An early childhood education center under construction at the University of Nebraska at Kearney is scheduled to open in September.
The university says the $7.8 million LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center will be a significant upgrade over the current Child Development Center.
The center has been designed specifically to meet children’s educational and developmental needs while providing training for future educators and promoting collaboration among the university's academic departments.
It replaces the Child Development Center, a dated space inside the 64-year-old Otto Olsen industrial arts building.
At 19,900 square feet, the new center will have enough room to serve up to 176 children from infants to age 6, including those with special needs. By more than doubling the capacity of the existing space, the center will better serve faculty, staff and students in need of child care while addressing a provider shortage in the area.
It will have an outdoor playground area and 11 classrooms that create a structured learning environment for children.
In addition to serving Kearney-area families, the center will train undergraduate and graduate students in a hands-on setting with increased opportunities for research, practicums, internships, observations, diagnostic testing and other experiential learning.
The center will benefit students studying early childhood and elementary education, as well as those in programs such as communication disorders, physical or special education, family studies, psychology and social work through interdisciplinary collaborations among university's three academic colleges and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
A financial gift from LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck of Omaha, an advocate for early childhood education, added two dedicated Montessori classrooms to the Early Childhood Education Center named in her honor, as well as an endowed Montessori education professorship and endowed fund that will support workshops, seminars and other outreach activities for early childhood education providers across Nebraska.
The center, approved by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents in January 2017, will utilize three research-based philosophies for early childhood education, with two classrooms dedicated to Montessori, one devoted to project-based education and eight focused on eclectic learning.
The center will be the first academic building at University Village, a 104-acre development.