Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
September 29, 2008
DeKalb — Thirty years after the Northern Illinois University Campus Child Care Center opened to make higher education more accessible to parents of young children, the center continues to remove obstacles to college.
As the center’s children, staff and alumni prepare to celebrate the 30th anniversary with an open house from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, a four-year federal grant renewed in 2006 provides dollars specifically for low-income college students.
The money enables the center to accept an unlimited amount of children from those students, removing some of the costs and stress from their education.
“One of the things that is most impressive to me is that, 30 years ago, this university made a commitment to create child care on this campus. To this day, a lot of universities don’t even have a campus-based child care center – and we got a new facility in 2000,” said Chris Herrmann, director of the center since 1989. “That just speaks volumes about the real and significant commitment NIU has made to the non-traditional student.”
NIU’s Campus Child Care Center provides a structured program, within a play-based setting, designed to meet the children’s developmental needs.
Teachers plan and implement an appropriate curriculum that includes activities in art, music, motor skills, dramatic play, language and literacy. A balance of active, quiet, individual and group activities assist in social, emotional, physical and cognitive development.
About 120 children ages 2 months to 5 years are enrolled. Although the center primarily serves NIU students, some are children of NIU employees; school-age children are accepted during the summer. Children are welcome anywhere from three to 10 hours a day. Full-time scheduling began in 1987, and napping was added as an option for part-time children in 1994.
The center enjoys its own 16,000-square-foot building on Annie Glidden Road, just southwest of Gabel Hall. Ironically, its first home was nearby in 1,800-square-foot Gabel 170. Professional staffing has increased from three full-time teachers in the beginning to 16 now.
Small-sized amenities include miniature toilets, tables, chairs, sofas and hat racks as well as sinks and drinking fountains so close to the floor adults must kneel to use them. The 10-classroom facility also features a large motor room where children play and exercise, a parent conference room, a private nursing room, two-way-mirrored observation rooms for parents or for students conducting research and several laundry machines.
Teachers create portfolios for all of the children full of future memories, including comments about, and examples of, their learning and their activities.
July brought the center reaccreditation from the National Academy for Early Childhood Programs. Initial accreditation came in 1992.
“They’ve really made the process more stringent. They’ve raised the bar,” Herrmann said.
“With the NIU students that we employ, we’re able to have good ratios in the classroom, better than some child care centers are able to provide,” she added. “Our teachers have associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education, or something closely related, and that makes a huge difference. A lot of programs trying to go through the new process might not even meet the staff credentials, let alone the other 400 criteria.”
Fifty students, many of whom are pursuing some aspect of education, work part-time.
“We never have to advertise for students. They always come to us,” said Herrmann, who began at the center in 1980 as a student volunteer in child development and later returned for a graduate assistantship before becoming director. “I think they value the experience. We put a lot of time into the training, supervision and learning aspects for the students.”
Learning is key for everyone involved, Herman said, including the staff.
“One of the things that makes our program stand out is best practices. We’re always seeking. We’re always learning. We’re always looking to implement best practices,” she said. “We want to provide all the services students need and, for this particular population, child care is one of them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to go to school.”
Events planned for the Oct. 7 open house include photo displays of Campus Child Care Center life, past and present, as well as an alumni photo exhibition. Alumni have been invited to send old and new pictures, along with information on their current activities and interests and their special memories of the center.
Children’s artwork from the center is on display in the glass cases outside the Duke Ellington Ballroom in the Holmes Student Center.
Meanwhile, the annual Children’s Book Fair will be open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6, through Thursday, Oct. 8, and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10. Approximately 1,700 books, including early readers and parent resource materials, are on sale along with calendars and much more. Checks and credit cards are welcome.
Call (815) 753-0125 for more information.
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