(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
"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.