SAHEC Child Care Center Nears Completion

Center using new design concept for early childhood education

Sikeston Regional CenterCAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Dec. 15, 2005 – Children who attend the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center’s (SAHEC) new child care center, which is nearing completion, will benefit from a new approach to child care center design.

“We are working with a furniture supplier that works with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to design spaces that are appropriate for early childhood education,” said Dr. Paula King, chair of Southeast’s Department of Human Environmental Studies. King is overseeing the development of the new center.

Bright primary colors are typically associated with children’s spaces, King says, but a newer idea in early childhood education is to create a more soothing, calm environment through the use of natural woods and neutral colors.

“The natural wood and accent colors of pale yellow, taupe and browns create a calming effect, as opposed to the excitement caused by typical primary colors,” adds Sara Garner, coordinator of off-campus programming for the Department of Human Environmental Studies. Garner, who previously owned and operated her own child care center, is coordinating much of the center’s development.

“Primary colors are very exciting colors, which is why so many fast food restaurants used them in the past in order to get people in and out quickly,” Garner said. “It has the same effect on children, which makes it difficult for them to concentrate and pay attention with so much stimulation around them.”

The design offers other benefits as well, such as allowing the children’s work to be showcased, according to Garner.

“The children’s work will stand out against the neutral backdrop,” she said. “It will be the first thing you notice when you walk in the door.”

Additional benefits also include natural light and familiar touches of home.

“We have lots of floor to ceiling windows for natural light, which is much nicer than harsh, florescent lighting, and more familiar to the children,” Garner said. “There will be other ‘home touches’ as well, like couches, that are familiar to them.”

The center also will have areas that parents are more accustomed to seeing at child care centers, including areas for dramatic play, blocks and science.

The new center will use a project approach curriculum, which works with the children’s interests and lets them learn at their own pace, according to King and Garner.

“Project approach involves investigating a topic of interest to the kids in depth for six to eight weeks,” said Garner. “They end up learning more about the subject than they might otherwise. It also involves choosing relevant topics, like studying the Mississippi River as opposed to the ocean. This is a topic that is available to them, which allows them to really engage in the learning process.”

As the center nears completion, SAHEC is trying to determine what the current child care needs are among their students and the community in order to establish the child care center’s hours of operation and decide how many children can enroll, according to King.

“We are asking parents who are interested in child care services to contact Judy Buck, director of SAHEC, with information about the age of their children needing care and the hours they would need the service,” King said.

“We should be able to accommodate infants from 6 weeks old to children who are 5 years old, and we are considering offering after-school care for elementary-age children,” King added.

SAHEC also plans to allow part-time and full-time students at the child care center.

“We anticipate being licensed to hold 40 children at one time,” King said, “but more children could be enrolled since some would be attending part time.”

The 3,000-square-foot child care center is part of a larger, 10,800-square-foot expansion at SAHEC. King said they hope to have the child care center open by the Jan. 26 ribbon cutting ceremony for the new addition. The two-story addition will increase the size of the current 33,000-square-foot SAHEC facility by approximately one-third, according to Tom Hadler, project manager with Southeast’s Facilities Management. In addition to the child care center, the SAHEC expansion will feature additional classroom and office space. An additional 1,800 square feet of existing space also is being renovated for a science lab.

Hadler says the child care center will have three classrooms, five bathrooms, plus four additional sinks in the classrooms for sterilizing and hand washing, two changing stations, a sterilizing dishwasher, and a kitchen that prepares “plated” food (catered meals). The center will have its own reception and director’s office and its own entrance.

Additional highlights will include a 3,000-square-foot fenced playground area with both hard-surfaced and grass areas, as well as an observation room for parents and for students doing observations, according to Hadler.

“In addition to serving students who need child care during classes and community residents who need child care, the center also will provide experiential learning opportunities for SAHEC students,” King says. “Students from our child development classes will have the chance to observe, participate and take part in the child care process at the center. As they learn more about educating young children, the students will gradually become more involved. They will experience their first actual teaching day, where they plan a day’s activities under the supervision of one of the center’s instructors.”

Total cost of the expansion is $2.18 million, which includes engineering and design, construction and furnishings, Hadler said. Construction work is being done by Sides Construction Company from Jackson, Mo. Funding for the project comes from an appropriated portion of a sales tax approved by Sikeston residents, according to Buck.

Parents who are interested in child care services at the new SAHEC child care center should contact Judy Buck, director of SAHEC, at (573) 472-3210.