Playground, nap time, art … all at the BEP building?

Where on campus can you find papier-mache dinosaur eggs, an outdoor playground and blankets used for a scheduled nap time? They are all at the Early Childhood Center,where they have been offering preschool and prekindergarten programs for over 20 years.

The youngest member of the Northern Kentucky community is only three years old. There are actually 54 students between the ages of three and six that spend school days in the center, which is in B.E.P. room 167.

“So many people on campus don’t know that we exist,” Melanie Caldwell, program coordinator, said. “We serve students primarily, but we also provide service to faculty, staff and the community.”

Children at the center are currently learning about dinosaurs. They recently made dinosaur sponge paintings. Children will also paint and hatch their papier-mache dinosaur eggs to find a miniature dinosaur inside, Caldwell said.

Some favorite activities of the children include “erupting a volcano,” Jenna Mayrand, senior geography major, said. At the end of the year the kids write a script, design costumes, pick out props and make scenery Mayrand said. The children at the center have put on a play for the last two years.

Mayrand has been at the center for about four years, the longest of all the teachers. Her kindergarten class takes numerous field trips, both on and off campus.

“We’ve gone to the aquarium, the children’s museum, the zoo and out to eat. The children learn all about manners so we take them to restaurants so they can practice,” Caldwell said.

The children can be seen trekking all over campus as well. In the Natural Science Building they look at the rocks on display. Twice a year they participate in a motor development class at the health center. The physical education students teach the preschool children all about motor skills once a week for six weeks. The children take “looking trips” to the duck pond and art gallery. They also stop in to listen to the band and chorus classes practicing in the Fine Arts Building. The teachers at the center try to reach out to campus community to help with specific topics the children are studying, Mayrand said.

Caldwell said it is her understanding that the center was originally established for children with special needs. The center was expanded some years later to include all children. Caldwell said she believed the expansion was due to the Office of Student Affairs realizing that there was a need for a child care facility on campus.

The center can hold 60 children; 54 are currently enrolled.

The center has three full-time teachers and a program coordinator. Each teacher is required by state law to have 12 hours of education classes every year. The center requires that each teacher also be certified in First Aid and CPR. The teachers are encouraged to continue their education past what the state requires. Any education classes the teacher may take from the university count toward their state education requirements.

To see the what the children have been learning, check out their art and activities on the bulletin board outside of room 167 in BEP.