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Bobcat Kittens' Will Soon Find Their Niche at UC Merced

June 12, 2009

Fully stocked with everything from Play-Doh to building blocks to reading books to pots and pans, UC Merced’s Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) is almost ready to start welcoming the campus’ youngest pupils – affectionately called “Bobcat Kittens.

The campus marked the completion of its new state-of-the-art, sustainably built child care facility with an open house on June 4 that was attended by more than 150 members of the university and community. Parents – and prospective parents alike – got a preview of the facility’s classrooms and play areas.

With the opening of the ECEC, UC Merced will fulfill its goal of providing better ways to help children learn, increasing access to high-quality early-learning programs and helping to meet the demand for quality child care in Merced.

The need for infant/toddler care is great,” said ECEC Director Danielle Waite, who has more than 20 years of experience in the early childhood education field. “Eighty children, from 6 weeks to kindergarten age, will be able to attend the center.”

Waite noted that the center is about two-thirds full, but she expects to be at capacity by August.

The center will operate under a creative curriculum model with equal emphasis on care and education. There are two classrooms per age group.

Teachers will play off the children’s interests to guide their lessons.” Waite said “There are no dittos or handouts. Everything is open-ended so the child’s creativity will come out.”

In honor of the First Lady’s visit to campus on May 16, UC Merced has named the preschool garden at the center “Michelle Obama’s Garden for Young Children.” The garden will boast fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers that the children will plant and harvest themselves.

The gardens with fruit trees, rolling hills and climbing rocks allow children to experience a natural environment,” said Director for Administration Sonia Johnston. “All places to learn and investigate.”

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