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Oklahoma State University




In 1924, Oklahoma State University became the second land-grant college (behind Iowa State) to establish a nursery school. A look at the history of the Child Development Laboratories at OSU finds that the College of Human Sciences and the Human Development and Family Science Department (HDFS) have offered several models of early care and education in more than one location on campus during its 89 year history. This first nursery school offered two classrooms, one for two-year-old, and the other for three-year-old. The children attended from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. daily. In the mid-1930s, OSU assisted in establishing 15 nursery schools in Oklahoma under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. One of those schools was located at Stillwater High School and was used for teacher preparation. After World War II, OSU took control of that nursery.


In 1937, a kindergarten was added to the campus, and shortly thereafter, in 1938, the nurseryHistory02 grew to three groups when they added a four-year-old class. During World War II, the number of children in the nursery programs increased dramatically to a total of 100 in order to support parents who were enrolled in the War Production Training Program. An after school program was added for children from six to ten years of age. By the end of the decade, OSU had added three nurseries in Veteran's Village for returning soldiers and their families who were supported by the GI Bill. In all, there were sixteen groups of preschool children on campus; four groups offered all day programs.

During the early 1980’s, the current building (Human Sciences West) was built and the Child Development Laboratories were gathered under one roof in 1983. Enrollment varied over the years, but at times as many as five to six groups of children were enrolled ranging in age from infancy through Kindergarten. Part-day and full-day options were available for parents.

In 2004, Stillwater Public Schools offered full day Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten enrollment. As Stillwater Public Schools adopted a plan to bring four year old into the schools, they were very aware that there was limited space for these additional students in the current school locations. Negotiations took place with Stillwater Public Schools and a collaborative was formed to provide space for children at the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten level at the Child Development Laboratory. OSU provided the space and equipment and Stillwater Public Schools provided salary and benefits for one teacher in the Pre-K/K classroom.

In addition, the College of Human Sciences and HDFS sought to be a good steward of available resources while preserving the quality of the Child Development Laboratory. Therefore, considerable energy, time, and finances were implemented to address the various needs of HDFS and Child Development Laboratory programs. Numerous program options dealing with children’s groupings, ages, parent needs, and hours of operation were researched to provide a successful learning laboratory for the community and OSU. The goal of these changes focused on the available resources to enhance the quality of department, early childhood education program and Child Development Laboratory, which would strengthen the training resources available to the majors.

The outcomes of this reflection included the renaming of the department as Human Development and Family Science and a plan and campaign to redefine the early childhood education program. With significant donations from the Craig and Paul families, a $1 million dollar renovation in 2006 created the Cleo L. Craig Foundation Child Development Laboratory and the Homer and Ramona Paul Model Teaching Classroom located on the first floor of Human Science West. In 2010 a $300 thousand renovation expanded the facility further to four classrooms for the integration of the RISE School of Stillwater into the Child Development Lab.



During the spring of 2005, Jimmy and Mary Gonzales learned that their third child would be born with Down syndrome. The family had moved to Stillwater to take a position on the OSU football coaching staff.  While educating themselves about Down syndrome and researching available services, they met with Mack and Sally Brown (head football coach at the University of Texas and his wife), who told them about the Rise School in Austin which is modeled after the original Rise School at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.


The school in Tuscaloosa focuses on the needs of toddlers and preschoolers who have developmental
disabilities. Under the long-term leadership and influence of Martha Cook, Ed.D., Rise developed and implemented an History03effective early childhood special education approach. A unique component of the program is the integration of children having developmental disabilities with typically developing peers, which has resulted in children’s achievements beyond previous expectations.

After visiting the Rise Schools in Dallas, Austin, and Tuscaloosa, and visiting educators and physicians in Stillwater, the Gonzales family became convinced that a Rise School could benefit many children in north central Oklahoma.  With enthusiasm and encouragement, the family approached the College of Human Sciences at Oklahoma State University, and together they established the RISE School of Stillwater.  The RISE School of Stillwater began operation in the fall under the direct administration of the Human Sciences Dean. In fall of 2007, in rented classroom space at the Stillwater Head Start building, the school offered daily services for approximately 20 children in 2 classrooms. The RISE School had two classrooms for 10-12 children with approximately 40 - 50% being children without disabilities. Children were assigned to classrooms based on their chronological age (ages 18 month – 6 years) and educational needs. The RISE School offered a number of services to the children that included occupational, physical, speech, and music therapies in a collaborative/consultation service delivery model.

Oklahoma State University and the College of Human Sciences received funding from the state legislature through a contract with the State Department of Education to partially support the operational costs of the school. The funding originated as Rural Infant Stimulation Environment that became known as RISE funding and continues today. Additional funding to cover operational expenses of the school came from the Mya Gonzales Foundation.  Now known as Mya’s Promise Foundation, the foundation was formed to assist with fund raising campaigns to assist families in need and was instrumental in raising awareness for the need of a RISE School in Oklahoma.  



In fall 2009, as The RISE School of Stillwater pursued another physical site to accommodate enrollment growth and provide developmental appropriate practices, the economy of the nation declined which had serious repercussions on the State Department of Education funding as well as private funding for the school. An administrative restructure was developed and implemented by College of Human Sciences’ Dean Stephan Wilson. The RISE School of Stillwater would be considered as an initiative of the Child Development Lab. In addition, $300,000 was secured for another renovation which would integrate the RISE School of Stillwater with the Cleo L. Craig Foundation Child Development Laboratory. Renovation was completed during the summer of 2010 with the integration of the Child Development Laboratory starting on July 1, 2010. The Child Development Laboratory contains four classrooms for children aging from 12 months to 6 years, providing developmentally appropriate practices and integrated therapies for all children who attend.   


During a typical day, each child follows a schedule that includes individual activities, group activities, gross motor play indoors or outdoors, therapeutic services as indicated, lunch, and rest. Each child’s schedule is individualized so that the day can include as many learning opportunities as possible. Services are delivered through an integrated therapy approach in which therapeutic activities are integrated into the daily routine of each classroom by the teachers and instructional teacher assistants with ongoing input from therapists. . Therapists monitor the activities on a regular basis which allows efficient and highly effective therapy. Based on individual children’s needs, some children may be referred for supplemental direct therapies available in the community. Therapists confer with parents and the teacher to discuss recommendations and make referrals for additional therapy services.

The Child Development Laboratory functions as an instructional program of the College of Human Sciences of OSU. OSU students participate in a variety of ways, usually by either observing or interacting with the children in some capacity. Students are closely supervised by the staff of the Child Development Laboratory. In addition, any assessment/evaluation and/or research conducted by faculty, staff or students will receive parental permission before being implemented. Undergraduate and graduate students implement observation and participation, which include, but not limited, to applying early childhood developmentally appropriate practice theories and methods, performing evaluations and/or procedures that may be considered experimental, and implementation of research projects to enhance the study of human development and growth.

Today, the Child Development Laboratory is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and is licensed by the Division of Child Care of Oklahoma Department of Human Services as a Three-Star facility.  

A History of Oklahoma State University College of Home Economics
Oklahoma State University Stillwater, OK
Historical Source: L. Keeler-Battles (1989), Rachel Stallings (2009), & Dianna Ross (2010)