Collin College’s Child Development Lab School’s Family Feast was a delight for the eyes, ears and nose, as about 80 people gathered to mark the end of a semester and provide a little holiday cheer for those without.

Children gathered around tables covered in construction paper, crayons and colorful stickers to make Christmas cards for patients at the Dallas Veterans Hospital under the guiding hands of parents, extended family members and siblings, some of whom were also once Lab School attendees. The children made dozens of cards to brighten the holidays of someone in need during the celebration, Dec. 15 at Spring Creek Campus’s Living Legends Conference Center.

Child Development Lab School Director Barbara Batista said the event serves multiple purposes, but the main focus is on building community.

“It’s a celebration of family and culture,” Batista said. “It’s a potluck where people bring food and celebrate the uniqueness of each family.”

The lab school crowd is already a fairly tight-knit group, with the parent pool all coming from students, faculty and staff at Collin College, but the family feast is a chance for them to come together in celebration. Planned each year by the lab school parent action committee (PAC), the event has been a tradition for almost two decades.

“They become very familiar with one another, but this is just another way for families to get together to network and enjoy some down time together,” Batista said.

It’s also a chance to sing, at least for the little ones, who gathered around Collin College’s Dr. Chris Morgan as he played a mix of pre-school favorites and holiday tunes on guitar. Children could be seen swaying to the music and chiming in with the words they remembered as the songs went along.

This is just one of the events the lab school organizes for its children and parents. In the spring, the lab school holds a Pizza Party Picnic.

The events are not solely for fun and community building, however. They are also an important part of the accreditation process for the lab school.

The lab school is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which promotes high-quality early learning for children from birth through age 8. Students studying early childhood development at Collin College must take 16 hours of lab coursework per class per semester at an NAEYC-accredited facility, so it is important that the lab school retains that accreditation.

“Two of the criteria (that we are assessed on) is Family and Community Relationships,” Batista said. “This is certainly something we are proud to obtain high marks on.”

Looking around the room, it was easy to see why. Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and children all seemed to be having a good time and enjoying one another’s company.

“I think this is a good time of year to do it, because finals are over and everybody is starting to relax,” Batista said.