This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Child Care Center stresses choices, interaction and "homey" environment

Published: June 23, 2005

Reporter Staff

At UB's Child Care Center not only is the waiting list shrinking for some programs, but free care is now available for 4-year-olds who are the children of faculty, staff and students living within the City of Buffalo, thanks to the Universal Pre-K Program.


Donovan Onate rides a rocking horse as teacher Jean Young works with Jane Nam. PHOTO: JESSICA KELTZ

Pat Logan, the center's director, explained that the Buffalo Public Schools use state money to pay the preschool tuition of 4-year-olds who live in the city and attend approved schools as part of the statewide Universal Pre-Kindergarten program. Logan said UB's center had to meet a host of requirements to get state accreditation and be part of the program, including hiring certified teachers.

She added that although the center generally serves only UB employees and students, other Buffalo children can enroll in the Universal Pre-K program if there are openings.

Currently, the South Campus site has about 10 openings for preschool in the fall, while the North Campus is full for the time being. A few spots for the coming fall are still open for toddlers on both campuses, although the infant rooms are booked, Logan said. Generally, parents can get a toddler into one of the sites in less than six months, but for infants the wait is a little bit longer, she said.

The center, which cares for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years and is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, stresses choices for children, interaction with highly qualified staff, and a "homey" environment, Logan notes. There are about 100 children enrolled at the South Campus site and another 50 at the center's site on the North Campus.

"What we believe is that children learn through play," she said. "That's our basic philosophy."

Rather than teaching numbers and letters to preschoolers by rote, teachers read to them often and surround them with what Logan calls "a print-rich environment," with the written word everywhere. Children's names are on all of their belongings, and they're encouraged to try to write them themselves. Books are always available and plentiful.

"By the end of the year, those kids are writing their name and they learn their letters," she said. "But it's more informal."

Logan said parents have told her that their children enter kindergarten well-prepared for the lessons there, and some are even a little bit bored when they start school.

Meals at the center are served family-style, with children sitting around small round tables with a teacher at each table. Separate classrooms serve infants (up to 18 months), toddlers (18 months to 3-years-old), preschoolers (3- and 4-year-olds together) and Universal Pre-Kindergarten (just 4-year-olds). Each infant and toddler room has three teachers and the other classes have two teachers each. The curriculum for the Universal Pre-K program is similar to that offered to students in the mixed-age preschool classroom.

And while many activities are fairly structured, children often get to choose which activities appeal to them.

"If you have a child that's really interested in doing art, there are a lot of opportunities for him to do that," Logan said. "The freedom is that they don't have to do every activity."

In the Universal Pre-Kindergarten class, the day begins with breakfast. During "circle time" at 9:30 a.m., teachers talk to students about what they'll be doing that day and what activities are available. They then break for playtime, with teachers assisting students with various activities.

All Universal Pre-K teachers have at least a four-year degree and are certified by New York State. All teachers at the center have at least an associate's degree, Logan noted.

"We're looking for quality," she said. "And we're serving a university community so they're also expecting high-quality care for their children."

The university setting also means that the center cares for and teaches a diverse group of children, Logan said. Both employees and students use the center, and it's not unusual for children to speak English as a second language or not at all. Logan said parents have told her that diversity is one of the center's unique aspects, and something they really appreciate and enjoy.

"The nice thing about this age is that they learn English very quickly," Logan said. She added that the center's teachers have learned to work well with children who don't speak English, and that the center tries to hire multicultural and bilingual staff. It currently employees teachers who speak Spanish and Korean, and Chinese teachers have worked there in the past, she said.

The center is accepting applications for its Universal Pre-Kindergarten classes from children born in 2001 who live in the City of Buffalo. For those children, morning classes are free.

For more information, call 829-2226.