Child Development Lab School

Who we are and what we do

The Child Development Center and Laboratory School (CDLS) fulfills two primary purposes.

  • The CDLS serves as a learning center for Early Childhood Education students with a forum for observing and practicing the methods and theories taught in our academic program.
  • The CDLS provides students, faculty and staff and the community high quality child-care program that foster children’s development in a warm and nurturing environment.

Our staff includes the director, three teachers, two assistant teachers, three educational assistants, and two part-time administrative assistant.

Mission Statement

The CDLS at Norwalk Community College is dedicated to providing high quality training and support to our early childhood education students.  Our program is committed to quality education for children (ages 6 months to 5 years) and their families.


We support and nurture the growth of each individual child in all areas of development:  social, emotional, physical, cognitive and creative.  These areas are very important to the development of the whole child.

We want each child’s experience to be a positive one, filled with activities that are both challenging and rewarding.  We will provide and maintain a classroom setting that is emotionally secure, supportive and planned for independence.  Our program is aimed at teaching the child how to think rather than what to think, and is more concerned with forming the mind rather than with filling the mind.


Due to the tireless efforts of the college administration and the first Early Childhood Coordinator, Professor Darlene Ragozzine, the Child Development Laboratory School (CDLS) at CT State Norwalk was first opened in the fall of 1988 on Wilson Avenue, former home of Norwalk Community College.  In addition to the initial set-up funds appropriated by the 1987 Connecticut State Legislature, outside funding was provided by the Student Advisory Board and the Friends of Norwalk Community College.  The funding and opening of the Center was truly a collaborative effort uniting the college administration, students, faculty, staff and the business community.

The present CDLS opened in the fall of 1991, doubling the size of its operating site and incorporating an observation room for parents, CT State Norwalk staff and students to view and record children’s progress.  In 1994, Kathy Croaning became the coordinator of the ECE Program and continued to strengthen the program and its mission until her death in 1999.  The center was named in her honor in the spring of 2000.

Educational Framework

The CDLS offers quality early care and education for children ages six months to five years of age.  The professional staff involves the director and experienced teachers who establish a classroom environment and curriculum to foster each individual child’s emotional, physical, intellectual and social development.  The physical arrangement, daily schedule and routines are designed to suit individual and group needs. The CDLS also offers an opportunity for Early Childhood Education students to observe and practice theories and methods taught through the academic program at Norwalk Community College.  The CDLS staff and the ECE Program staff are unified in the presentation and implementation of developmentally appropriate practices for young children.


Our curriculum is based on the researchers and theorists in the field of early childhood education. Piaget; learning opportunities are based on past learning/experiences and should be concrete and hands on. Vygotsky; teacher is the model/facilitator in the process of a child learning a new skill and learning happens through social interactions (PLAY). Erikson; learning opportunities should support the development of self-image. Developmentally Appropriate Practices it is at the core of our teaching. Our philosophy encompasses ideas and teaching methods derived from the published curriculums such as: Project Approach (topics of study are child directed), Creative Curriculum (room environment and authentic assessing) and Bank Street (social awareness). Curriculum is aligned with CT Early Learning Development Standards (E.L.D.S.) and the Connecticut Documentation and Observation for Teaching System (CT DOTS).

Intentional Teaching

At the CDLS we pride ourselves on being “intentional teachers”. Intentional teachers observe the children to assess their educational needs and set appropriate individual and group goals for the children. Learning goals for your child include all aspects of growth and are grouped into four domains: Personal and Social, Physical, Cognitive and Creative Development. As teachers, we select several performance standards to work on each week. This process of planning and observing and continuously repeating the cycle ensures that not only are your child’s developmental needs being met, but they are continuously challenged to their fullest potential. The CT E.L.D.S. were developed to help families, communities, and schools work together to support children’s early learning and growth. The E.L.D.S. guide teachers on what children should know and be able to do. Emphasis is placed on teachers and children engaging in active exploration, oral language, higher order thinking and integration of basic skills. These elements promote the development of language competence, learning through active engagement, encouraging children to use complex thinking and teaching children through rich conversational exchanges that take place during play.

What to know more?

Check out the following resources:

  • Bredekamp, Sue & Copple, Carol (Eds.). 2009, third edition. Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
  • Bredekamp, Sue & Copple, Carol. 2006. Basics of Developmentally Appropriate Practice; An Introduction for Teacher of Children 3 to 6. Washington, DC: NAEYC
  • Dodge, Diane Trisrter, Colker, Laura J & Heroman, Cate. 2002, fourth edition. Creative Curriculum for Preschool. Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies
  • Young Investigators: The Project Approach in the Early Years (Early Childhood Education Series) 3rd Edition by Judy Harris Helm (Author), Lilian G. Katz (Author)
  • Connecticut Office of Early Childhood Early Learning and Development Standards.

Program Objectives

  • To provide a teaching model for the Early Childhood Students of CT State Norwalk.
  • To provide a challenging environment with developmentally appropriate materials and supportive teachers who understand and facilitate the learning process.
  • To guide children’s construction of knowledge through play and active exploration of the physical and social environment.
  • To maintain a quality childcare program that reflects the interest of the whole child including social, emotional, physical and cognitive development.
  • To establish and carry out a child-centered curriculum based upon observing, understanding and applying each child’s individual skills and interests.
  • To plan a broad range of related experiences individually and age appropriate, based upon what children are discussing and doing.
  • To respect and acknowledge that each child is unique with an individual pattern, pace of growth, personality, learning style and family background, which is reflected both in the curriculum and adult interactions with the child.
  • To encourage parent involvement and to provide children and parents with appropriate support as needed.

Enrollment Options

There are enrollment options from which to choose. Total hours of enrollment must be a minimum of fourteen hours per week.

Option A: 5 Days Option B: 3 Days Option C: 2 Days
Mon – Thurs
8:00am – 3:00pm
Mon & Wed
8:00am – 3:00pm
Tues & Thurs
8:00am – 3:00pm
8:00am – 12:00pm
8:00am – 12:00pm
Costs (Monthly)
Community $1,307 $776 $572
CT State Norwalk Employee $1,046 $621 $458
Student $784 $466 $343

*Under our School Readiness grant children must attend Monday – Friday from 8:00am to 3:00pm daily. To qualify for placement in School Readiness the family must be a resident of Norwalk.

Application Fee of $20 is required with application

The above fee schedule is based on the School Year
Classes begin September and run through the second week in June

  • 40% discount is provided for CT State Norwalk students (To qualify you must be enrolled for a minimum of 6 credits per term)
  • 20% discount is provided for CT State Norwalk Faculty / Staff

For questions or additional information, please call:
CDLS Parent Phone Line 203.857.6804

Hours of Operation

The CDLS is open September through June, following the college calendar.
Hours of operation are as follows:

Monday – Thursday
8:00 am – 3:00 pm

8:00 am – 12:00 pm or
8:00 am – 3:00 pm (School Readiness hours)

Daily arrival begins at 8:00 am and continues until 9:15 am. Arrival after 8:30am is not permitted without prior arrangement with your child’s teacher. Parents are asked to call the CDLS by 8:00 a.m. to inform the staff that their child will be late or absent. The Parent number is 203.857.6804