For the first time in the Early Childhood Research Center’s history of pre-school graduations, this summer’s ceremony was held outdoors—and made complete with a hill for a stage and the traditional chicken dance finale. For the dozen students, the August evening’s march through the grass, instead of a classroom, made for a more jubilant affair and, perhaps, a new custom even after on-campus classes resume.
“We feel kids are enjoying this a lot more. It’s a beautiful picture: blue sky, green grass. Everybody was excited for their future,” said X. Christine Wang, director of the Fisher-Price Endowed Early Childhood Research Center and professor in the Department of Learning and Instruction. “We would actually love to do this outdoors. We would like to make this a new tradition.”
When the spread of COVID-19 led the UB campus to close, the ECRC team adjusted, incorporating their philosophy of learning through play with remote learning plans for their students. There were storybook read aloud videos on Facebook and suggestions for parents, like the lessons in counting and science that go along with getting a piece of celery to absorb dyed water and change color.
Throughout it all, the children surprised everyone. They adapted to the short Zoom classes with time built in to share silly faces with their friends and dance. At August graduation time, the dozen graduates now heading to kindergarten seemed unfazed by the new face-mask reality. They knew to keep their masks on as they marched, taking them off once they got their diplomas and re-joined their families on the lawn.
“It was really adorable,” said Corinne Eggleston, associate director. “They really showed us the way,” said Wang, “because they are so resilient.”