Penn State Intercom......February 15, 2001

Day care center now
open at University Park

By Amy Neil
Public Information

Laughter and songs replaced the noise of hammers and saws when the doors of the Bennett Family Center, the University's newest child care facility at University Park, opened last Thursday.

Made possible by a $1 million donation from alumna Edna Bennett Pierce, the Bennett Family Center replaces the Cedar Child Care Center, and offers care for 120 children from birth to 6 years. child7

The new, 13,000-square-foot center has many amenities. There is a before- and after-school room, 10 classrooms, a staff break room, offices and a kitchen.

"We were able to take advantage of the many resources available at Penn State to make this project come together," said Wendy Whitesell, director of the Bennett Family Center. The project was coordinated by the Office of Human Resources, the College of Health and Human Development and the Office of Physical Plant. The kitchen was designed with the assistance of Pete Biordi, professor of hotel, restaurant and institutional management, for staff to prepare breakfast, lunch and snacks five days a week. A horticulture class is designing the landscape for the center's playground under the tutelage of Dan Stearns.

According to Linda Pierce, coordinator of Work Life Programs, the new facility offers an ideal teaching environment. child2

"The design of this building has made provisions for the highest quality programs possible," she said. "We are able to offer more square feet per child than required by the Department of Public Welfare, a state licensing agent for child care. We have indoor space for the children to run and play during inclement weather and space for staff to plan and prepare for projects."

Whitesell said national research on child-care programs has found that more space per child and better-qualified, better-paid staff determines the quality and cost of child care. The new facility, which is operated by the College of Health and Human Development, offers just that. "We are thrilled that since July, all of our teachers have full-time staff benefits and positions. When we started in 1992, everyone was in a wage payroll position."

In 1999, the Cedar child care program was granted accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. This honor is given to only 7 percent of all early-childhood programs nationwide.

The Bennett Family Center has two separate "houses," or sections in the building. Although there will be interaction between the two groups, Whitesell said the houses "will allow children to have the same teachers around them at all times and have siblings to stay close together."

The Bennett Family Center also will serve as a research and training site for faculty and students. It has four observation rooms for faculty and students to conduct child-related observation and research. Parents also may use the rooms to watch their children.

All of the staff and children from Cedar transferred to the new facility and there are currently 23 openings for children under 3 years of age. The College of Health and Human Development currently is working with the State College Area School District on transportation issues. The school district has agreed to provide transportation for the children to and from the Easterly Parkway Elementary School.

In addition to the Bennett Family Center, the College of Health and Human Development's Child Development Lab in Henderson Building offers a full-time child-care program for 54 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 5 years. The Daybridge Child Development Center at Innovation Park, a partnership between Penn State and Children's World Learning Centers, provides care for approximately 150 infant to school-age children. Programs at Daybridge are available full-time, part-time, or before and after school.

There also are child-care facilities at Penn State Erie, Penn State Harrisburg and the College of Medicine at The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. In July, Penn State Fayette will be opening an on-site center.

An official dedication of the Bennett Family Center is planned for mid-March.