Pre-Toddler D Lead Teacher – Victoria Smith

unnamed (12) (1)From New York with a bachelor’s degree in childhood education, Ms. Victoria believes that education should be exciting to children. “We should learn together. At Children’s Discovery Center, I learned the child is the first teacher, the teacher is the second teacher and the third teacher is the environment. I think that philosophy is beautiful.

“Children’s Discovery Center’s Reggio Emilia philosophy and approach resonated with me from day one and I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” she says.

An important part of her work is teaching students to identify, name and imitate different things. “I love showing them a picture and watching their expressions as they try to figure it out, point to the picture and name it. It’s a priceless moment that I cherish.”

During project time, children take on the role of being the teacher as she stands back and observes. “I feel like the student because I’m learning from them. I watch as they use their minds to develop fundamental concepts of how things happen.” While the children are exploring, she brings up questions to further their curiosity. “I am there to guide them as they develop the meaning of the project they’re doing.”

Born and raised in the Bronx, Ms. Victoria has a dog, “Mr. Bentley,” and is engaged to her boyfriend, Luke, who is also a teacher. She enjoys shopping with her mother, writing poetry, spending time with family and the outdoors.

“I love to dance as if no one is watching, and sing as if no one is listening!”

Mount Pleasant Premiere Child Care Center Hires Education Director

Betsy_WebMount Pleasant, SC – Betsy McArdle has joined Children’s Discovery Center, a Mount Pleasant child care provider, as education director. A public school educator for 12 years, McArdle has worked in general and special education and administration in four different states.

As the education director for both the South Carolina and Ohio centers, McArdle will oversee classrooms to support lesson plans and collaborate with teachers in their planning of the Reggio-inspired projects.

The Mount Pleasant center, located off Venning Road and Highway 17, tailors its learning environment to the world-renowned Reggio Emilia philosophy. From the infant child care program to the fully certified kindergarten, Children’s Discovery Center serves children ages 6 weeks to 5 years.

“I have had the blessing to have had my daughter enrolled at Children’s Discovery Center since opening day and have seen the center grow and evolve,” says McArdle. “The environment is always so welcoming, and when the opportunity presented itself for me to become a part of the team, I jumped on it!”

McArdle earned her bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s degree in educational administration from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She later earned an additional certification in early childhood education.

Education Director: Betsy McArdle

IMG_1396Education director Betsy McArdle learned about Children’s Discovery Center while researching schools for her own daughter.

“It was the overall feel and commitment to an inquiry-based learning model that led us to immediately enroll our daughter,” she says. Since then, she’s watched the center grow and evolve.

“The environment was always so welcoming, so when there was an opportunity for me to become a part of the team, I jumped on it!”  A public school educator for 12 years, Betsy has worked in general, special education and administration settings in four different states. An early childhood educator for Ohio’s Lakota Local School District, she was part of a team that visited Italy to gain experience with the Reggio framework.

“It was the start of a journey to learn these practices and strive to implement inquiry-based learning into every learning environment I was a part of, including with my own children. The encouragement of students to become investigators, risk-takers and communicators is why I’m so invested in growing this approach.”

In her new position, Betsy ensures lesson plans support state standards and incorporates National Association for the Education of Young Children best practices and behavior management strategies.

“I collaborate with teachers to plan Reggio-inspired projects and aid in creating aesthetically pleasing learning environments. In the classroom, I coach and model teaching techniques. I’m involved with both the Mt. Pleasant and Ohio campuses, so I share plans and ideas from center to center.”

With two children now attending the center, she is thrilled with the care, love and support they receive.

Exploring Pumpkins Inside and Out: Pre-Toddler D

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 2.50.51 PMThe children explored with pumpkins in many different ways. They explored through their sense of touch by feeling the outside and insides of a pumpkin. They smelled the inside of the pumpkin. They even painted with pumpkins and orange paint. They used their curiosity while exploring and I learned a lot about how they use their minds to explore.

I placed pumpkins of different sizes around the classroom. Some children sat on the pumpkins while others rolled them across the floor. One child collected pumpkins by placing them one at a time into a basket, counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. A few toddlers picked up a small pumpkin and dropped it on the floor as if it was a ball. Some kicked and banged the pumpkins on the table. While exploring the inside of the pumpkin, the children were skeptical at first. They didn’t seem interested until one child walked over to look at the pumpkin with curiosity. Quietly observing, I wondered what would happen next. They all started peering into the pumpkin, putting their hands inside. They discovered pumpkin seeds and began to pick the seeds from the squishy flesh.

The children also painted pumpkins on paper using paintbrushes and fingers. I placed pumpkins on the table to remind them how a pumpkin looks. It allowed them to visually connect the color and shape of their drawings with the actual pumpkin.

Clay Project

Clay (1)Ms. Jen’s class took inspiration from the book, Poking, Pinching, & Pretending: Documenting Toddlers’ Explorations with Clay by Lella Gandini, which provided plenty of ideas for exploring clay. “Sensory activities like this open up a whole new world for children in this phase of development. We had so much fun!” says Ms. Jen.

Before introducing the children to clay, Ms. Jen gave them opportunities to experience using other media including markers, paint, blocks and playdough.

“Watching the children explore the physical properties of clay through mouthing, smelling, scraping, patting and banging was unforgettable! We started with a big block. As you can see in the photos, the children were scraping it with their fingers and then exploring the pieces they’d scraped away. They also explored the weight of the clay,” says Ms. Jen.

“Heavy!” Bodie said with excitement.

Jen Dickson – Toddler B/Department Coordinator

IMG_0881 (1)Observing and listening to children before teaching them something they might learn on their own is key for Ms. Jen Dickson.

“That’s why the Reggio philosophy was very intriguing to me,” says Ms. Jen, adding that she finds working in the toddler room “an exhilarating experience. These children have so much energy and absorb information so quickly. I love seeing the rapid progress they make daily.”

A native of Clayton in upstate New York in the Thousands Islands region, Ms. Jen has lived in Charleston for 12 years along with her better half, Frank, and pup named Dublin. She is Resources of Infant Educarers (RIE)-certified, and one of her favorite activities is guiding her students during social interactions.

“The insight that the Reggio philosophy provides, particularly at this age, is fascinating. There are so many developmental milestones that we, as teachers, are experiencing with the children.”

Erin Mitchell: Toddler-D Head Teacher and Coordinator

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 2.41.47 PM

Ms. Erin has always enjoyed working with children. While earning her degree in human development and family studies and studying child development, she realized how important education is for children in the earliest stages of life. “I noticed that CDC genuinely cared for the education of each child and I wanted to be a part of the team.”

Previously a teacher with Children’s Discovery Center in Ohio, Ms. Erin moved to Charleston to help spread the Reggio Emilia philosophy. “I’ve enjoyed meeting all of the children and parents and have felt incredibly welcomed and appreciated by all,” she says.

A native of Toledo, Ms. Erin really enjoys the hands-on learning in the classroom. “The children are encouraged to explore with a variety of materials and it’s exciting to watch them grow and learn to use them in so many different ways.”

Reading stories to her classroom is a highlight. “The older toddlers are at such a fun age, and really enjoy storytelling. I love being animated, seeing the children’s reactions to certain events and hearing the questions and response they come up with to the stories I read,” she says.

Ms. Erin enjoys running outside, going to the beach, reading, listening to music and playing with her cat, Frank. She also plays the ukulele!

Drawing Project

CDC Drawing

Drawing or “mark making” is one of the “languages” we mean when we talk about the “100 Languages of Reggio.” It is a natural means of expression, similar to the spoken language. Psychologist, Howard Gardner, saw an “emerging consensus that the children’s earliest marks result from ‘enthusiastic movement — banging, swooping, pulling.'” He describes it as a “heated frenzy of scribbling.” This is what I find when I offer markers and whiteboards to my students.


Because of our many opportunities to experiment with and develop mark making as a means of expression, one of my students, Coleman (pictured left), is at the point where his drawing has meaning to him and he is expressing it to me! For more pictures of our students drawing, check out our Facebook album.

Our Featured Project – Water Play

Featured ProjectThroughout May, the Pre-Toddler B class completed a unit on plants and soil. During this unit of study, I noticed the children were most intrigued when water was incorporated into activities. Whether it was watering the plants in the Pre-Toddler garden, mixing soil and water to make “mud pies” or just washing their hands, the children loved splashing around in water.

Therefore, in June, I initiated a unit on “water play.” I hadn’t realized how many opportunities water would provide for extended learning and discovery in all developmental areas. Water play encouraged the children’s physical development and hand/eye coordination (pouring), strengthened their fine motor skills (squeezing water bottles), and encouraged their social and emotional development (learning how to work and cooperate with one another). The children learned basic math concepts and words such as more, less, empty and full.

One of the highlights was exploring the water spigot outside the school building. I demonstrated how to turn the spigot on and off, and then gave each child a plastic cup so they could practice filling and pouring from it. Now each time the children see a spigot by the playground, they immediately run to it and try turning it on and off.

Featured Project by Caroline Zomer: Water Play

Featured Teacher: Caroline Zomer

Featured TeacherWhat interested Ms. Caroline about teaching at CDC was the Reggio Emilia philosophy presented in a Christian environment. “Prior to CDC, I knew very little about the Reggio Emilia philosophy, but after researching both the philosophy and CDC’s organization, I knew this was a company I wanted to work for,” she says.

The Charleston-native and University of South Carolina graduate embraces the replacement of a rigid and specific “curriculum” with one that’s fluid and accommodating, based on the children’s interests and the knowledge they obtain through their own discoveries in the natural environment. Yet the routine of “morning meetings” is a favorite: “They provide daily opportunities for the children to develop and enhance their language and literacy, greeting, listening, responding and problem-solving skills,” Ms. Caroline says.

Her biggest reward is the relationships she establishes with both the children and their families. “It’s truly rewarding to see children and their families acknowledge the role I played in their child’s development.” Ms. Caroline loves Gamecock football and being outside and near water. She credits her dad with her success. “He has played both the father and mother role in my life, and has made many sacrifices to ensure I became a well-rounded adult.”