The Waisman Early Childhood Program (WECP) is a model university child development program licensed for children from ages one to eight. Seven classroom programs for children ages one through six offer early education and care year‐round in order to meet the needs of a developmentally diverse group of young children. Our goal is to maintain a model program for inclusivity and universal design for all children, specializing in supporting children with disabilities.
Our program is able to draw upon the expertise of UW researchers, educators and clinicians at the Waisman Center and across campus. The foundation of our program is inclusion. Our belief is that all aspects of diversity – including ability level – broaden opportunities for learning and contribute positively to everyone’s development. We offer training in many disciplines to qualified university students and provide a research setting in which relevant educational and developmental issues can be studied. In addition, we serve as a community resource and provide outreach consultations to early childhood professionals and school districts across Dane County.
WECP provides a supportive and enriching environment that fosters each child’s social-emotional, cognitive, language and physical development. Our underlying philosophy is that children learn through play, and our goal is to provide many kinds of play experiences, supporting each child’s progress at their own pace. WECP offers a balance between those nurturing aspects of a home environment and the challenging social and learning opportunities provided in a group, early childhood setting. During a typical day in the preschool rooms, children participate in a variety of activities: self‐directed play, dramatic play, stories, music, art, and science. Experiences with mathematical and literacy concepts are woven within these activities.
The WECP is a program of the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It began in 1979 as a result of state legislation allocating funding for a preschool at the Waisman Center. Over the years, WECP has become a licensed and accredited preschool and early learning childcare program with a mission of including children with special needs in a regular, early childhood educational setting. With the completion of the Waisman Center’s expansion project in 1999, WECP grew to its present capacity of 100 children.