SIKESTON - The Child Development Lab at Southeast Missouri State University - Sikeston is expanding and looking for new, creative ways to engage youngsters.
Tracy Smith, director of the Sikeston Child Development Lab, spoke to the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce membership Thursday about the daycare program for children from age 6 weeks through 5 years at the local higher education center. According to Smith, the program for infants and toddlers is so popular there is a waiting list and she is already looking for grant funding to allow for the expansion of these classes.
After a visit to a conference in Nebraska, Smith is also looking for ways to fund an outdoor classroom. This would be a specially designed playground for the children "to provide a positive outdoor experience," she explained.
Such a facility has many benefits for youngsters, Smith said. These include improved observation skills, development of fine motor skills, providing greater physical exercise, an appreciation of the environment and even enabling children to concentrate better when returning indoors.
"We want to create an outdoor classroom and be one of the first centers in our area to have such a facility," Smith said.
While hoping to fund such a facility with grants, Smith said, it will be designed to keep costs at a minimum, using local trees and plants.
Once the outdoor playground is completed, Smith said the program intends to seek national accreditation.
The daycare program is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and includes the children of students and staff members as well as children from the community. The daycare program also serves as an observation lab for students in early childhood education and child development classes through the University.
In updating the Chamber membership on other activities, SACC Executive Director Missy Marshall introduced the members of the Student Chamber of Commerce from Sikeston High School. The group was attending the meeting and had collected toys to be given away through various charities at Christmas.
Upcoming events include:
* The Downtown Merchants Open House will be from 5-9 p.m. today and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
* The Altrusa International of Sikeston will sponsor the O' Christmas Tree event Saturday at the Elks Lodge. Silent and live auctions and dinner will be held. Tickets are $40 per person or $75 per couple and available by calling Terry Brewer-Cheatham at 471-7423. Proceeds go to the House of Refuge and other service projects.
* The YMCA will host "Sleigh Rides with Santa" at the former Marketplace parking lot on South Main Street beginning Nov. 25.