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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Preschoolers and college students alike enjoy new learning space

By Kelsey Roebuck

The Grinnell College Preschool Laboratory has moved from its humble origins in a 1970s portable classroom to a state of the art, energy efficient facility. Tasked with providing psychology students with opportunities for observation and study, the preschool has benefited greatly from its new environment.

Children play at the new-and-improved preschool center on Park St. last week. Photograph by Connie Lee

“The observation room allows my students to be unobtrusive observers of development,” said Professor Ann Ellis, Psychology.

The building is full of areas for college students to observe their pint-sized subjects. The observation room is large enough to accommodate an Introduction to Psychology class and is equipped with a two-way mirror and maneuverable cameras that overlook the children’s classroom. There are also two Individual Study rooms for students, with particular activities designed for childhood development studies.

“I have students almost every semester who work individually with children doing different kinds of studies with them,” Ellis said. “In the old building they were in the middle of the classroom with some plastic doors.”
Ellis teaches a Developmental Psychology Course every spring and an Advanced Developmental Psychology Course every other year, both of which use the preschool laboratory. Additionally, one or two Introduction to Psychology classes spend several days each semester observing the children’s behavior. All in all, the Preschool Laboratory serves roughly 100 college students every semester.

“Right now, I have 22 developmental psychology students who are learning to use the observation space—pretty exciting for those 22 students,” Ellis said.

The Preschool Laboratory also functions as an accredited education program in the State of Iowa, serving 48 children ages three to five. A large room accommodates various play stations that are designed to stimulate development through play. From building blocks to artistic expression, the room functions as an organized vehicle for learning and exploration.

“In our old building, we had a lot of little nooks and crannies,” said Karen Veerhusen-Langerud, Director of the Grinnell College Preschool. “You couldn’t see where some of the children were, so we had to have a lot of supervision. Here everything is all in one space, and you can see everything.”

The preschool also benefits from a tornado shelter/recreation room that will make it possible for the children to exercise year-round.

“We can give kids opportunities every single day to do motor development, large muscle development,” Veerhusen-Langerud said.

The college students who work at the preschool have also enjoyed the new facilities.

“I love the new preschool. It’s so beautiful,” said Anna Henriquez ’12. “It’s the kind of thing where you wish you had gone to preschool there.”

Henriquez has worked at the Preschool Laboratory for almost three and a half years and has already noticed how well the new building serves its dual purposes.

“Usually the only reason that I remember that there is [an observation room] is when I see people leaving,” Henriquez said, “it’s nice because it is really discreet.”

This long-overdue addition to the Grinnell campus, as well as the Grinnell community, has an exciting future for both groups of students—big and small.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Veerhusen-Langerud said.

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