From Generation To Generation: Woods Child Development Center Marks 70 Years


Up a long driveway in the heart of Severna Park sits a wooden church surrounded by boxed gardens and blooming flowers. During the week, Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church doubles as an accredited preschool for children ages 2-4 in the Severna Park area. The name of the school is Woods Child Development Center (WCDC), and this year, WCDC reached a remarkable milestone: its 70th anniversary.

On a warm spring day, May 23, Woods celebrated by hosting a large cookout party complete with hot dogs, watermelon and even a snow-cone truck. Schoolchildren came and went all day with their families, eating, playing games and taking silly photos in a provided photo booth. As the day went on, families and friends danced to the beats provided by a local DJ. At the center of the celebration was family fun time, an appropriate thing to celebrate as the legacy of WCDC spans generations in the Severna Park community.

Started by Severna Park families in the 1950s, WCDC continues to thrive in the 2020s thanks to the same community support. After 70 strong years, something remarkable has occurred: many of the parents and grandparents of children who go to WCDC today went there as children. Plus, some of the teachers at the school were taught at WCDC when they were only 3 or 4 years old, and others have stayed at the school long enough to teach generations of a family. Even the director of operations at Woods Church, John McLaughlin, attended as a child. As the current director of WCDC, Roxann Bartone, put it, “Woods is one big family.”

One parent of a child currently at WCDC, Christopher Riley, expressed the same thing. To him, not only is it because of the past that WCDC behaves as a family but also because of the relationships in the present. Riley said that his favorite part of WCDC is the staff members because they intentionally desire to spend time with and get to know both the parents and their children.

“Every day [when] we drop off and pick up our kids, we interact with the teachers and administrators like they are family members,” he said, jokingly adding, “I probably share more about our family’s weekend plans with the Woods staff than I do my own family!”

Riley also believes that two more factors elevate WCDC from an ordinary school to a spectacular environment: the curriculum and parent involvement. WCDC offers parents a unique form of education, one focused on play-based learning, as Bartone explained.

This style of education encourages children to explore and question the world through observation and play. In one unit of this curriculum, the building unit, for example, children observed the habits of local wildlife and then created their own birdhouses to hang within the property. Bartone loves this style of learning because it encourages children to behave as children have for generations, learning through experiencing the world. Her view is, “For children to learn? I think they have to do.”

For parent involvement, every week, Riley, like all other parents, is invited to come and read a book to his child and their class as well as participate in annual events such as the Woods Art Show. At this party, Riley described, “all the families come together to see incredible art exhibits created by each student and class and enjoy baked goods made by each teacher.” It is chances like these where parents and students are able to experience WCDC together that really shape the family community.

In the next 70 years, WCDC plans to stay the same as far as family legacy goes. Fostering family and community relationships will remain a foundation of the school. Recently, for example, WCDC has expounded on this goal by inviting the residents of a local senior home to join the children for story time, music, and complementary juice boxes and cookies. WCDC will continue to add little excursions and events like this to ensure that every child, parent and grandparent who visits or goes to WCDC feels welcomed and part of the Woods family.

To learn more about WCDC, go to


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