SLC's Early Childhood Center Completes Entire Semester Outdoors

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Early Childhood Center students explore the Remy Theatre on campus

At the Early Childhood Center—Sarah Lawrence's on-campus preschool and kindergarten program that also serves as a fieldwork site for SLC students—the youngest members of the college community are immersed in experiential learning and the power of hands-on discovery and engagement with their peers.

Faced with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center’s director, Lorayne Carbon, considered how her program could safely approach the fall semester while staying true to its philosophy of learning. Out of this obstacle arose an innovative solution that simultaneously prioritized student learning and development as well as community health. And for a modern program based on current research regarding child development, the approach is decidedly old school.

Students learning under a tent“We have a very large tent,” Carbon said in an interview. “Everything we know about COVID-19 suggests that being outside is exponentially safer than being indoors. While we’d certainly prefer to have full use of our facilities, a tenet of our curriculum is in the importance of being outside and engaging with each other and with the natural world, so our decision to conduct the semester in-person and fully outdoors was a perfect match.”

Children playing in the snowNestled into two separate enclaves of the Sarah Lawrence College campus, the Early Childhood Center typically has students ranging from two to six years old. This September, however, reflecting the limitations of New York State and CDC requirements, Carbon, alongside a lead teacher and two graduate student teaching assistants, welcomed only the Center’s five and six year old students to campus in order to stay true to the Center’s mission and philosophy of learning.

With the exception of two high wind days and one snowstorm, and aided by a large heater, the group conducted lessons, learning, and playing entirely outside.

Teacher and students studying under a tent“Our students, families, and teachers have been wonderful—they took a leap of faith and we were able to really create something special,” Carbon said. “While learning might look different right now, the opportunity for our students to come together every day, to see each other, to play, and to learn and challenge themselves has been truly fantastic. Our small size and flexibility has made this semester possible and we are very much looking forward to reconvening in the spring!”

What’s on tap for the spring? A substantial amount of time spent outdoors for students, but with an increase in indoor facility uses. The Center anticipates welcoming all class cohorts for the fall of 2021, carrying forward the lessons learned from this fall.

Visit the Early Childhood Center's website for more information and information on how to apply for admission.


About Sarah Lawrence College

Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence is a prestigious, coeducational liberal arts college that consistently ranks among the leading liberal arts colleges in the country. Sarah Lawrence is known for its pioneering approach to education, rich history of impassioned intellectual and civic engagement, and vibrant, successful alumni. In close proximity to the unparalleled offerings of New York City, the historic campus is home to an intellectually curious and diverse community.