Children’s center expanding

Posted on February 11, 2009

Thanks to an anonymous donation of $250,000, the Harry and Grace Steele Children’s Center at Orange Coast College is expecting a new addition to its family in August.

A new building will be added to the child care center to accommodate elementary school-aged children.

Until now, the children’s center has only been able to serve children from 6 months old to 6 years old, Sue Bierlich, child care director, said. With the new building for school-aged children, the center will be able to accommodate children up to 12.

Costs of the new facility will be covered mostly by donations and investments to the OCC Foundation and will cost $900,000, according to Doug Bennett, foundation director.

The Associated Students of Orange Coast College gave $200,000 to the new classroom and other donations were given by the Harry and Grace Steele Foundation, the Estate of Dr. Richard Houghton and the Pacific Life Foundation in addition to the anonymous gift.

The new structure will offer a classroom setting for school-aged children, Bierlich said, and a structured after school program including homework time, play time and other fixed activities.

About 24 school-aged children are expected, Bierlich said, which means two more teachers are needed to be able to take them in.

There is a possibility for outside children to benefit from the center, she said, and an opportunity to offer after school programs like organized sports, gardening and other activities.

Faculty, staff and parents are all eager for the new facility.

“I’m just really excited to see these plans come in to fruition,” Bierlich said.

Bennett said he had been working on this project for seven or eight years.

“We’ve always wanted this building but never had the money,” he said.

The building will be one big classroom with a kitchen and an outside area totaling 2,300 square feet, Bierlich said.

“They’re going to have access to a very enriching program.” she said.

Scott Morgan, a parent, said it is great that the child development center is expanding and his 4-year-old daughter loves to go to school there.

“I want my daughter to go to school here. She does well. They have good teachers,” Morgan, a general contractor, said.

Ciara Kennedy, 4, draws a building on paper at the Harry and Grace Steele Children’s Center. (Photo by Nuran Alteir)

Mini Pirates learn the tools of the trade

The Children Center uses construction site as teaching instrument.

Preschoolers line up in their yellow hardhats eager to explore the construction area outside their classroom.

Child Development Specialist Debra Womack is using the new building being built at the Harry and Grace Steele Children’s Center at Orange Coast College as a learning experience for her students.

The construction that can be seen outside her classroom window sparked the minds of the children to ask questions about construction, Womack, who teaches at the Children’s Center, said.

“Where did our ground go?” the children asked when they noticed the ground outside was lower than usual according to Womack

The children go outside to the construction area when it’s not being worked on about three times a week, Womack said.

They try to see what is the same from the day before, what’s different and learn the real names of the equipment used.

They then go inside and incorporate what they saw outside into the classroom.

“Whatever they’re doing outside, we do in here,” she said.

For example when the students noticed that the ground outside their window was lower they saw pipes in place.

After exploring the construction and discussing what the pipes do and where they go they went inside and incorporated that in the classroom by playing with connector straws.

Womack said she believes that her curriculum should be meaningful to the kids and the job isn’t done until their curiosities are satisfied.

“We will go with whatever the children are excited about,” she said.

Originally published in the Coast Report, Orange Coast College’s student-run newspaper.

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