In 1971, a group of UM-Dearborn students, faculty and parents, with the encouragement and assistance of Professor Rosalyn Saltz who served them as faculty advisor and educational consultant, initiated a small parent cooperative preschool on the campus. The original preschool was located in the back of the kitchen at the Henry Ford Estate. Shortly after, it was moved into the first South Fairlane cottage on campus with space provided by the university. In 1975 the Child Development Center (CDC) became an official part of the university with Saltz as its new director.
By 1975 the CDC was extensively utilized by students in courses offered by the SOE as well as those in psychology and other disciplines. This new program was hosting visitors from other campuses and others who were interested in our small but novel child care / early education program and its philosophy and methods.
The Center’s dual role as both an early learning center and academic teacher education resource for the campus has continued. In 1990, the CDC was among the first 34 of the 3,502 child centers in Michigan to earn a prestigious national accreditations by meeting the stringent standards of the then newly established National Academy of Early Childhood Centers (NAYEC). More than 90 preservice practicum education students who were enrolled in SOE courses earned course credits at the Center each term. Research focusing on child education or child development was undertaken by faculty members in education and other disciplines.
By 1991, the second and third classrooms and kindergarten had been added to the CDC. An average of 140 children were enrolled in the programs. The Center’s educational program has been further enhanced by incorporating ideas from the educational philosophy and strategies of the early education schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The Reggio public preschools had attracted international attention and were designated as the “best in the world” in an article in NEWSWEEK magazine. Saltz visited these centers in 1991 and found many things in their approach that, when adapted to our culture, promised to enrich our program as well as early childhood education program at UM-Dearborn.
The Center’s academic value and its contribution to the campus and its SOE were formally recognized in the 1992 report of the NCAA, after its comprehensive review of the SOE its programs. The report was very positive in regard to the SOE as a whole, and, in particular it designated the CDC’s contribution to the SOE program and operations as a particular strength.
Professor Mary Trepanier-Street became the CDC’s director in 1995. Over the next decade the programs needs and enrollment increased and a new location was in discussion. The Center’s progressive education strategies, incorporation of Reggio practice, and use of technology in its classrooms for young children attracted many professionals and academics from Michigan and beyond, many of whom visited the Center to observe its educational program. The CDC’s professional and academic personnel attended and participated regularly in many professional workshops and conference. It was a very productive period of our research and publications regarding our practice.
In 1998, the CDC was one of 10 centers in Michigan featured in the Joanne Hendrick’s textbook “The Whole Child: A Caregiver’s Guide to the First Five Years,” which resulted in a 13-part series produced by Public Broadcasting System’s WTVS-TV in Detroit that was broadcast nationwide. Our continued interest in the Reggio philosophy resulted in the recruitment of SOE faculty Seong Hong who was an initial member of the Amherst Massachusetts program that brought the Reggio philosophy to the United States. Dr. Hong visited the Reggio Emilia schools in 2002 to continue the development of the CDC program.
Dr. Hong introduced the teachers and university students to the Reggio documentation concept. Documentation is a multi-step process that begins with careful observation and listening to children’s action and conversations using notes, photos and video recordings. These strategies call for teachers to think, articulate and problem solve with one another. Through our reflective teaching and learning, we construct deep understanding of how young children learn, and how to enhance adult learning.
The UM-Dearborn and Oakwood Healthcare partnership was initiated in the Spring of 2006 through the efforts of Jane Schwyn, an educator familiar with both programs. She recognized our high quality program and the complementary needs, opportunities, resources and commonly held passion for helping all children, particularly challenged children, and their families. Jane Schwyn introduced both parties to begin a dialogue for the partnership. Oakwood Healthcare and UM-Dearborn entered into a collaboration agreement in December 2006, focused on building a comprehensive, long-term relationship to support each other’s missions for education, clinical care, research and service to the community. This collaboration included a move into a shared facility at 18501 Rotunda Drive in Dearborn in 2008.
The Child Development Center was renamed to the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) in 2008 to better reflect the mission of the campus’ model teacher-preparation and early learning center. This collaboration offers many exciting opportunities for children, families, university students and ECEC/CEF staff and faculty. Children with and without disabilities can be educated together and come to appreciate each other’s strengths and potentials. Medical and education staff and faculty can expand their knowledge about children and innovative practices by sharing expertise across disciplines and by conducting collaborative research projects.
In 2012, the ECEC began under new leadership with Dr. Seong Hong as director and Deborah Jones as site director. Currently there are numerous programming opportunities for children and families, teacher education students and medical professionals as well as research activities regarding this collaboration.