(Photo above courtesy Children's Museum of Tacoma.)
Life is about to get a little easier for University of Washington Tacoma student Shanett’ McBride. Until now the senior in business management relied on family to provide childcare for her three-year-old daughter. “It was always a week to week thing,” says McBride.
McBride searched the Tacoma area for childcare that would be a good fit for her daughter. She first heard about The Muse: A Childcare Center from her pediatrician. McBride visited the facility and was struck by the openness of the space. “My daughter is super energetic, if she’s closed in a room too long she’ll go crazy,” says McBride.
The Muse is grounded in the Reggio Emilia approach which encourages exploration and discovery. “We have a very strong image of the child, that they’re capable of guiding their learning journeys and we need to help facilitate what they’re interested in,” says Children’s Museum of Tacoma Executive Director Tanya Andrews.
The Muse is a collaboration between the Children’s Museum and UW Tacoma. Planning for The Muse began a few years ago. The campus’s late Chancellor Debra Freidman spearheaded the initiative after learning that childcare and a fitness center were the two highest priorities for students.
Providing access to childcare is only part of the equation. The other part is helping students financially. The University’s Childcare Assistance Program offers funding to qualifying students to pay for childcare. Scholarships will also be available to The Muse through a generous donation from the Bamford Foundation.
The center is slated to open in early February and is licensed to provide care for up to 70 children. McBride, who currently does her homework late at night after her daughter goes to sleep, is looking forward to a more normal schedule. “I’m definitely going to stay on campus and get my work done.”
Because of its proximity to campus, McBride can also visit her daughter during breaks. The Muse Director Christina Aubel welcomes participation from parents. “We see this as a partnership between the teacher, family, and child,” says Aubel.
Aubel has been working in the Reggio Emila model for 15 years. She has a Masters in Curriculum & Instruction Teaching. Most of the staff at the facility has college degrees and experience working with young children.
The Muse is situated on the bottom floor of the Children’s Museum. Inside there’s a kitchen, dining area, art space, and three homerooms. The homerooms are partitioned but children are free to move as they please.
The center is open from 7 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday. The typical day starts with breakfast which, like all meals at The Muse, is served family style. Children are active participants in the process. They help set the table and clean up once they’ve finished eating. Food is passed around the table and each child gets to practice being patient. “Children do exceptionally well if given the opportunity,” says Aubel. “We believe in their capability and competency.”
Once breakfast is over the children have a few hours of active time where they have the opportunity to go outside. The Muse has a large fenced in outdoor area where kids can run around. Part of the Reggio Emilia philosophy is the belief that the environment is a teacher. For that reason there aren’t large play structures. Instead, children take inspiration from their surroundings.
After active time comes lunch and then naps. The Muse operates with a general framework but believes in adapting depending upon each child’s individual needs. “Human beings need structure in order to move about in the world. We need to know our parameters but we also enjoy making choices because that’s how we learn and grow,” says Aubel.
Applications to The Muse are still being accepted. Questions concerning financial aid can be sent to Christina Aubel at email@example.com. More information about Reggio Emilia can be found on the Children’s Museum “early learning resources” website.
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org