Marie Shaw Dunn Child Development Center

CDC 2021-04-13T10:21:11+00:00


The Marie Shaw Dunn Child Development Center is a preschool program for three and four year old children. The center is a Tier III preschool center that is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The center is dedicated to provide parents, children, and university students with the best early learning environment possible.

“Children learn through their play. Don’t underestimate the value of play. Children learn and develop: cognitive skills- like math and problem solving in a pretend grocery store, physical abilities- like balancing blocks and running on the playground, new vocabulary- like the words they need to play with toy dinosaurs, social skills- like playing together in a pretend car wash, and literacy skills- like creating a menu for a pretend restaurant” (Bongiorno, 2017).

The center began as a nursery school in 1935, the first laboratory nursery school for a child development program in Louisiana. As needs changed, the program became the Child Development Center in 1971, coinciding with a new master’s degree program in early childhood education. About the same time, it became the first in the state to offer a full-day program for children. Then in 1992, it was renamed the Marie Shaw Dunn Child Development Center in honor of a revered faculty member and head of the Department of Home Economics, now the Department of Child and Family Studies. Dr. Dunn, the center’s namesake, had initiated the child development program at NSU and established the first nursery school laboratory in Louisiana to involve college students.

A major emphasis of the program is the need to balance the needs of the children, the families, and the staff. Respecting those needs informs the decisions made daily. The current director, Faith Stanfield, continues the many traditions of the program, leading it during the many changes occurring in the early care and education field today. By using the Creative Curriculum, teachers are able to teach through a child-driven, emergent curriculum aligned with NAEYC standards as well as the Louisiana Early Learning and Developmental Standards. The staff also leads the center through changes in the state to upgrade and expand the availability of quality early care and education programs. By observing, conducting case studies, and participating in the child development center, students are able to bridge theory and practical implementation to be better prepared to work in the field of early care and education.

The center has always had a strong developmental approach, emphasizing objective and accurate observation as a key to understanding child development. Child development students kept journals of their observations as a key component of their work in the center. The many benefits of the journals were highlighted when the unfortunate death of a college student led her family to establish a fund for playground improvement after reading her journal and seeing how much the experiences at the center had meant to her and influenced her planned career.

Creative curriculum

The philosophy of The Creative Curriculum® is that young children learn best by doing. The Creative Curriculum® is built on theories of development in young children, that all children learn through active exploration of their environment and therefore the environment plays a critical role in learning. The goal of the Creative Curriculum is to help children become independent, self-confident, inquisitive and enthusiastic learners by actively exploring their environment. The curriculum identifies goals in all areas of development: Social/Emotional, Cognitive, Physical and Language. The planned activities for the children, the organization of the environment, the selection of toys and materials, planning the daily schedule and interacting with the children, are all designed to accomplish the goals and objectives of the curriculum and give your child a successful year in school.

What are the Creative Curriculum goals and objectives?

These goals and objectives provide a direction for planning the program and a way to determine what children know and how they are developing. This information enables teachers to respond to each child individually, to build on strengths and target skills that need strengthening. Because our teachers have a holistic approach, and focus on the ‘whole child’ to promote learning, the goals interrelate and focus on all areas of development:

  • Social/Emotional Development: children’s feelings about themselves, the development of responsibility, and their ability to relate positively to others
  • Physical Development: children’s gross and fine motor development
  • Cognitive Development: children’s thinking skills, including the development of symbolic and problem-solving skills
  • Language Development: children’s ability to communicate through words’, both spoken and written

How is your child’s development assessed?

Teaching Strategies Assessment: Teaching Strategies is an authentic performance-based assessment tool. It is designed to help classroom teachers document and evaluate children’s skills, knowledge, behaviors and accomplishments across a wide variety of curriculum areas on multiple occasions in order to enhance teaching and learning and to keep track of each child’s individual achievement. Students are observed during their regular classroom activities and their progress is recorded three times a year with a Developmental Checklist, a portfolio collection, and a summary report.

Curriculum: Project Approach

What is The Project Approach?
The Project Approach, a specific kind of project-based learning, brings a number of advantages to any classroom and represents best practices in 21st-century education. It fits securely within both a long history of innovative teaching and learning practices—dating back, at least, to the 16th century—and within the framework of today’s growing body of research on what students need to find success and fulfillment in the current (and future) world.

About The Project Approach
The Project Approach refers to a set of teaching strategies that enable teachers to guide students through in-depth studies of real-world topics. Projects have a complex but flexible framework within which teaching and learning are seen as interactive processes. When teachers implement the Approach successfully, students feel highly motivated and actively involved in their own learning, leading them to produce high-quality work and to grow as individuals and collaborators.

A project, by definition, is an in-depth investigation of a real-world topic worthy of a student’s attention and effort. The study may be carried out with an entire class or with small groups of students—most often at the preschool, elementary, and middle school levels. Projects typically do not constitute the whole educational program; instead, teachers use them alongside systematic instruction and as a means of achieving curricular goals.

Hours of Operation: 7:15AM—5:30PM CST
Phone: 318-357-6860

116 Warren Easton Building
Northwestern State University
Natchitoches, Louisiana 71497

Faith StanfieldDirector
Joni PrewittFacility Coordinator

Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions that we are asked by parents researching child care options. If you are unable to find the answer to your question below, you can contact us at 318-352-6860 or email


The CDC is open Monday-Friday from 7:15 AM to 5:30 PM.  The school follows the calendar of the Natchitoches Parish School Board.


NSU’s CDC closes for the following in accordance with Natchitoches Parish School Board:

  • Labor Day
  • Parent Teacher Conference
  • Fall Break
  • Thanksgiving Break
  • Professional Development
  • Christmas/Winter Break
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday
  • Mardi Gras Holiday
  • Spring Break
  • Easter Break


How do you monitor who comes in and out of the building?

The CDC has many safety procedures in place to protect children. Please see our handbook for more information

Are there cameras in the school?


Will my child be safe during transportation to/from school?

We do not offer transportation to or from the center.


Will my child be learning and be prepared for Kindergarten?

Yes. Your child will thrive at the Child Development Center. We are all about creating fun learning experiences because we know that in the early years children develop and learn through active play. Each program at the CDC uses a research-based curriculum that is developmentally appropriate for the age of the child. The activities and lesson plans designed by the teachers,  guided by the Creative Curriculum, encourage development in Language, Emerging Literacy, Math & Science, Gross Motor Skills, Creativity & Art, Social Skills, Physical Activity, Emotional Skills, Reasoning, Problem Solving and more.

When touring our school, you will see the curriculum alive in our classrooms with art on the wall, special learning centers in the classrooms, dynamic displays, and circle time activities.


Do I need to bring food for my child?

The CDC provides an opportunity for a healthy morning snack, lunch and an afternoon snack for the children as part of your tuition and fees. Our menus are created using USDA guidelines and we cook foods that are child tested and approved!

Can I provide my own food?

No. Because we provide for food service for all children, we do not allow children to bring food into the school. Menu exceptions are allowed for children with documented religious or medical reasons. If a special diet is required, you may speak to the director about supplying the necessary food.


Who will be caring for my child all day?

The staff at the CDC consists of teachers, administrators, and assistant teachers that are passionate about early childhood education. Your child will be in a classroom with 1-2 adults each day. Our teachers receive background checks before starting employment and teachers are CPR and First Aid Certified. All employees must maintain ratio in accordance with the LDOE.

What is the ratio in my child’s classroom?

The ratio in each classroom is dependent on the state requirements and age group. The CDC adheres to all guidelines and state standards.

How do teachers handle discipline with my child?

We believe that discipline is the helpful guidance, encouragement, and support that adults use to influence children. It is not founded in punishment, rules and, restrictions, but in teaching children to resolve problems and seek solutions themselves. Appropriate discipline helps children learn how to interact and develop self-control. Our staff and teachers at the CDC understand these concepts and utilize and follow a developmentally appropriate and character-building strategy for handling classroom discipline. These strategies, as well as our biting policy can be found in our family handbook.


How do I enroll my child in the NSU CDC?

Enrollment at the CDC is on an annual basis. Applicants with the priority status are selected for enrollment first. Priority status is considered in the following order:

  1. A child with at least one parent employed full-time at Northwestern State University (NSU) or the Louisiana School for the Math, Science, and Arts (LSMSA)
  2. A child with a sibling who currently attends, or has attended the Marie Shaw Dunn Child Development Center
  3. A child with a sibling who currently attends an NSU Laboratory School

Is there a waiting list to get into the NSU CDC and if so how long does it take?

Due to limited population (41 children), a waiting list for each age group is established as outlined below:

Children are placed onto the waiting list in the order in which the applications are received. When space becomes available at the NSU CDC, the waiting list will be searched, beginning at the top. The remaining seats in each class are filled by other applicants. Selection of students is based on dated order of application to balance group by gender and encourage diversity.

What is the admission policy at NSU CDC?

Admission to the NSU CDC is open to all children, ages 3 and 4 years by September 30, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, or if breast fed. Enrollment at the NSU CDC shall be offered to children of NSU students, staff, faculty, alumni, and for those not affiliated with NSU.

Is my child eligible to attend the NSU CDC?

Children ages 3 and 4 prior to September 30th are eligible to enroll. Children who are 5 years of age prior to September 30th are considered kindergarten eligible and may not return to the four-year-old program.

An application form must be completed, signed, and received to apply for enrollment and Ages & Stages Questionnaire. Applications will be accepted the year prior to a child’s eligibility for school in that year. Applications are dated upon receipt. Completion of the application does not guarantee enrollment.

Welcome University Students

We are excited to be working with you this semester!

Before arriving at the center there are licensing documents that need to be completed.  Please carefully read all information posted in the links below and print out all documents that require personal information and signatures. No one will be allowed to stay at the center until this is completed.  Forms need to be given to a staff member for review and filing upon first arriving at the center.  At that time you will also receive a brief orientation of the center.

These documents will be kept on file for one calendar year as required for licensing.  All information obtained will only be view by authorized Northwestern faculty, state licensing agents, and NAEYC Accreditation team members.  This information is necessary to ensure all children enrolled at the Marie Shaw Dunn Child Development Center remain in a safe and developmentally appropriate environment.   If you have any questions or concerns please contact the center’s Director, Faith Stanfield, at 318-357-6860 or email


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