A decade ago, the UC Merced Early Childhood Education Center opened its doors with a small number of students and a really big vision.
Today, 300 children have come through the doors of the accredited center. The ECEC is a model for continuity of care and how children can thrive in a curriculum based on their interests with play, movement and nature intertwined.
That curriculum was on full display recently at the center’s 10th anniversary celebration.
Chemistry Professor Ryan Baxter, assisted by son Isaac, performed theatrical science experiments to the delight of attendees. Sensory activities, such as fly swatter painting and oobleck play, showed families the type of activities center students experience day to day. And Adventure Playground, which brings in recycled materials for students to use in the creation of their own play space, showed the creative capacity of children ages 0 to 5.
“Our activities are based on the latest research,” Executive Director Danielle Waite said. “We benefit from being housed on a university campus, where organizations and individuals generously volunteer their time and their skills to augmenting each child’s experience here.”
Children take frequent walking field trips to on-campus performances, such as the UC Merced Children’s Opera, and to see library art displays and where parents work. The Pre-Dental Club visits the center to teach the preschool classes about oral health, and ISight has performed early vision screenings. The UC Merced Cheer Team even paid the center a visit to teach students a Bobcat Kitten cheer routine.
“We have about 25 clubs and 50 volunteers who work with us each year,” Waite said. “It’s been fun over the years to make these enriching experiences possible for both our students and for the campus community.”