The Legacy of Fred Rogers in our Psychology Laboratory Preschool at Rollins College
Rollins College Child Development & Student Research Center
Diane Terorde Doyle & Sharon Carnahan
Childhood is where we build the foundation for the rest of our lives.” --- Fred Rogers
History. Our campus laboratory school reflects elements of the legacy of Fred Rogers, who was a 1951 alumnus of Rollins College, as was his wife, Joanne Rogers. Fred Rogers visited the CDC in our old, tiny house building, just 1800 square ft. of student lab and preschool, in 1991. He did “circle time” and visited with our young friends, who adored him
Mister Rogers at CIRCLE TIME 1987
Back then, we were struggling to convince the college of the need for a larger space and lab school program. Fred reminded me that we need to keep our message of love and care for children clear, and that we were only responsible for telling others about the importance of childhood; the space between the teacher and the learner was sacred, and those who heard the message were responsible for their own change. This message was a comfort through the 15 years of advocacy that it took to fund our new Hume House Child Development & Student Research Center, which now serves 40 children and about 250 undergraduates per year.
Mister Rogers passed away in 2003, when his youngest grandchild was just a few weeks old, and Dr. Carnahan spoke at his memorial service. After his death, Joanne Rogers was a frequent visitor, and provided for the re-development of the CDC playground.
Hedda Sharapan, Director of Early Childhood Initiatives at The Fred Rogers Company, spent a week with the CDC in the early 2000’s and helped us shape our center’s philosophy. She returned several times as a conference speaker and consultant, and we visited the studios in Pittsburgh at her invitation. With help from Joanne Rogers and Hedda Sharapan as speakers and guides, we began a series of Good Neighbor Events. These conferences, talks and
conversations focus on social emotional support for young children – research and practice – and are open to the community.
Fred Rogers’ Work and Influence on our Curriculum. Fred Rogers’ work (the Neighborhood and all the Family Communications publications) was heavily influenced by his work with Margaret McFarland, Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburg in the 1950s. She reviewed scripts and topics for 30 years. Psychological ideas about children’s need for attachment, safety and security, respect, and careful conversation about any important topic, were products of this early training. The Neighborhood also reflects the principles of Erik Erickson, and Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, which posits that children are most likely to copy or imitate people who they like. Fred recognized that TV was a great medium for this.
Rather than the more cognitive focus of Sesame Street, Mister Rogers Neighborhood (and its successor, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) focused on the social emotional development of children. Our preschool curriculum does, too.
Fred Rogers was inspired by a sign at Rollins which reads “Life is for Service.” He carried a copy in his wallet. Here, we follow his example as we teach preschool children to care, share, and help others. They are thoughtful people whose needs for love and listening must be met by the adults around them. Today at the CDC, we sing songs from the Neighborhood in classrooms, focus on talking about feelings and John Gottman’s emotion coaching model, and complete service projects with our families (such as the St. Jude Trike a Thon) each year.
In 2021, a massive sculpture was unveiled on our campus memorializing Mister Rogers and his contribution to Children’s television and early education. The children of the lab school at Hume House took part in the process by being the inspiration of the Artist Paul Day, and by contributing to the unveiling, singing the song by Mister Rogers, “It’s You I like.”
PAUL DAY STATUE, 2021
Undergraduate Curriculum. Our undergraduate students learn Bandura’s theory of social learning, and study how Fred Rogers used modeling, imitation, and vicarious learning to instruct children about the world. In childhood, we build powerful mental images of what relationships should look like. We learn how we relate to other people, what they think of us, and how we are to be, in relationships. We achieve a level of familiarity with comfort or conflict, sarcasm or serenity, and then as adults, we try to replicate that early, familiar set of relationships.
This is part of “object relations,” theory, the idea that the self exists only in relation to other objects, which may be external or internal memories or feelings. The internal objects are images of other people, versions of external objects, primarily formed from early interactions with the parents.
There are three fundamental "affects" or emotions that can exist between the self and the other - attachment, frustration, and rejection. These affects are universal emotional states that are major building blocks of the personality. British psychologists Ronald Fairbairn, D.W. Winnicott, Harry Guntrip, and others introduced this theory in the 1940’s and 50’s, when so many children were separated from their parents by war and its aftermath.
In Fred Rogers’ work, which was informed by his study with Margaret McFarland, he dealt with all three of these fundamental emotional states through spoken word, pretend play, and song. When Prince Tuesday’s parents must leave for a trip, the Prince experiences strong feelings of loss, anger at their departure, and frustration that he cannot make his parents come home. He talks about his feelings with his caregiver, and comes to realize that his love and attachment to his parents is a good, strong bond, and that his parents’ love is with him, even when they are not.
At our lab school, we want children to know that they can trust the adults in their lives to love and take care of them, that the world is a place where you can be safe and trust others. This basic sense of caring comes from having adults in your life who are predictable, reliable, and responsive, and Fred Rogers modeled this behavior on his show and in his work. As Fred knew, healthy emotional development is so important to the development of the mind. Fifty years of research supports this wisdom, and we at Rollins know it to be true.
Truly, childhood is where we build the foundation for the rest of life. A caring world like Mister Rogers’ neighborhood should be the birthright of every human child. We ignore this at our own peril, as the neglected children of today are the neighbors and workers who will live with our children, tomorrow. Mister Rogers will continue to inspire new projects and endeavors with the staff, students and children of Rollins College.
Timeline of Fred Rogers’ Influence
Mrs. Rogers Visit
Visited Pittsburgh and the TV studio where Mister Rogers was filmed
Brain Development and Good Neighbor Skills
Raising Good Neighbors: How to Create Strong Classrooms thru Conversation and Coaching
Good Neighbor Conference: Philosophy with Children part of PLATO Conference
Good Neighbor Conference: exploring Equity and Diversity with Young Children
2015: Brain Development and Good Neighbor Skills- local early childhood centers, early education teachers, and parents attended the evening talk followed by workshop sessions that focused on strategies, research and effective classroom methodologies to support brain and emotional development in young children.
2018: Raising Good Neighbors- Campus wide discussion event
2019: Ethics with Young Children: PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization) Conference for Philosophy faculty, high school teachers, elementary teachers who teach or seek to engage students in ethical and philosophical discussions.
2022: Good Neighbor Institute (in planning stages) Exploring Equity, Diversity and Multiculturalism with children.
Hume CDC Interdepartmental Campus Projects inspired by Mister Rogers:
English 300 Writing Books For and with Young Children
Philosophy with Children: Building an Ethics Curriculum for Young Children resulted in book:
Ethics for the Very Young by Erik Kenyon, Diane Terorde-Doyle and Sharon Carnahan
EDU: Diversity in Education: developing lesson plans for young children’s books about diversity, equity, and multiculturalism
Emotion Coaching Workshops developed for and with the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County
Annual Service Projects
Trike a Thon for St. Jude’s Children research hospital
Semester visits to on campus food pantry for food insecure students
Annual Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome Awareness
Community Outreach with children during COVID19