By Amy J. Barry
It was just about one year ago that the Central Connecticut State University Drop-in Child Care Center opened its doors, making the lives of students, faculty, and staff with kids infinitely easier by providing quality childcare, educational, and enrichment experiences on campus in Carroll Hall.
Equally as essential, the center gives invaluable learning opportunities to Central students majoring in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, Psychology, and other programs.
In addition to its free drop-in program for children ages 3 to 12 and summer enrichment program for children 3 to 7, center director Kelly McCarthy is passionate about the Pre-K program that’s offered weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon with a Lunch Buddies program from noon to 1 p.m.
“What makes our program stand out is that it’s designed to encourage curiosity exploration, problem-solving, and purposeful play,” she says. “Its objective is to enhance intellectual, social, emotional, and physical development. And we support all our learners through developmentally appropriate and culturally responsive teaching.”
The center’s curriculum aligns with Connecticut’s Early Learning and Development Standards and the state’s Preschool Curriculum Framework.
McCarthy says parents are thrilled with the program for its convenient location on campus and outstanding staff, high quality curriculum, and enrichment programs that are “really interesting and cool.”
She cites the music program as an example.
“It’s led by master teaching artist Bob Bloom, who teaches all over New England and provides professional development to our staff,” she says. “Bob is a professional drummer, who performed and sang as a member of Drums of Passion, whose leader Babatunde Olatunji brought African drumming to the U.S.”
In addition to his own performances, Bloom does interactive performances with students and invites parents to participate.
Students mentored to teach in Pre-K program
There are currently 12 students who are studying to be teachers working in the Pre-K program. It gives them the unique advantage of hands-on experience, even before they begin their teaching careers.
“Students apply for the position, interview for it, and are being paid for it,” McCarthy says. “This is work they can do right here if they live on campus that doesn’t require them to drive.”
She explains that a mentorship relationship with teaching staff, including herself in a supervisory position, provides critical professional development and gives the students guidance in such important areas as planning and classroom management.
“It’s exciting to be working with these students and observe how they model and apply the skills they’re learning and get a chance to practice in the classroom, even before graduation,” McCarthy says.
McCarthy says the center has already purchased the apparatus for a new program that combines music and movement to help children develop fine and gross motor skills, stressing that it’s an educational — not competitive — gymnastics program.
She also plans to work with students in the Department of Physical Education and Human Performance who are studying to work with young children.
“These students will come to the center twice a week and practice teaching social emotional curriculum learning,” she says, which will give them more skills for student teaching.”
“We started small but are growing,” McCarthy says. “We just need to get the word out that we’re open to new students.”
There is a fee of $25 a day for the Pre-K program, plus an additional $10 for the Lunch Buddy program. Anyone can apply for a sliding-scale fee. Rolling admissions policy allows parents to register their children anytime during the year that they turn three. Parents aren’t requited to be on campus while their children are attending Pre-K. For more information and registration, visit https://www.ccsu.edu/childcare/.