About Us

Our Mission

  • The Ben Samuels Children's Center at Montclair State University is a model of excellence in the inclusive early care and education of children from birth through 5 years. The Center is committed to examining and implementing the best practices of teaching and learning in a nurturing environment where children with disabilities learn, play and grow alongside their same-age peers.

In support of this mission, we have created a community where:

  • Children of differing abilities, needs, cultures, ethnicities, means and family structures are provided with developmentally appropriate activities and services, and where families, staff and university students understand and embrace the value of that diversity.
  • Future generations of professionals who care for children are educated through research, observation and hands-on experiences of the best practices in early childhood education and development, particularly in an inclusive environment.
  • Faculty and students engage in observation and reflection relating to child development, early education, inclusive learning and other related areas.
  • Families of children enrolled in the Center are provided with support, assistance and resources in the care and education of their children.

Our History

The Ben Samuels Children's Center, which opened in September 2005, brought together three longstanding and proud programs:

  • The Demonstration Program began in the late 1960s when the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders saw an educational need for children who had severe communication disorders. It was influenced by the fields of speech-language pathology and learning disabilities as it pioneered cutting-edge practices, encouraged the community to do the same. By 1990 it was providing special education for three to five year olds with significant communication and regulation disorders. Many of these children showed developmental patterns that were consistent with the spectrum of autism. This strongly transdisciplinary program was influenced by the Developmental, Individual-differences, Relationship-based (DIR) approach developed by psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan and psychologist Serena Weider who were in turn influenced by occupational therapist and psychologist Georgia DeGangi and others.
  • The Jeffrey Dworkin Early Intervention Program began in 1981 when the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders saw the need to extend the work it was doing to children under the age of three. By the late 90's it was providing early intervention services to families in western Essex County in their homes and in other places where very young children and their families typically spend their time. This program was influenced by the field of early intervention that, as a whole, stresses family-centeredness, consultative transdisciplinary practices, and working in the naturally occurring environments and routines of families.
  • The Child Care Center was opened in Feb 1989 under the Division of Student Development and Campus Life primarily as a service for the students of the University. The original Child Care Center was a one-room schoolhouse serving 20 children ages two and a half to six years of age. As the need for additional child care services became evident, the Center grew and expanded to meet those needs. It became a recruiting and retention tool for attracting students, faculty and staff to Montclair State University and began providing early care and education employment opportunities for Montclair State University students, as well as observation and fieldwork opportunities for students majoring in education.

The process for bringing these programs together began in 1994 with a group of faculty members studying inclusion of children with disabilities in general education settings, with the support of a grant from the New Jersey Network for Educational Renewal. This inclusion task force proposed several recommendations, one of which was the creation of the Ben Samuels Children's Center as a premier inclusive early childhood care, education, and professional development facility. Through the support of President Cole, The College of Education and Human Services, The Center of Pedagogy, The University Foundation, and many generous donors we opened our doors in September of 2005.

Our Philosophy 

Our philosophy, and therefore our curriculum is based on our understanding of how learning occurs. We believe that all members of our community (children, families, center faculty, and university students and faculty) are of promise and potential that is realized through collaborative inquiry, reflection, and attention to interactive and nurturing relationships. Our community, in turn, is enhanced as each of us grows.

The essential components of the Center's philosophy are:

  • Understanding and embracing the value of diversity in individuals of differing abilities, needs, cultures, ethnicities, means and family structures is crucial.
  • This understanding and embracing is apparent in the interactions among children, families, employees and the community.
  • All children have the potential to construct and are capable of constructing their own understandings.
  • Children come with experiences and interests that are influenced by their lives inside and outside of the Center. Curriculum emerges from what the children and other members of the community bring to the Center. These interests are explored and extended through authentic, meaningful experiences and re-visited again and again to add new insights.
  • Trusting, long-term relationships are essential to growth.
  • Beautiful, inspirational environments are essential to learning and encourage activity, involvement, discovery and the use of a variety of media.
  • Transdisciplinary teamwork acknowledges the interrelatedness of developmental areas in the progressive growth of a child over time. At The Ben Samuels Children's Center we bring together educators, psychologists, speech-language specialists, occupational and physical therapists and music therapists in order to assess and plan for learning.
  • The process of learning for individuals and groups is documented by observation, recording and reflecting on experiences; using documentation makes learning visible.

This philosophy is informed by current theory and practice in areas including the following:

  • Deweyan notions of democratic education
    Dewey saw democracy as more than just a form of government; according to him "...it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience" (1916, p. 87). The essence of democracy is inclusiveness - everyone is recognized, utilized, and rewarded, both as an individual and as a member of the whole. His vision of democracy welcomes plurality and diversity and rejects barriers that exclude and divide (Cuffaro, 1995). See also Dewey, 1916; Mayhew & Edwards, 1965; Tanner, 1997; http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/ect/dewey.htm; http://www.ul.ie/~philos/vol1/dewey.html

  • Constructivism
    Briefly, constructivism is a theory about knowledge and learning that defines knowledge as temporary, developmental, socially and culturally mediated (Fosnot, 1993). Recently, in a move away from the individualism inherent in Piagetian constructivism, the notion that learning is context-dependent and socially mediated has gained currency (see, for example, Vygotsky, The Problem of the Cultural Development of the Child, 1929). This approach argues against general human cognitive skills, instead contending "that cognition is [always] channeled by socio-cultural factors" (Cannella & Reiff, 1994, p. 40). See also Forman, 1987; Fosnot, 1989; http://www.sedl.org/pubs/sedletter/v09n03/construct.html

  • Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP)
    The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC ) and the Council for Exceptional Children's Division of Early Childhood (CEC/DEC) have developed a shared understanding of "appropriate" practices for young children that encompass a range or continuum of teaching methods and levels of structure to meet the individual needs of children. DAP requires that quality early childhood settings reflect philosophies, practices, and services by a team of professionals that have collaboratively examined their professional standards. http://www.naeyc.org

  • Developmental Individual differences Relationship
    Based Approach (DIR) Developed by Stanley Greenspan and Serena Weidner, this biopsychosocial approach provides a model for considering the central role of emotional development and how it affects and is affected by individual physiology and development in all domains. The DIR approach to working with children is based on the idea that every child has his or her own profile of development that makes him or her a unique individual. The child's interactions in relationships and family patterns are the primary vehicle for mobilizing development and growth. http://www.floortime.org/ft.php?page=Our%20Approach

  • The Reggio Emilia (Italy) Approach
    The cornerstone of the Reggio Emilia philosophy is "the image of the child as rich in resources, strong, and competent" (Rinaldi, 1998). This philosophy draws upon the work of many in the field of child development including Erickson, Dewey, Piaget, Biber and Vygotsky. Early childhood programs using a Reggio Emilia philosophy believe that the image of the child is informed by theory and constructed when the educators, families and children spend time together observing, reflecting and discussing. Adults are engaged with children asking questions and exploring their world together. http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v2n1/glassman.html

Services We Offer

The Ben Samuels Children's Center at Montclair State University provides inclusive early care and learning for approximately 200 children who are between twelve weeks and five years of age. Among its services are child care, early intervention for infants and toddlers, and inclusive special education services for preschoolers. Its forty-five plus professional staff members work closely with faculty members and actively participate in the pre-service development of Montclair State University students by offering guided observations, supervised clinical hours and mentoring.

The Center is a hybrid of child care and education. There are three infant, four toddler and five preschool classes. Most classroom have between twenty and twenty five percent of children with identified disabilities.

The facility includes two indoor gyms and wide hallways that are used for indoor gross motor play. The large park-like lawn that surrounds the building has four playground equipment areas and plenty of open space.

Among the staff are an interactive storyteller and a music therapist who work with the classroom teaching teams to infuse arts into the classroom curriculum.

Support staff including special educators, speech-language specialists, occupational and physical therapists and assistants, and a school psychologist provide direct service to children/families and consultative support for classroom teams.

The presence of Montclair State University faculty and students further enhances the services provided.

If your child needs these types of services please let us know so that we can best assist you. Theraputic services are in addition to our childcare.


The center is open from 7:30 AM to 6:15 PM