Windy Hill Laboratory School 2014-2015 in Review

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WINDY HILL LABORATORY SCHOOL 2014–2015 IN REVIEW IN 2010, WINDY HILL MOVED into its LEED Silver-certified $2.4 million facility, designed to be environmentally sustainable while meeting the early care and learning needs of children. In fall 2014, Windy Hill was licensed by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NHDHHS) to better prepare students for working in state-licensed child care programs.

FOUNDED IN 1976, WINDY HILL SCHOOL is an integral part of Colby-Sawyer College. The lab school was designed to offer early care and education services to the community while training college students to work with children and families. The high quality of the lab school and its programming attracts students to the child development major, but students from many majors work alongside the teachers as well as participate in research initiatives. Windy Hill boasts child development faculty with doctoral degrees who integrate their curriculi with lab school experiences and qualified, degreed teachers for the children. 1

A PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SCHOOL Windy Hill School is a great place for educators to visit for professional development. Classrooms include materials from a variety of early childhood models including Waldorf, Montessori and Reggio Emilia. Display panels in the hallway describe classroom routines, learning opportunities and children’s development. Pictures and descriptions in the classrooms make visible the children’s learning and allow children to revisit past projects. This past academic year, 10 teachers from three states visited Windy Hill for professional development. Two teachers from Beacon Hill Nursery in Boston observed the toddler program, six public school teachers from Vermont toured the facility and observed the pre-k program, and two teachers from New Hampshire observed transitions and art activities.


Three child development courses were held in Windy Hill’s seminar room, including Mathematics & Technology Instruction Methods; Developmentally Appropriate Practices and Research Literacy. The Child Development Club held its monthly meetings at the school, as did the child development faculty and Windy Hill staff. Parent/teacher meetings, the Fall Early Childhood College Round Table meeting and the spring NAEYC Board Meeting also met at Windy Hill.

During the 2014–2015 academic year, early care and learning experiences were provided to 46 children from 11 communities; approximately 50 percent were from New London and 13 percent were children of Colby-Sawyer employees. More than 30 student employees interacted with children and their families while learning from expert teachers and gaining experience toward their child care credentials.

Professor Malan and his environmental studies students built raised garden beds for Windy Hill children to enjoy. Director of Sustainability Jennifer White ’90 talked about composting, which led to a compost pig located between the garden beds and blueberry bushes.

Parents were invited to participate in activities and regularly received photo journals via email. Families were encouraged to conference with their child’s teacher throughout the year and were offered support in preparing their children for kindergarten when needed.

Colby-Sawyer Eco Reps included Windy Hill children in the first video in a series about ecological awareness and sustainability on campus. The children were also part of the Take Back the Tap initiative, which advocates for reducing consumption of single-use water bottles.

An essential element of Windy Hill is its location on a college campus. Windy Hill teachers and affiliated college students are visible every day on campus pulling children in wagons or holding hands as they walk to the bookstore, swimming pool, art gallery, sugar house, bouncy house, rock climbing wall, Susan’s Swamp, the library, Boulder Forest, the athletic fields and more.

The Baird Health & Counseling Center provides Windy Hill School professional services regarding health-related questions, input on health care policy, and access to training materials.

It is a natural and common occurrence for the children to interact with professors during their outings, such as talking with The Farmer (aka Professor of Environmental Studies Leon-C. Malan), while helping to harvest vegetables in the college’s organic garden. Some highlights for the children this year included the Tomie dePaola exhibit, tasting the maple syrup produced on campus, picking veggies and bringing sunflowers back to the classroom to study. Windy Hill School children also enjoyed a Hawaiian luau, drum circle, dance circle and sign language workshop, and Wednesdays on the Quad where they mingled with “the big kids.” The Town of New London also expanded the Windy Hill curriculum. The children participated in the New London Recreation Department’s 2014 Pumpkin People contest and won second prize for their creations that represented things they love. The toddlers made Pete the Cat and Brown Bear, and the nursery and pre-K children made pumpkin kids playing Ring Around the Rosie. Throughout the year, Windy Hill children and teachers took many walks along Main Street, visited Artisan’s Workshop, the New London Fire Department, Spring Ledge Farm and Tracy Memorial Library. Windy Hill was also a proud sponsor of the Carnival of Courage, an inclusive community event for children and families, and the Windy Hill Art Exhibit at Sawyer Fine Arts Center in May was open to the public.

Classrooms include materials from a variety of early childhood models.



simple and high contrast. The students presented their designs to Windy Hill School staff and solicited feedback from Windy Hill School students. Based on this feedback, Windy Hill School staff selected the icons created by Rebecca Strout ʼ15 to represent the school and the classrooms in a range of applications from signage to future communications with families.


Assistant Professor of Humanities Paul Robertson’s Intro to Multidisciplinary Studies class learned about careers with children and families by visiting the lab school, learning about early childhood curriculum and environments and observing child to child and child to adult interactions.


The 23 students in Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Education Diane Edwards’ class Language and Creative Arts, Birth-5 interacted with the children to engage and extend conversations while observing and recording language milestone development.


Windy Hill icon system designed by a Colby-Sawyer graphic design student.

Assistant Professor of Social Sciences and Education Omari Jackson’s Sociology of Education class researched cultural collateral using Windy Hill as a case study and 15 students presented their findings at Windy Hill on April 23. Students promoted the event with flyers and supplementary handouts that highlighted important information.

5 DISCIPLINES, 12 CLASSES, 200 STUDENTS Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Education Darcy Mitchell’s three sections of Introduction to Child Development used the observation rooms at Windy Hill several times. During assignments called Concepts Hunts, a total of 65 students looked for specific content areas that we were discussing (language development in toddlers and social skills in preschoolers, for example). Another assignment was an observation of how theories are evidenced in early childhood environments.

Professor Malan’s Sustainable Organizations class of 12 students toured Windy Hill with one of the building’s architects to learn about the school’s sustainable design and energy saving features.

STUDENTS AS RESEARCHERS Five senior interns representing three majors were at Windy Hill in the spring, and each presented their action research at the Susan Colby Colgate Scholars Symposium. Child development major Caroline Kuliga studied sensory materials as she worked with the toddlers. Psychology major Vibhustuti Thapa studied social interactions and peer relationships with toddlers and nursery-age children. Kathryn McGlashan, a public health major, assembled a resource binder on child health and wellness resources specific to Windy Hill’s needs. Paige O’Malley, a child development/teacher certification major, focused on behavior management during student teaching at Windy Hill. Alison Wood, a child development major/media studies minor, focused on creating materials to facilitate online orientation for students and volunteers who want to work or volunteer at Windy Hill School.

Professor Mitchell’s 28 students in Advanced Early and Middle Childhood Development visited Windy Hill to each observe a child regarding a specific area of interest (such as motor development) and record their observations with recommendations for the child’s continued development. Approximately 10 students from Research Consultant Erica Webb’s Family & Community Collaboration class completed 30-minute observations of children and caregivers. The goal was for students to determine which characteristics (and NAEYC guidelines as well as state accreditation laws) made for a successful early childhood setting. Associate Professor of Social Sciences Kathleen Farrell brought 11 students to Windy Hill after reading Barrie Thorne’s Gender Play, a study of gender in elementary schools. The goal was to see if and how gender was present in children’s interactions, toys and clothing.

Sophomore Jenna Haddad, a media and communication major/child development minor, engaged in a semester-long project at Windy Hill that focused on media and young children. Talya Ipbuken ’16, a child development major/education minor, focused on science, technology, engineering and math skills with nursery students.

In the fall, 18 students in the Developmentally Appropriate Practices class spent about 50 hours in the lab school learning about best practices for each age group via participatory observation. Also in the fall, 10 junior and senior graphic design majors in Associate Professor of Fine and Performing Arts Hilary Walrod’s Identity System Design class were invited to design sets of icons for the four classroom groups at Windy Hill. They visited the school to meet with staff and to observe students, which proved to be valuable primary research (and a first-time experience for most). The graphic design students were asked to create icons that would foster a sense of identity for each classroom and within the school as a whole; it was important that the icons function as a system but also that each be distinct. The icons also needed to be age-appropriate, engaging, scalable, versatile,

TECHNOLOGY Documentation of learning, photo journals and children’s portfolios are facilitated by technology. Windy Hill School has a teacher’s resource room/technology lab that is equipped with up-to-date computers, digital cameras, software, scanners and more thanks to the endowed fund established in memory of Jake Shumway. These resources are also available for the college students to plan and document their activities with the children.


OUTDOOR SPACE The outdoors is an extension of the classroom; it’s a natural environment for learning through exploration and adventures. Phase II for Windy Hill’s Outdoor Space includes a lookout tower and weather station, converting the shed to play space, storage for outdoor materials, a playscape for toddlers, and revitalization of the fruit trees and blueberry patch to tie in with the raised beds and composter. The goal is to implement Phase II by 2017.

above: Phase I of Windy Hill’s outdoor space expansion. The outdoor environment is an optimal extension of the classroom that fosters scientific inquiry and physical activity. Phase I expands opportunities to explore and move with additional structures to climb and spaces to observe and record natural elements such as wind and rain.

Windy Hill School offers early care and learning experiences for toddlers, nursery and pre-kindergarten age children from 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with an optional three-hour extension. Windy Hill School Colby-Sawyer College 541 Main Street New London, NH 03257