Our overall mission is to provide high-quality early education programs for children.        Children and instructors in Child Development Lab

We offer year-round programs for children ages six weeks to five years. The program provides developmentally and culturally appropriate early learning experiences for children in safe, relationship-based classrooms. We model best teaching and learning practices based on research and contemporary theories of child development. An integral component of our developmental curriculum is learning through inquiry.
Research has shown that programs that participate in the voluntary accreditation process are typically of higher quality because the accreditation standards exceed the mandatory regulations required by the State of Wisconsin.
The CDL is currently accredited by the City of Madison Office of Community Services.
Resources on best practices in Early Childhood Education:
•    Child Care Aware of America
•    National Association for the Education of Young Children

Teaching Mission

Our mission is to provide UW students with carefully supervised training opportunities associated with their course of study.
When undergraduate and graduate students volunteer at the CDL, they gain real-world experience, learn about child and family development and learn how to teach in an early education program. Sometimes students are required to observe a classroom as a part of a class assignment, and the knowledge gained from these naturalistic observations is critical to understanding child development and learning.
Recent courses that have included the CDL for a field placement work

  • Human Development & Family Studies Internship Programs: Juniors and Seniors in the Human Development & Family Studies major are required to complete three credits of internship for experiential learning.
  • HDFS 362  Development of the Young Child:  This class introduces students to the principles and research findings on normative development with implications for the guidance of young children in the home and in preschool groups.  This class includes observation at the Child Development Lab.
  • HDFS 663  Developmental and Family Assessment : This class introduces students to the process of family-focused developmental assessment with infants and young children, including family interviewing, taking developmental histories, observing children, and developmental screening.  Students are placed in classrooms for three hours each week.
  • C & I 340  Elementary Education Practicum One: In this practicum and corresponding seminar, students explore the various relationships among education, curriculum, and instruction across contexts of home, community and school. Practical sites are in preschools, neighborhood centers, and after-school sites serving children from diverse backgrounds.
  •  C&I 425   Concerns and Constraints in Teaching Young Children:  This class examines programmatic, professional, and technical forces that motivate and constrain teachers’ work, and questions the assumptions and philosophies that are the foundation of various teaching practices.
  • C & I 66 Early Childhood Education: The course examines trends, basic principles, issues, evaluation, and curriculum planning for the group education of preschool children.
  • Occupational Therapy TS621 “Assessment of Occupational Participation”:  In this course, students learn skills required for assessment of occupational participation in a variety of contexts and across a range of ages and populations.
  • Psychology 560: Child Psychology:  This course explores the learning principles, motor, language, perceptual, and social development. Experimentation and systematic investigation of development in both human and sub-human species stressed.
  • Project Grow: At Project Grow, the goal is to build literacy, language, social, and initiative skills in young children. They do this by pairing motivated college students, called Corps members, with preschool children in caring and supportive one-to-one relationships for an entire school year.
  • LA 451 – Open Space Planning and Design: students learn practical planning and design skills as they study to become landscape architects (the UW Child Development Lab playground is one design site). Students work within teams, with clients (preschool staff, children and families) and learn to communicate design ideas verbally, graphically and in writing.

To schedule an observation for a class assignment, click here.
To use the CDL for internship placement, click here.
To volunteer at the CDL, click here.

Research Mission

Our mission is to provide a population and a setting for UW faculty and students to conduct research on issues related to child development, early learning and family studies. We welcome both observational and participatory observations.

All individuals interested in conducting research at one of our sites must submit a research proposal, which is then reviewed by a designated faculty member of the School of Human Ecology (Approval from the Committee on Research involving human subjects is a prerequisite for accepting proposals.) Parents are notified of projects involving direct interaction with children, and their informed consent is requested.

Examples of research conducted at the Child Development Lab:

  • Spring 2014: “Toddlers’ Cognitive Skills and Screen-Based Learning”, Heather Kirkorian, Assistant Professor in Human Development & Family Studies
  • “Teachers Teaching of Meditation to Young Children in Classrooms”, Gary G. Price, Emeritus Faculty in Curriculum and Instruction, Early Childhood Education
  • “Children’s Learning from Sesame Street”, Marie-Louise Mares, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Arts.

For more information on how to conduct research at the Child Development Lab, click here.

Outreach Mission

As part of our mission statement, we take pride in sharing our knowledge and experiences with others. Our staff is encouraged to engage in outreach activities, such as hosting international visitors, serving on committees, providing continuing education to other teachers in the community or helping organize community service projects.