Early Childhood Center students graduate

Unlike many students attending the countless graduation ceremonies being held across the country, the 11 students of Sarah Lawrence's Early Childhood Center (ECC) who graduated on Thursday, June 6, have their academic careers very much before them.

"I look upon it as a graduation celebration. It's been a great year and I can't believe we're at the end of it," said Sonna Schupak, lead teacher for 5 and 6 year olds at the ECC. "With this ceremony, the children have a voice and a sense of ownership of the year."

In caps they made themselves and with diplomas similarly self-styled, the 11 kindergarteners and first graders each wrote and gave speeches. The children signed the words as they spoke. The children also performed a medley of songs, including "You've Got a Friend in Me," The Alphabet Song, and "This Old Man"—again, with signed accompaniment.

Sign language was a major part of the children's curriculum this year. Schupak said that as the children's curriculum changes with every year so, too, does the graduation ceremony, which is designed to showcase aspects of their classroom experiences.

"Every year the graduation is specifically designed for the particular group of children," said Schupak. "It's evolved over the years as I bring different aspects of the world into my classroom."

For some of the children, the hardest part of the ceremony was the realization that it was time to wave goodbye to their classmates. "I'm going to miss my friends the most," said Aurelia Beck, 6, who added that her favorite part of the year had been learning about birds. "They're so lucky because they've got wings and they can fly away from danger."

The children's graduation ceremony has been part of the ECC at Sarah Lawrence for more than 20 years—a result of the children annually bearing witness to the pomp and pageantry of the graduation proper at the College.

According to Lorayne Carbon, director of the ECC, the integral relationship between the ECC and Sarah Lawrence College's undergraduate and graduate programs enriches the learning experience for students at both ends of the age spectrum.

"The lab school aspect of the ECC makes us unique," said Carbon. "Sarah Lawrence College students help us a lot in the classroom. And we find that the more ears and the more eyes there are, the better the overall experience for the children."

The retrospective slant of the ECC’s graduation ceremony wasn't lost on the parents who attended. "It was adorable," said Hilary Lane, whose five year-old son, Andrew, graduated. "It really was a demonstration of what the kids learned this past year."