April 26, 2013 | 1:30 p.m.
By Suzanne McInroy, Director of Communications
With warmer weather in Arden Hills, construction can now begin on a new playground at the campus Child Development Center (CDC). Construction will take about six to eight weeks, and the new playground will have an area for preschool students, toddlers, and infants.
The new equipment will replace the original preschool playground pieces from when the campus CDC began 29 years ago, explained Jolene Pearson, director of Early Childhood Services at Bethel University. “Minor updates have been made over the years, but the equipment was largely original. The toddler program was added in 1990, and modifications were made to the playground to provide toddlers with a play space. Over the years, playground safety came into the forefront, and changes were made in the safety requirements,” Pearson said.
The current playground was closed in October after an inspection by the National Playground Compliance Group reported that the equipment on the playground was out-of-date and some pieces presented potential safety hazards to children, explained Pamela Erwin, associate dean for professional programs in the College of Arts & Sciences at Bethel University. Pearson and Ellen Wilson, director of the campus CDC, have been instrumental in making the new playground a reality, Erwin added.
“The possibility of a new playground would not have been possible without Ellen’s stewardship of the budget, the input from the Campus CDC teachers, and Bill Kidder in the purchasing department,” says Pearson. “Bill introduced us to Dave Owen from Commercial Recreational Specialists, who drew up plans for the new playground. Dave created a playground plan to meet our needs, including addressing all safety aspects and providing opportunities for children to exercise and enjoy the outdoors.” While the construction is taking place, the children will use other areas on campus for outdoor play and take walks and stroller rides, Pearson said.
To raise funds for the new playground, the campus CDC staff offered parents a night of babysitting in exchange for donations toward the playground. They have also sold calendars and flowers, with the next annual flower sale scheduled for May 9. Pearson said they have also been blessed by private donations from individuals in the Bethel community, which they have greatly appreciated. In fall 2013, the campus CDC will celebrate its 30thanniversary; a special inauguration of the new playground will be included in the celebration.
The campus CDC, as well as the King Family Foundation Child Development Center in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul, have each received a four-star rating from the “Parent Aware” child care rating system, which is the highest rating for child care quality in Minnesota. Both centers are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). “These ratings and accreditations are important achievements and acknowledge the high-quality educational environment for the young students at both centers. These high-quality learning environments are also important for Bethel students who work in the centers to learn about children through field experiences and also complete student teaching,” Erwin said. Each semester brings about 30 Bethel students to the campus CDC who complete student teaching, curriculum field experiences, and student worker assignments.