UT’s Early Learning Center, an early childhood education facility and child development laboratory affiliated with the Department of Child and Family Studies in UT’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, has become the regional hub for early learning education.
The center’s Study Tours program brings educators and students to campus for a full schedule of in-classroom observations and other programming. Started in 2015, the year-round tours are open to anyone who applies. The majority of participants have come from North Carolina, Kentucky, and other learning centers and school districts across Tennessee.
In January, educators from early learning programs at the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia were in Knoxville to participate in the tours.
“I was impressed by the level of commitment and passion exhibited by the ELC staff members,” said Michelle Darabaris, a visiting educator from the University of Alabama. “Each was eager to share knowledge of emergent curriculum and best practices for young children.”
Tricia Amberg, a visiting educator from the University of Georgia, was also impressed by the staff at the ELC.
“The collaborative spirit, total focus of the teachers on the children, and the teachers’ intentionality were inspiring,” Amberg said.
In addition to their time in the classroom, visiting educators participate in sessions with the ELC’s teachers. The sessions focus on aspects that make the center stand out, including nature-based learning and training for preservice teachers.
“The study tour program is a great opportunity for educators to observe our program and to dialogue with one another,” said Dani Thibus, study tour coordinator.
The ELC provides early childhood education for children ages six weeks through kindergarten. Additionally, it provides academic support for more than 100 college students enrolled annually in child and family studies coursework and educators from the broader community of early childhood education through its annual summer institute, which will be held this year June 7–8 in Knoxville. Students and faculty from other disciplines, including audiology and speech pathology, nursing, psychology, and special education, also are served by the ELC.