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Northwest Missouri State University

Department Spotlight October 2012

This month’s department spotlight focuses on the Horace Mann Laboratory School and Phyllis and Richard Leet Center for Children and Families.  The Horace Mann Laboratory School is housed in the newly realigned Department of Professional Education.  The 2012-2013 school year recently started with Ms. Jill Baker serving as principal.  Baker also has another role within the Department of Professional Education as an instructor and acts as a liaison between the Horace Mann faculty members and faculty members in Professional Education.  

To provide some background about Horace Mann, the school started as a Training School, which began in conjunction with the Fifth District Normal School in 1905.  The intent of the Training School was to allow Normal School students to teach children and gain practical experience at the same time.  In October of 1937, the training school was renamed and became what we know today as the Horace Mann Laboratory School.

Horace Mann serves approximately 165 students from preschool to sixth grade.  Throughout the academic year, approximately 850 college students, or approximately 1/6 of the Northwest student body, are given opportunities to enhance their learning through direct exposure to the elementary and early childhood classrooms.  Some of Horace Mann’s partners include Health and Human Services observation and practicum, Northwest co-teaching cohort, Owens Library, Kip Kittens, America Reads, Sigma Society, Missouri Academy and Bearcat Athletics. Through these partnerships, Horace Mann is able to provide invaluable experience to pre-service teachers, as well as an interactive learning environment for children.  Baker shares that she has a focus of collaboration, culture and curriculum, to which she refers to as the “three Cs.”  Baker states that, “We are all about our smallest learner and our tallest learner.”  This shows the importance of collaboration and coordination among educators in Brown Hall to make the learning experience meaningful to students of all ages. 

There is a great deal of excitement regarding the new Phyllis and Richard Leet Center for Children and Families that opened this fall on the main floor of Brown Hall. The renovations were funded by a generous $100,000 gift from the Leet family and the old library space on the main level of Horace Mann has been transformed into a new facility that houses preschool, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students.

The development of the Leet Center also created the opportunity to remodel the basement of Horace Mann into a new library and cafeteria space for all Horace Mann students.  In previous years, the basement area housed the classroom space for preschool, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes. Dr. Pradnya Patet, assistant professor in the Department of Professional Education and Cindy Scarbrough, Leet Center director, have joined forces to create a revamped practicum model that brings a more collaborative experience to the program.  

Students receiving a minor in Early Childhood Education complete a four-week practicum in the Leet Center. They spend approximately 10 hours a week in the preschool or pre-kindergarten classroom participating in the routines and activities, planning learning centers, circle times and creating documentation panels that demonstrate children’s learning through play. The Leet Center teachers serve as mentors for this practicum and Scarbrough guides the mentors to grow in their practice as teachers. Practicum students and the Leet Center staff meet together every week with Scarbrough and Patet to prepare for the following week, discuss their observations, and dialog about applying previously learned course knowledge to a real setting with young children. The model is designed to promote evidence-based practices in which a culture of collaborative inquiry rather than instructional hierarchy exists. As members of this learning community, everyone involved believes that the goal is to lead young minds and hearts into life-long learning.  Scarbrough shares, "The collaboration between early childhood teachers, Meghan Sheil and Cynthia Martin, as well as university instructors creates the perfect setting for the youngest to oldest student to succeed. This success is enhanced in our new beautiful space filled with natural sunlight and an enriching environment. It's a combination that will set us apart as a valuable lab school experience for children and families."

The Leet Center has some exciting things to look forward to in the near future.  For the past two years, Scarbrough and Travis Stokes in Facility Services have been working toward implementing an outdoor classroom. The project has recently been approved and includes a partnership between Northwest Missouri State University and Nature Explorer, a collaborative program of Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. This interactive project just began in mid-September with a two-day design consultation and the selection of a planning committee to help guide the project to completion.  Horace Mann and the Leet Center are excited about the adventure of creating a space for their youngest to oldest students to explore, learn, and grow in an outdoor environment.  Please visit for more information about this upcoming project.

Meet the staff and faculty who work in Horace Mann and the Leet Center.  Together, these employees have devoted a total of 151 years of service to Horace Mann.

We would also like to thank those in Facility Services who helped with the construction of the Leet Center for Children and Families.  With the help of over 50 employees, including several student employees, the vision of the Leet Center became a reality.  Below is a list of full-time employees who helped with this project over the summer: