Early Learning Center Celebrates 35 Years

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Gateway Community College (GCC) Early Learning Center (ELC) is celebrating a significant milestone; it has been training early childhood educators and caring for preschool children in New Haven for 35 years

The Center is a fully licensed and nationally accredited laboratory school for preschool children, while also serving as a lab site for GCC students earning degrees and certificates in Early Childhood Education, Psychology, Nursing and Nutrition.  The ELC officially opened in March 1983, and teachers are now experiencing the pleasure of former preschool students bringing their own children back to GCC when it’s time for them to start preschool. This continuum of care exemplifies why the ELC is proud of its longevity.  

The learning environment is based on three instructional models:  Child Development, Modified Montessori and Diversified Creative Curriculum.  All three classroom models are based upon the principle that every child is an individual and should be able to develop at his or her own pace.  Hands-on sensory experiences encourage children to think, analyze problems and arrive at conclusions based on their own experiences.   

In order to gain practical experience, ELC Director Sarah Chambers said that Early Childhood Education majors complete a large number of observation hours in our state-of-the-art observation rooms where observers are unoticed by the preschoolers. 

The ELC has experienced significant changes over the years, most notably the move from Long Wharf to downtown New Haven, but the caring environment designed to help children grow and develop has remained a constant.   


John Fitzpatrick, whose son, Ryan, 7, and daughter, Alison, 5, completed preschool at the ELC, said that his children had a memorable experience there.  He and his wife, Sandra, had visited a number of preschools before learning through friends that GCC was another option worth exploring.  Fitzpatrick said that the children thrived at the ELC, he appreciated the convenient hours and the downtown location.  

“It’s just the friendliest place,” Fitzpatrick said about the ELC.  “It’s a really welcoming environment.  

One of the highlights of the program is our mission to involve parents as their child’s first teacher.

Every spring the center celebrates our dads, grandfathers and significant male role models with our annual Male Involvement Pancake Breakfast, which takes place in collaboration with the GCC Culinary department The parent program facilitates trips to the Connecticut Audubon Society Coastal Center at Milford Point, and the Ansonia Nature Center The year-end picnic at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven is another highly attended annual family event. The children’s art show is well attended by not only the families of the children, but by the greater GCC community. It is our chance to highlight children’s stories and learning though their artwork, and we are very proud of them.  

The hours for the ELC are from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and it is open from September through June.  Breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack are provided each day.  There are dedicated parking spaces for parent drop-off on the ground floor under the Temple Street garage.  

Preschool spaces are currently available to GCC faculty, staff, students and the entire New Haven community with a reduced rate for GCC students and sliding scale fee for New Haven residents. For more information or questions please contact Director, Sarah Chambers, at 203-285-2132.