Area 30 childcare more than meets the eye
At first glance, the childcare room at Area 30 Career Center looks much like any other daycare center.
There are areas for play filled with toys. There are areas where children can dress up in costumes, work on art projects, play games or explore their musical interests.
"There's a lot we do here that the community doesn't know about," said Chris Klinger, childcare director. "People don't know that we're not just a daycare center -- we're a research lab preschool. People don't realize how valuable that is."
Nancy Mendenhall, Area 30's Early Childhood Development director, agreed.
"This is not a babysitting program," she said. "Students who have been through this program have gone on to work as nannies for surgeons or in corporate daycares."
Area 30's Education and Early Childhood Careers curriculum is a two-semester program, offered in both the morning and afternoon. The program nets students six high school credits.
It introduces students to early childhood education and services as preparation for employment in a number of childcare-related fields. Topics covered include Indiana state childcare regulations, planning and guiding developmentally appropriate activities, basic health and safety principles and management and operation of childcare facilities.
Those who complete the first phase of the program can go on to Education and Early Childhood Careers 2, which covers more in-depth childcare experiences such as planning and implementing learning and play activities, teaching math concepts and demonstrating science and natural studies. This program is also offered in the mornings and afternoons and gives students six high school credits. In addition, students who earn a B average or better and demonstrate the required skill level can also earn up to 12 free Ivy Tech State College credits.
Mendenhall has been with the program since the beginning, and has watched it expand.
"We started out with a Headstart grant," she said. "We built from the floor up."
Area 30 offers all-day and after school childcare for children ages 3 through12. Bus transportation is provided for after school students from Greencastle Community Schools.
The center is open year around, and is staffed by certified teachers as well as juniors and seniors from North Putnam, South Putnam, Greencastle, Cloverdale Owen Valley and Eminence high schools who are enrolled in Area 30's Education and Early Childhood Careers program.
"They start as juniors, and by the end of their senior years they can have almost enough credits for an associate's degree," Klinger said.
The program allows students to delve into many areas of childcare and child development.
"We have two-way windows where the high school students can observe the children and learn about social development," Klinger said.
Mendenhall said students are sometimes surprised to find out how many different childcare-related careers they can pursue.
"They learn about all kinds of careers that have to do with children," she said. "They take CPR training. Some of the girls last year got to work with non-speaking autistic children. These students excel at interacting with younger children."
The students are involved in every aspect of the childcare center at Area 30. They help with curriculum planning and grant research.
"By the time they leave, they will know all about how a childcare center is run," Klinger said. "They have to do lesson plans that need to be turned in and approved. We do give them quite a bit of creative license … sometimes these 15- and 16-year-old minds come up with awesome ideas."
The teachers at Area 30 either have childhood development associate degrees or are in the process of getting them. The children enrolled at Area 30 get a good amount of one-on-one time with the teachers.
"As far as teachers go, we've really raised the bar," Klinger said.
Outside play is also a big part of Area 30's childcare program.
"We have a concrete bicycle path around the playground that was built with funds from a Putnam County Community Foundation grant," Klinger said.
The center currently has full- and part-time openings. For information, call 653-3515.