May 15, 2006
“Everybody give us your best Metropolitan Opera voices,” Preston said. On cue, the assembled preschoolers, aged 3-5, belt out their best improvised arias. Preston may have some future divas on her hands.
Across the room, teacher Marsha Garrett works one-on-one with more preschoolers. Another section of the room has child-sized couches for students who need quiet time.
Entering the room is like walking into a miniature world—all the tables and chairs are knee-high, as is the sink in the corner of the room. Tables are piled high with books and educational toys, and bins of toys—Legos, dinosaurs, blocks—line the shelves. One area is designated the “dramatic play” space, and it includes a full cabinet of dress-up clothes.
Down the hall, another preschool class is gathered around a diagram of the solar system. The day before, they played with a table full of red “Martian” sand and walked slow-motion across the surface of the “moon.”
Lynn Gallagher, director of the Child Development Center, is just glad to have the space. The new childcare center includes 18,000 square feet and a 10,000-square-foot playground, compared with about 4,000 in the old building.
The center moved into its new building on Cleveland Avenue March 27, after spending 10 months in modular units. The center’s old home was knocked down to make way for the Center for Workforce Development.
The center cost about $3 million, most of which came from the college. The center also received funding from the Ohio Children’s Foundation, Chase Bank , the Ohio Board of Regents, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Child Care Access Means Parents In School Program, a federal program that promotes day care for college students with children.
The new center includes a teacher resource room and an area right inside the door where parents can stash strollers and car seats. To help security, parents and children will receive swipe cards to enter the building. The childcare center is attached to the Center for Workforce Development, but it’s impossible to go between buildings without a staff swipe card.
By mid-April, the center had five rooms open and was recruiting staff to open the rest of the building, Gallagher said. At full capacity the center will hold 120 children, a mix of babies, toddlers and preschoolers.
Many classes have waitlists, but more slots should open up as the center hires more teachers. To inquire about openings, call ext. 3600. Interested parents may also call ahead for a tour.
Staffers are still working to open some parts of the building, such as a children’s kitchen. The kitchen comes complete with a miniature sink, child-sized refrigerator and real working ovens.
“Everything’s at their level,” Gallagher said. The building was designed to be as open as possible, Gallagher said. Parents can look into any room over Dutch doors, and many rooms overlook the hallways through large windows. The halls are painted a bright sherbet yellow.
Children can burn off steam in three separate “muscle rooms,” which serve as mini gymnasiums when children can’t go outside. Each has a climbing toy, a rubberized floor and exercise mats to cushion the floor.
“The muscle rooms are for screaming out loud and running and jumping,” Gallagher said.
The preschoolers’ muscle room opens onto the playground, which should be complete in May. The playground is divided into sections for each class, separated by a low wall with colored-glass portholes.
Each section will have its own age-appropriate activities. The toddlers’ section will have a slide built into a grassy mound so children don’t have far to fall. The preschoolers’ sandbox will include levers and pulleys for a bit of added educational fun.
Working with Columbus State’s Groundskeeping Department, the center will plant the garden out front to mimic children’s literature. The first book planned is Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” Gallagher said.
The center has a strong educational focus, Gallagher said. Each classroom is staffed by teachers with degrees in their fields, and the center usually hosts a half-dozen interns from Columbus State’s Early Childhood Development program. The center is accredited by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
But that doesn’t mean children spend their days doing worksheets and preparing for the Ohio Achievement Test, Gallagher said. For example, they may be learning the alphabet, but they’re doing it with colorful sponge blocks.
“We approach school readiness through a purposeful play curriculum,” Gallagher said.
Retirement reception for Connie Faddis is May 18