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Educators tour local learning environments
STARKVILLE, Miss -- Sometimes seeing is believing, and a group of early care and education providers got a firsthand look at what it takes to create high quality learning environments for young children.
Quality is the goal of all early care and education providers, but it might look different depending on resources and facilities. The Early Years Network recently hosted 36 early care and education providers and members of the staff from the Allies for Quality Care project based in Jackson for a tour of three different child care facilities to see quality in action.
The tour started at the Aiken Village Preschool on the Mississippi State University campus, which earned four out of five stars with Quality Stars, the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System.
Lucy Bryant, Aiken Village Preschool director, spoke to the group about the importance of play.
“I’ve always valued the role of play in learning environments for young children,” Bryant said. “Research shows this type of learning is the most developmentally appropriate during the formative years.”
Opportunities for play-based learning were evident as the group toured the 4-year-old classroom and observed learning centers. The group’s visit to the center concluded on the playground, where Bryant talked about the alphabet garden and other popular outdoor activities.
Gwendetta McField, owner and director of Little Blessings from Heaven in Terry, said she and the four teachers from her center joined the tour to increase their understanding of children playing with a purpose.
“The centers all reflect the same theme because of thoughtful planning and collaboration,” McField said.
Next, the group visited the MSU Child Development and Family Studies Center. This School of Human Sciences lab school earned five stars with Quality Stars. It is home to an Early Years Network Resource and Referral Center.
Melissa Tenhet, center director and instructor, led a tour through the center’s six classrooms. Upon entering the playground area, many of the visitors were impressed with the variety of materials available as well as the various plants and gardening spaces.
After touring the MSU-based centers, the group drove to Crawford, Mississippi, to visit Love and Learn Daycare. Joyce Lowery and her husband, Walter, own and operate the center. They have 26 years of experience in early childhood education and were proud to show the group what another five-star center looks like.
“Attending Early Years Network trainings, using resources at the Resource and Referral Center, visiting five-star centers and talking to those directors, plus taking advantage of local resources, helped us get to where we are,” Joyce Lowery said.
At the conclusion of the tour, everyone had a better idea of how they could implement what they had observed.
“It doesn’t take a lot of money to do what you love to do,” McField said. “With heart and love for what you do, the rest will fall into place. The trip was a good opportunity to awaken us to the love for what we do and be inspired.”
The Early Years Network is a program housed in the MSU Extension Service and funded by the Mississippi Department of Human Services Division of Early Childhood Care and Development to provide early care and education programs and materials for teachers, directors, children and families to improve the well-being of Mississippi’s children. For more information, visit the Early Years Network Facebook page or http://earlyyearsnetworkms.org.