By Star Perkins and Scarlett Perkins
The Child Study Center received a 5 STAR rating for quality instruction from the Alabama Quality Stars Program—an organization that measures the standard of early childhood care programs.
The center serves the purpose of observing children and educating future professionals in early childhood. The Child Study Center supplies proper experiences, such as problem solving, conflict resolution and other experiences for the children. It is fully accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and has been state-funded through the Office of School Readiness (OSR).
The STAR levels are awarded to educational and early care programs that follow and meet the standardized, research-based criteria.
Dr. Laura Bloom said, “It was important for me to have the hard work that goes into this program highlighted.”
The center had to be assessed using both a Best Practice Rubric and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). They must get a minimum of 110 points out of 130.
Bloom and her colleagues had completed a pilot program to prepare for the site visit, where a STARS representative visited the center for three hours. The program allowed center employees to aquatint themselves with the revised standards and prepare the collected documents.
Looking to the future, Bloom said there’s always room for improvement, no matter the rating. She hopes that the program will continue to serve children and inspire university students with their work. She would love to be able to serve more children and host more research projects in the future with a bigger building.
The center has two classrooms: a 3-year-old classroom that is 585 square feet and has a child-sized sink for washing hands, and a 4-year-old classroom that is 702 square feet and is closest to both a small serving kitchen and a child-appropriate bathroom with two sinks and three toilets.
Every child gets a cot in the room so that they can rest during rest time. There are rugs in many places in the room and the furniture in the room is made for children. If the children start to feel overwhelmed emotionally, physically or mentally, there are safe spaces in both classrooms for children to go to when they need to regain their emotional, mental or physical control.
There is also a large playground that is developmentally appropriate for the children and is completely fenced in. The children can practice their gross motor skills using the toys in the playground, such as the hula hoops, wagon, mud kitchen and more.
Each classroom is set up with various learning centers and activities including dramatic plays, art, music, science, writing and more. Classroom materials and items are changed regularly and meet both the NAEYC standards and OSR requirements.
Children can learn and develop using exploration and playtime, and teachers willingly work with every child on specific skills. The classroom materials and equipment ignite the children’s interests and encourage them to experiment and learn with those materials. Scheduled activities are designed to help the children learn and improve their skills of logic and reasoning, solving problems in the best way possible, getting along with others, using language and developing other skills.
Every day, nutritious breakfasts, lunches and afternoon snacks are provided to each child. Currently, the University of Montevallo and the Child Study Center have a food service agreement with Chartwells to supply these meals to the children. The center has a child nutrition grant to feed them through the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Child and Adult Care Food Program. This grant ensures that each meal is nutritious and well balanced. The grant provides added funding for food, with reimbursement rates based on the participants’ income eligibility for free or reduced meals.