K-State child care facility combines teaching, research, family goals and quality care for area children
By Jessica Clark
In many families today, both parents work outside the home. Now, more than ever, families rely on child-care programs to provide a safe and caring environment for their children.
At Kansas State University, the Stone House Ruth Hoeflin Early Childhood Education Center and C.Q. and Georgia Chandler Institute for Child and Family Studies ensure that children from infants to age 5 are in good hands until they are ready to enter kindergarten. The center also serves as a research and teaching facility for K-State faculty and students.
Stone House consists of three separate programs, all located in the same facility. The Hoeflin Stone House Child Care Center is a full-day program consisting of two classrooms for toddlers and pre-schoolers, ages 18 months to 5 years. The Early Childhood Lab is an inclusive preschool setting with a morning and afternoon class. The Early Learning Center is a full-day infant and toddler child care program. All three programs are licensed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
"A maximum of 60 children can be enrolled in one of the center's six classrooms," said LuAnn Hoover, instructor of family studies and human services and program director of the Early Childhood Lab at Stone House. "We serve a lot of families. Some of the children are here for four years, receiving consistent, quality early care until they are ready to enter kindergarten.
"We also provide a full-day summer adventure program for elementary school-aged children. This provides our early childhood education students with the opportunity to learn from and work with children across the early childhood years, birth through 8 years."
Each classroom has a head teacher, assistant teachers and student teachers. Head teachers hold master's degrees and are faculty members in the School of Family Studies and Human Services. Assistant teachers are graduate students in early childhood education, early childhood special education, speech pathology or other family studies and human services fields. Student teachers are undergraduates in early childhood education, Hoover said.
Since 1991, K-State's early childhood lab has had a collaborative partnership with the Manhattan USD 383 school district, providing quality services to children with special educational needs in an on-going preschool program. Special services are provided by school district therapists and some speech services are provided by K-State communication sciences and disorders graduate students and faculty, Hoover said.
The Early Learning Center is a collaborative venture between the School of Family Studies and Human Services and Manhattan-Ogden Head Start, Early Head Start and Family Connections of Riley County. Children are enrolled in the program as part of their participation in the Family Connections program, said Mary Deluccie, director of early childhood programs.
Parents whose children are enrolled in any of the programs at Stone House have an open invitation to join their children during the day. They are kept involved by regular parent meetings and opportunities for parent involvement such as coming in to read stories to their child's class or joining their child for lunch at the facility, Hoover said.
"At Stone House, the teachers coordinate with the family's goals and the emphasis is on family relations," Deluccie said. "It's not just a child care program, but more like a family program."
Stone House is a community-based program. Children who are eligible by age to enter kindergarten are not eligible for enrollment at Stone House. Enrollment is balanced by age and sex.
"Keeping a mixture of ages at the center ensures a range in development and makes it possible for our students to interact with a group of children at different stages in development," Hoover said. "It also helps to maintain a gentle turnover when children reach the age when they are eligible to enter kindergarten."
Recent renovations, completed in spring 2001, have expanded Stone House's capabilities and additions are still being made. Before the renovations, the only program was the full-day Hoeflin Stone House Child Care Center. The facility is a KSU Foundation project funded by private donors.
"The Hoeflin Stone House Child Care Center first began caring for children in 1977. Before 1977, the building where the center still stands used to be a home for poultry science students who looked after the nearby chicken coops," Hoover said. "The early childhood laboratory program began in 1929 and has been housed in several locations over the years. It is the second-oldest continuously operating university school west of the Mississippi."
Renovations have added four classrooms, a new kitchen, laundry facilities, four observational booths, office suites, a graduate student research office and an additional classroom for K-State classes. Audio and visual technology to expand distance education capabilities is still in progress, Hoover said.
"In the future, Stone House will have the technology to transmit through audio-video streaming," Deluccie said. "Students from around the world will be able to observe our students and receive professional teaching in childhood education from K-State no matter where they are located.
"Our current distance education program serves students from Kansas and across the world including Kuwait, Germany, Korea and Guam. Our teacher education program will be enhanced with the infusion of this new technology. We appreciate the considerable support from the Kansas Health Foundation in making this technology infrastructure available in our facility."
Photos: (Top right) Sarah, 5, Maddie, 3, Kevin, 5, Grant, 4, and Hannah, 5, listen intently during circle time.
(Middle left) Bryan, 5, and Paige talk and laugh together about their paintings.
(Middle right) Maddie, 3, takes her turn at marking the calendar.
(Bottom left) Raeann, 5, shows her excitement in discovery while playing with Heidi.
Photos by Dan Donnert, KSU Photographic Services.