The Child Development Center at Kent State University has joined the elite ranking of schools that are certified International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program providers of early years education.

Serving youngsters between the age of 18 months and 6 since 1972, the Child Development Center, known locally by its acronym CDC and located at the intersection of Loop and Rhodes Roads, is a laboratory school with a three-pronged mission: service to children and families using best practices, professional development for pre-service and practicing teachers and the dissemination of research.

The IB designation draws on research about the best practices conducted around the world. Top schools in North and South America, Europe, Australia and Asia use the IB framework to stage strong curriculums in which student learn by working in groups. The IB framework recognizes that even the youngest persons are not empty vessels, but are capable of learning through inquiry processes that include collaboration and reflection.

"It is a global way of approaching education," said Rochelle Hostler, the International Baccalaureate Coordinator, who shepherded the CDC’s application for IB status. The IB approach is popular with families from other countries who set up residence here while the parents undertake research or work for large corporations in the greater Akron area.

"They know what IB means and they want their children to benefit from it," Hostler said

Currently, only a few school districts in northeast Ohio offer the IB continuum: Shaker Heights, Oberlin, and Westlake. The elementary schools that feed into Firestone in Akron are pursuing IB authorization. The public’s lack of understanding of IB’s benefits can work against school districts introducing and maintaining the framework, Hostler said.

The IBPYP designation is a natural extension of the CDC’s Reggio Emilia inspired approach to preschool and primary education, according to the director of the CDC, Dr. Monica Miller Marsh. Reggio Emilia refers to the educational philosophy that stems from a city in northern Italy that educators worldwide believe to have possibly the best system of education for young people in the world. Youngsters learn respect, responsibility, empathy and community mindedness by exploring their interests and sharing them with others.

Although the CDC has received a 5-Star Step Up to Quality rating from the state of Ohio in addition to IB authorization, the school depends on grants and tuition for day-to-day operations. The Monday through Friday toddler, all-day program is $243 per week. Children 3 to 5, for all day, five days a-week cost $221 per week. All-day kindergarten costs $582 per month.

Pam Hutchins, coordinator of Children’s Program Admissions, said there are numerous options for fewer than all-day and all week-long enrollment.

"Parents interested should contact me," she said.

Student enrollment is capped at 150 and of these approximately 25 percent are children of international families. This diversity gives American youngsters a leg up in learning to work with young people from other countries at an early age.

During a recent tour, Miller Marsh and Hutchins showed off a mapping project in which youngsters measured and used string to demonstrate the routes and distances they travel on the way to school from Kent, Stow, Hudson, Akron and Fairlawn. Students, they said, recently spoke by live video with a youngster in China whose family is moving to Kent for graduate studies. In spite of the language barrier, the children all seemed to be able to communicate, they said.

"The child’s mother was so pleased," they said.

Outdoor education is highly valued at the school. Children spend time gardening, nature collecting, and learning about the importance of the environment. The food chain, food preparation, cleanliness, and good health are explored. Learning to understand one another’s viewpoint is the order of the day.

Every CDC teacher either holds or is working toward an advanced degree. Many are published authors who present at national and international conferences in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa.

David E. Dix is a former publisher of the Record-Courier.