A Dynamic Child Development Center
Focusing on the Arts, Literacy, Culture and Technology
West Virginia University at Parkersburg proposes to create a one-of-a-kind Child Development Center which focuses on the arts, literacy, culture, and technology to teach young children in modes beyond the traditional classroom environment. Vibrant with music and visual arts, the campus Center will celebrate and embrace the Appalachian culture. The Center will offer literacy and technology training for parents to encourage them to make their homes rich and visually stimulating environments to enhance the cognitive development of their children. It will bring a diversity of culture and learning to young children and provide additional opportunities to involve area residents in a range of cultural offerings. In addition, the Center will serve as a unique learning laboratory for practical clinical experiences for WVU Parkersburg students majoring in early childhood education. The opportunities offered to children and parents through the programming of this Center will be unique to others in the Mid-Ohio Valley and region.
WVU Parkersburg was one of the first public colleges in the state to develop and provide day-care services on campus for its students and employees in the early 1980s. As WVU Parkersburg has grown so has the increased need for quality campus day-care availability. In the early 1990s, the institution began offering a baccalaureate degree in elementary education. The nationally accredited program is considered one of the most curriculum- and field experience- rich programs in West Virginia in the preparation of multi-subject K-6 teachers. The Center will blend the best of learning for young students and their parents with a unique immersion of culture, the arts, literacy and technology.
Rationale for the Center
In early childhood development, brain-based research indicates that children learn by exposure to and immersion in stimulating rich environments. As an example, literacy in young children is best developed through the use of social interactions in an environment in which children are surrounded by print, language, and reading.
Regarding young children and the visual arts, brain researcher Eric Jensen has found that “the experience of countless classroom educators support the view that visual arts have strong positive cognitive, emotional, social, collaborative, and neurological effects.” Jensen also has found that countries, such as The Netherlands, Hungary, and Japan, which require musical arts enrichment at a young age have some of the world’s highest test score in mathematics and science.
Focusing on the arts, literacy, culture, and technology prepares young children to have experiences with knowledge and skills, and hence learn in modes beyond the traditional classroom didactic environment.
Programs developed for the Center will offer experiences for young children in this Appalachian region that are not part of the normal preschool experience. Social, emotional, and cultural growth will prepare children for the diverse learning environments found in later schooling. The Center’s unique focus will take this further by offering:
- Literacy and technology training for parents. The goal will be to encourage parents to make homes print rich and visually stimulating environments will enhance the cognitive development of their children. Through workshops and one-on-one mentoring, the Center’s staff will help parents learn efficient and effective uses of technology to augment their own learning and well as the learning of their children to lead to greater knowledge and skill development.
- Practical clinical experiences for those WVU Parkersburg students majoring in early childhood education. Research indicates that teachers in training are more successful when given the opportunity to practice teaching in real classroom settings with a support system of mentors.
- Child development and care services for students of WVU Parkersburg and members of the WVU Parkersburg community. The Center will serve a wider audience than the college’s current childcare facility.
- Culturally rich opportunities to involve the community at large. Programming will be designed to encourage involvement of surrounding communities in the Center’s celebration of the arts and learning.
The Center will bring a diversity of culture and learning to young children. The opportunities offered to children and parents through the programming of this Center will be unique and focus around a creative, brain-based curriculum.
The Center’s Program
- A center that celebrates the arts. Artwork on display. Music available and playing. A commons area for events. Arts instruction for children at the varying ages. Space for artists to demonstrate their works in progress.
- A teaching staff trained in celebrating the culture of the Appalachian region and integrating programs that introduce children to various customs and cultures.
- Classrooms for children at the following levels: infants, toddlers, preschool, and prekindergarten.
- A curriculum based on The Creative Curriculum with an emphasis placed on learning through brain-based strategies and the visual, musical, and kinesthetic arts.
- A center that immerses children in literacy and through this immersion opens doors to the cultures and arts that are prominent in literature. An environment that is print rich and visually stimulating. Children will be read to and will practice emergent reader skills.
- A center that surrounds children with various types of music. Children will be exposed to music from different cultures, eras, and genres.
- A program of parent seminars and trainings. This program will give tools and materials for parents to practice the use of arts, literature and technology in their homes with their children.
- A program based on intergenerational interactions. This will include the curriculum for preschool children, the curriculum for teacher candidates, events and demonstrations involving young children, adults, and senior citizens.
- A program that exposes children to customs, art, and music of various cultures through visits by persons of varying race and ethnicity.
- An adult learning area – a classroom that allows early childhood education courses to be taught on-site – with real-time access to all levels of classrooms.
- An outdoor learning area that includes arts and gardens and a play area. The outdoor area will serve as an outdoor classroom for preschool children.
The Center’s Facilities
A unique center requires a unique facility. The Center will be housed in a building to be constructed with an interesting styling that is also warm, inviting, and “homey.” Upon entering the front doors, visitors will hear soft music inviting them to enter the open and airy foyer. The entrance-way will be roomy with a reception area in the center. Artwork will be displayed on the walls in small Plexiglass cases as well as from the ceiling. There will be quilts, drawings, and mobiles in the area.
Through the reception area and hallways, children will be heard learning in culturally-rich ways. These may range from singing from the pre-kindergarten room, instruments playing in the preschool room, laughter from the toddler room, and blessed quiet from the infant room as the youngest nap. The hallways will be colorful and have permanent art displayed throughout. Also on temporary display in the hallways will be works created by the child artists; their handiwork will be displayed lower than normal so the art will be at their eye level.
Near the center of the building will be an airy, open commons room, with an adjacent kitchen. On the other side of the room will be a demonstration area for students, artists and musicians to demonstrate their talents and provide children with hands-on experiences with various arts.
Additional spaces will include a small studio for in-residence artists; an adult learning classroom; staff offices/work spaces, and an outdoor area which integrates an exterior classroom with aesthetic garden space and a play-to-learn/experience space.