1000 E University Ave
Dept. 3226, Bureau of Mines
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-2379
Fax: (307) 766-6729
The University of Wyoming Early Care and Education Center (ECEC), as it does each April, will celebrate Week of the Young Child.
This year, though, the campus center for infants, toddlers and preschoolers is celebrating so much more.
As part of its fresh vision to become a statewide and regional leader in early childhood education, the ECEC has revamped its website, designed a new logo and revised its mission statement -- all of which will debut April 11-15 as part of the National Association for the Education of Young Children's weeklong awareness campaign.
"We really want to celebrate who we are -- including our children, our teachers, our staff and our families," says Mark Bittner, director of the center, located on 30th Street across from Ivinson Memorial Hospital. "We're very happy where we are now, but we see early childhood education as a continuum and we're really looking forward to the next five to 10 years.
"It's really exciting to think about the possibilities of who we can become."
The ECEC's recognition of Week of the Young Child, which focuses on bringing public attention to the needs of young children and their families, will include appreciation days for teachers, staff and families, a family sing night and a morning of fun and games for the children on Prexy's Pasture.
Amidst the celebration, Bittner and Nikki Baldwin, the center's curriculum coordinator, will be working to pull together final details of a first-of-its kind conference in Wyoming that will bring together campus programs from the seven statewide community colleges.
"Strengthening Wyoming's Early Childhood Campus Communities," scheduled for May 18-20 in Laramie, will kick off the ECEC's quest to establish a state chapter of the National Coalition for Campus Children's Centers while providing an opportunity for teachers and program directors to share ways to strengthen early childhood programs.
"It's really important that we do it right. It's also really important that everybody else does it right, too," says Crystal Ballard, a toddler-room teacher at the ECEC since 2000. "It's not just about wiping noses and tying shoes anymore. We all have a real vested interest in making sure we meet the needs of every individual child and that they reach their maximum growth potential."
Adds Bittner, "It's a small state. There's no reason we can't work together better."
In addition to study sessions and presentations, conference participants will travel to Colorado to tour Boulder Journey School, a full-day, year-round school of about 200 children that has gained national attention for its unique story.
The school's environment is designed to support connections with the community, including a garden of indigenous plants, a water flume that mirrors Boulder Creek, a rock climbing wall and flagstone pathways through outdoor learning spaces.
"We're going to go down there and hear the story first-hand," says Bittner. "We're not trying to be that school, but it's neat to hear how other people have completed a journey. I know we still see ourselves in the process of a journey at our center."
The ECEC's journey began in 1979 with preschool and after-school programs at three different buildings on campus. The current facility, a state-of-the-art, 9,200-square-foot building, opened in 2005 and consolidated the UW Child Care Center, Child Development Center, School-Age Care Program and the College of Education Pre-K program.
The center accommodates 95 children.
"The building we had before was practically falling down, so to come to a place like this was just amazing," says Ballard.
But, Bittner says, a new building was just the beginning.
"After being in our new facility for five years, we felt like it was a real opportune time to re-evaluate our philosophy, our curriculum and our goals," he says. "I think, during that process, we all realized that one of the things we need to do is be more visible on campus, in the community and in the state. We really want to be seen as early childhood leaders. That's a lofty goal, but it's a good goal for us to have."