ELC's Springtime Activities Foster Love of Music, Art and Family Bonds

Thursday, June 13, 2013

It was a busy spring for Gateway Community College’s (GCC) Early Learning Center (ELC), as students visited the Ansonia Nature Center, the Beardsley Zoo, took part in a “Little Read” with their families and shared their art work with the GCC community.

The ELC’s Male Involvement Program continued to grow and flourish, said Center Director Marge Weiner. Started by GCC alumnus and ELC teacher Josh Berrios, the Male Involvement Program was created to engage fathers, grandfathers and other father figures in the lives of their pre-schoolers. 

Berrios works closely with the fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers and uncles, encouraging them to play active roles in the lives of the young students. He has helped link some of the men in the group to courses at GCC. He brought a father with him to Hartford so he could advocate on behalf of early childhood issues and he said the father felt empowered to be able to raise his voice in a way he hadn’t before. 

Berrios held a special Dads breakfast in June and hosted a Music and Movement program with Meg Dunn, a music teacher and GCC student. Berrios said the grandfathers, uncles, dads, stepfathers and significant others were enthusiastic participants, making musical shakers using recycled water bottles and dried beans. 

“We made our environment welcoming to males by having a special lending library with books about dads, uncles and grandparents,” Weiner said. “We made a special ELC calendar with pictures of dads with their children. We have had special programming for fathers and they have really gotten involved.”

ELC was a busy place for all families – moms and dads and kids – holding a second Music and Movement event and a “Little Read” where students, their families and ELC teachers and staff gathered in the Library and Learning Commons to read and talk about Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats.

Also this spring, the GCC community embraced the art of ELC students during its annual art show. Their paintings, drawing, sculptures and other pieces were on display in Gateway’s art wing on the third floor. GCC students, administrators, faculty and staff stopped by not only to view the art but to read about the many competencies and skills involved in creating each piece of art. Members of the GCC community shared words of praise in a booklet in the display area and Weiner and the ELC teachers shared those comments with the student artists. The art show and Little Read were part of the ELC’s Week of the Young Child celebration, Weiner said.

It was all part of an exciting year for the ELC (in the late fall the center received a five-year accreditation). In seven out of 10 accreditation standards, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) gave the ELC a score of 100 plus, the highest possible rating.