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The Scarlet & Black

College Constructs New Facility for Youngest Students

Ask anybody what they expect to find on a college campus and they would probably list a host of resources including residence halls, academic buildings and athletic facilities. A preschool would probably be the last thing on their mind.

Now located in 1207 Park Street, the Grinnell College Preschool Laboratory provides a high-quality program that serves both the college and the community of Grinnell.

The Preschool Laboratory is almost 50 years old. Founded in 1963, it moved from Goodnow Hall, to Steiner Hall, and finally to its current location. In fact, the facility holds a five-star rating from the Iowa Department of Human Services. Despite the high-quality program, however, the 1970s-style building that houses the program is now out of date and in need of renovation. Functional issues like leaks and lack of a tornado shelter make the need for a new building even more pressing.

“This building was [established] in the seventies as a temporary location. Over the years it has deteriorated and it’s at the point where you can’t make repairs anymore,” explained Karen Veerhusen-Langerud, Director of the Preschool Laboratory.

Veerhusen-Langerud, who worked at the preschool for fifteen years, is looking forward to the new facility..

According to Ann Ellis, Professor of Psychology and the direct supervisor for the preschool, the preschool serves the dual functions of providing a laboratory space for the study of child development, as well as providing quality early childhood education. Unfortunately, however, the building can no longer adequately fulfill its purposes.

“We cannot do, in terms of preschool education and in terms of the education of college students, the things we want to do functionally in this facility,” Ellis stated. “I would like a space where my college students can conduct observations of the preschoolers without actually having to be in the room with them, and a quiet space for college students to do their research with children. And right now that’s done right here in the classroom.”

Psychology students use the laboratory to observe and interact with the preschoolers. The college students who do research with the children separate themselves from classroom activities with a plastic accordion folding door, which does not allow for a quiet space.
“Whenever a student comes in, we have to clear out the middle of the room, put up the partitions, and then arrange the furniture like we need it.” said Katherine Munday ’13, a Psychology and Spanish major who has been involved with the preschool. ”This inconveniences the children who are using the computers and also takes away from the time that we could be interacting with the children. It can also be hard to simply observe the children because we are so obviously present in the small spaces that they play in.”

The new building, however, will have an observation room that will both serve as both a classroom as well as a lab room to do direct instruction with preschoolers. That observation room will be equipped with cameras so that Ellis’ students will be able to observe and listen to preschool activities without disrupting them. Two small research rooms will also be constructed, where the college students work individually with the children on research projects.

For Veerhusen-Langerud, the new building provides for a better space to educate the children. The new facility will include classrooms where she will be able to see all of the preschoolers at once. Adjacent restrooms, storage rooms, and a fully-functioning kitchen are also included in the design. The preschoolers will also be able to work in an interior garden.
The new preschool will also benefit the staff. A Director’s office will allow Veerhusen-Langerud to have private conversations with parents – a luxury the current building does not provide. Further, a staff workroom will allow her and her staff to do curriculum development.

The planned construction for the new preschool has been in the works for the past few years, and will be located at 1000 Park Street. It is expected to cost about $1.75 million.

“We’re very, very, very excited,” said Ellis.

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