; and former laboratory directors Macy, Marty Moore, Jerry Bigner and Barbara McCornack.