Ruth Staples Child Development Laboratory laid the foundation for Huskers’ educational success

Outdoor scene. Adult individual wearing a gray t-shirt stands near a playground and poses for a picture.
Derek Branch returns to the outdoor classroom at the Ruth Staples Child Development Laboratory, a spot he fondly remembers coming to as a child. (Photo: Loren Rye, Pixel Lab)

Ruth Staples Child Development Laboratory laid the foundation for Huskers’ educational success

08 Oct 2021     By Haley Apel

Derek Branch fondly remembers being a young child and swinging from the monkey bars at the Ruth Staples Child Development Laboratory on East Campus. In addition to creating fun memories at the outdoor classroom, Branch feels his experience at Ruth Staples helped set the tone for his success as a student in K-12 schools, and now as a first-year student at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

“Early childhood education can really set you on a strong trajectory for the rest of your life. I think I’m only now beginning to recognize how much the Ruth Staples Child Development Laboratory has impacted my growth as a student,” Branch said.

Branch enjoys meeting new people, which is one of the reasons why he was always very involved extra-curricular activities during school. At Lincoln Southeast High School, Branch was involved in football, basketball, track, National Honors Society, DECA and Future Business Leaders of America.

“The social aspect did wonders for me. I have never been nervous to be around new people, and always felt like I could confidently be myself,” Branch said. “I attribute a lot of that to the development I experienced at Ruth Staples.”

The Child Development Laboratory strives to promote learning and development by creating a community of learners based on supportive, respectful and trusting relationships. It’s an idea that regardless of age, ability, or background, people learn best in the context of caring relationships. This commitment to all people is what Branch most appreciates about his time at Ruth Staples.

“As a young child I met so many different people from all walks of life at Ruth Staples, and it really exposed me to the world,” Branch said. “When you’re that young, prejudice doesn’t even enter your mind so it was a really valuable experience.” 

Branch is now a business administration major at Nebraska and is part of the new Inclusive Business Leaders program in Nebraska Business. He is also on the Husker football team. Branch hopes to one day start a venture capital firm.

“Hearing from our RSCDL alumni is very rewarding,” said Jennifer Leeper Miller, director of the lab. “We are proud to see how children who previously attended the lab school and pre-service teachers who gained experience teaching alongside us are contributing to the community and making a positive impact.”

October 4 – 8 is Campus Children’s Centers Week. Children’s centers across the nation are celebrating the impact they have on children’s overall health and development. On campus, the Ruth Staples Lab is marking the occasion with a parade on East Campus, and inviting special guests to read to the children, including Branch.

The Ruth Staples Child Development Laboratory is part of the College of Education and Human Sciences’ Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies. The lab school also provides opportunities for scholars to learn more about young children through research and allows college students to train to be teachers. 

The lab offers full-day childcare and preschool services for children 18 months to 5 years to the entire Lincoln community. To learn more, visit

College of Education and Human Sciences
Child, Youth and Family Studies