Kids’ corner: Digging for worms

By Pam Miller

Few things continually amaze me at how enjoyable it is for children than digging for worms. It is an activity rich in learning opportunities and it is so satisfying and engaging for those who enjoy the sensory experience of playing in the dirt.

In addition to the large motor movements of digging and the fine motor control of pulling apart dirt and gently picking up worms, math and science concepts can be explored. Aside from counting worms, children can compare the lengths of the worms they find or categorize them in by thickness.

Another question to ask children is how do the worms move. Do they wiggle, or is it more like slithering? After these and other ideas and concepts have come to an end, worms can be returned to the soil where they were found, added to a compost pile, or put in a vegetable or flower bed.

Digging for worms is a regular activity on the Lab School playground, especially later in the fall when many of the plants are at the end of their life cycle and don’t require much care and attention. As mentioned in the article about reptiles in the classroom, staff hold to the guidelines of safety and respect as with all wildlife when supporting children in this activity.

Let your voice be heard

By Pam Miller 

Since the elections last November, there has been a lot of change in federal and state offices. Notable and exciting changes for children and families have happened here in Minnesota with a new governor and lieutenant governor who want to make young children a priority in the next couple of years. 

The state legislative session started in early January and many great things are happening for children and families, such as a push for increased funding for early childhood. There are other ways you can make your voice heard. One way is to find who represents you in the Minnesota state senate and house of representatives and call, email, or visit them in person. Even a message as simple as letting him/her know that children and families are important to you will be heard. You can visit this page to find out who represents you.  

Another way to get involved is to learn more about the many organizations that work to improve the lives of children and families in the state. These organizations advocate for policies that range from parental and medical leave to child care scholarships to alleviating poverty in the Twin Cities and around the state. Some examples include Think SmallChildren’s Defense Fund, and Child Care Aware. These and other organizations have events that you can attend and many other ways to get involved to help improve the lives of children, families, and those who serve them.  

Response to survey

By Sheila Williams Ridge

Thank you, families, for your feedback on our online mid-year survey and for the outpouring of support for the program noting that we had 47 families participate, nearly half of our community. We work hard each day to provide a wonderful and engaging experience for your child and hope you feel like a partner in this endeavor.  

We have noted that about 98 percent of responses agreed or strongly agreed in the areas of a welcoming classroom and 100 percent of families agreed that your lead teacher understands child development and enjoys children.  Many families gave high kudos to individual teachers. Those, as well as any critiques, are shared with teachers and are used to scaffold our improvement.

We did have several families choose the “neither agree or disagree” and “not enough information” answers, higher than in past surveys, so we want to be sure we are providing enough information to our families about the program regularly. We value your input and hope that if you gain any further insight or have more to share, please call or email Sheila or stop by the office.  

Our school has a four-star rating through Parent Aware, the highest possible rating, and we will continue to strive for the best program possible. Our accreditation by NAEYC demonstrates that we meet the 10 Early Learning Program Standards and Criteria. A list of those criteria is posted in the hallway at the Lab School and can also be found here. Together with state licensing, our Parent Aware rating, and your survey responses, we hope to meet all of the needs for your child’s preschool education experience. 

Gym Jam 2019! A fundraiser for the Shirley G. Moore Lab School

WHEN: Saturday, February 16, from 4 – 6 p.m.

Child and goldy interacting

WHEREBierman Field at the University of Minnesota, 516 15th Avenue SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

WHAT: Children, parents, alumni, and friends of the Shirley G. Moore Laboratory School come together with members of the University of Minnesota athletic teams at the U’s indoor football field to socialize and play while raising money for the Lab School. Sporting equipment and a healthy snack are provided.  

WHY: This annual event raises money so the school can buy playground, gym, and classroom equipment that provides new ways for kids to use their developing motor skills. It’s also a great way to help kids get their winter wiggles out! Freewill contributions are accepted at the event, or you can make a donation online ahead of time.

We hope to see you there!

New building update

ICD building

It’s an exciting time to be a part of the Lab School! The College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) and the University of Minnesota Provost’s Office have launched a process to design a new building and integrate Lab School programming with the University of Minnesota Child Development Center. The new program will build on the strengths of both programs and be grounded in premier programs for research and training in child development and early childhood education. 

Planning for the integration started in January, and integration will take place over the course of 18 to 20 months. CEHD and the Provost’s office have formed two workgroups to collect input on planning and programming from parents, staff, and faculty. We will continue to share updates about the project as they become available. 

To learn more about the project, including a timeline, workgroup members, and FAQs, visit the New Program’s website

Summer session 2019 update

children painting outdoors

We are working to find an off-campus location for the Lab School Summer Camp this summer. We are also assessing the pick-up/drop-off situation for the start of the fall semester and working with Parking and Transportation to find a possible solution. Below is a summary from the University that explains the road construction project necessitating these adjustments.

“The Knoll area around the Lab School will undergo significant underground work and road closures during a 2 phased process that will happen this summer and next summer. The first phase starts the Monday after finals, May 16th, with a possible end date of October 31. The end date is dependent on weather, such as heavy rain, during the summer. The East River Road, from University Avenue to the stop signs between Ed Sciences and ICD, will be completely redone. This includes sidewalks, the metered parking, and the stop sign intersection near the Lab School entrance. This means East River Road will be closed throughout the project, starting at University Avenue. Pillsbury Drive, between the East River Road and Pleasant Street will also be closed. This is the road that leads to the Lab School drop off and pick up area. The one-way access road to ICD will only be accessible via the River Road coming from the south (Elliot Hall) and will be majorly impacted during this project. Buildings in this area will experience noise and vibrations, construction smells, and possible air quality concerns due to construction dust/debris. Utilities may be impacted at times. The Dinkytown Greenway will also have a closure behind the Education Sciences Building at some point during the project.”

We will send out information to families about our plans for summer as soon as we have them! 

Kid’s corner: Vegetable soup for kids

This cold winter weather calls for soup! Making vegetable soup with your children is a fun way to engage and empower them in the kitchen. If you’re not used to cooking with children, soup can be a nice introductory recipe to try—the proportions don’t have to be exact and your helpers can chop, rip, and slice to their heart’s content!

Vegetarian soup in the bowl with salted sticks.

This recipe is adapted from the book Garden Safari Vegetable Soup by the Kitchen Club Kids and includes opportunities for children to use their color and counting skills too!


  1. cooking pot
  2. yellow onions
  3. brown potatoes
  4. stalks of green celery
  5. orange carrots
  6. red tomatoes
  7. cups of golden chicken broth
  8. green basil leaves


Count out the ingredients with your children, and wash all of them (and your hands!) thoroughly. Rip up the basil, and peel and slice the carrots and potatoes. This can be a great job for children if you choose your tools carefully. In the classroom we often use safety knives (the same type of knife you might use to carve a pumpkin) and there are a variety available online or in stores. Put all the ingredients in the pot, and bring to a boil.  Once the soup is boiling, reduce the heat to low, and cover your pot. Simmer your soup for 30 min (or until your carrots are at the desired consistency). Serve, and enjoy!

Billing changes for 2019-2020

We are announcing a tuition payment policy change that will be effective for summer session 2019 and going forward. Starting with summer session, families paying tuition by credit or debit card will be charged a monthly or annual fee (depending on your payment plan) of 2.81% according to the chart below.  

*The University Accounts Receivable online system cannot charge the payment fee at the time you pay with a card. You will be invoiced separately for the payment fee.

We understand that paying by check may be an inconvenience; however, the new policy is directed at keeping the school on a sound financial footing. Here’s why:

Lab School operations must be financially self-sustaining on the basis of tuition revenue; the University of Minnesota does not give us additional money to fund our programming. Each time tuition is paid by a credit or debit card the school pays a processing fee of 2.81% to the company that brands the card. The cost of credit/debit card payment fees are passed along to the school. In the last fiscal year, these processing fees added up to $10,060, and were our second largest expense after staff compensation! Rather than raise tuition an additional 2.8% for everyone to cover the cost of the card fees, we’ve opted to pass along the processing charge to parents who choose to pay by card. 

Starting with summer session tuitionyou will have the following options for tuition payment:

  • Mail the check or money order directly to the address given on the invoice.
  • Drop the tuition payment in the locked box on the wall in the Lab School. Payments will be picked up and mailed to University Accounts Receivable on the 16thand 1stof every month. A copy of your invoice or payment stub MUST BE INCLUDED with your check. Checks put in the box without a copy of the invoice or payment stub will not be processed.
  • Use your bank’s online bill pay service to request they cut a physical check and mail it to the payment address on your invoice at the same time every month to the address on the form.

Unfortunately, direct debit from your checking account is not available at this time. However, University Accounts Receivable is planning a pilot program to allow customers to set up a direct debit from your checking account at the same time every month. We have asked the U to include the Lab School in this pilot, and we will pass along more information as we receive it. As with all things billing, please contact Amy Pieren at or 612-625-6549 if you have any questions about the new card processing fees or payment options!

Winter greetings

What a wonderful community at the Lab School! Your care and engagement make the Lab School community so amazing. We are all so grateful to have an opportunity to be on this educational journey with you.

Sheila Williams Ridge Headshot
Sheila Williams Ridge

In December, your donations to the Student Parent Help center made a big difference in the lives of families in our University community. Thank you for your generosity and for your support of our community and a special thank you to Sarah McPhail for coordinating the effort.

Thank you to all of our volunteers throughout the school. Your help with washing dishes, getting children ready for the outdoors, adding books to the library catalog online, and so many other tasks are incredibly valuable to our community. We are still looking for more volunteers, so please contact any of the Lab School staff if you’d like to help out.

Coming up soon we will have Gym Jam and the Spring Soiree. If you are interested in getting involved in an event, refinishing a table that was damaged in the fall, or building snow forts on the playground, we’d enjoy a helping hand.

Other ways to support the Lab School

Attend the PALS meeting in February to learn about the new building/integrated school project and ways to get involved.  

  • Want to make a monetary gift to the Lab School? You can always do so online.
  • If you are shopping for sustainable goods you can shop here and a portion of the proceeds benefits the Lab School.
  • Please donate your empty printer cartridges, cell phones, small electronics, and laptops to our school and we’ll take it from there! We will recycle the cartridges, cell phones, small electronics, and laptops through FundingFactory to earn new technology and/or recreational equipment. Cartridges, cell phones, small electronics, and laptops can be dropped off in room 10.  

Fall Recipe: Maple Pumpkin Muffins


Makes 2 dozen muffins

Bake 1 small pumpkin

  • Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and strings.
  • Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 40 minutes.
  • When it has cooled slightly, scoop out the pumpkin pulp.


  • Pumpkin pulp from one (about 2 cups) small pumpkin (or 1 can of pumpkin puree)
  • 1 cup soy milk with 1 Tbsp of lemon juice added (let sit for 5 minutes before adding to other ingredients)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup agave or 1/2 cup honey

Mix together

  • 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and fill in muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 16-20 minutes or until they bounce back when pressed lightly.

Sheila Williams Ridge HeadshotBy Sheila Williams Ridge

PALS: The Parent Association of the Lab School

The first meeting of the Parent Association of the Lab School (PALS) was held on Wednesday, October 3. It was a small (but mighty!) group of parents and staff. Childcare was provided and the meeting offered via Google Hangout as well.

The meeting started with an overview of the PALS statement of purpose and officer position descriptions. Sheila also shared the information she has about the university’s plans for the school’s future and will continue to advocate for inclusion of lab school parents in the university’s decision-making process. The group then reviewed this year’s upcoming events and discussed the critical role the PALS plays in ensuring these events are a success. View a complete calendar of Lab School events.

We need YOUR help! Many thanks to the parents who volunteered to help organize our holiday gift drive for university student-parents, and the Gym Jam, and Spring Soiree fundraisers. Parent volunteers are still being sought to help out on School Portrait Day, to assist with the Oleanna Book Sale, and to organize our Clean Up Day and Green Market in the spring. The PALS is also still looking for a chair/vice-chair/ or co-chairs for this school year. If you are interested in learning more or want to volunteer please contact Sheila at

The winter PALS meeting will be held in early February (date to be determined), and we look forward to seeing more parents in person or online at the next meeting!