By Maria Grzywa —
Early Childhood Education programs have been available at University of Wisconsin–Stout since the early 1900s. Stout’s current Child and Family Study Center, located at 811 Sixth Street E., was established in 1971 to better serve students enrolled in the Early Childhood Education programs with hands-on experience.
The original Child and Family Study Center came to Stout in the early 1920s with a focus on helping students learn how to teach young children socially developmental skills. “There was a focus on teacher training,” said Judy Gifford, director of the center.
Shortly after Stout’s Child and Family Study Center moved to Sixth Street, another location was added in Heritage Hall in 1973, and both serve as facilities for the School of Education. Five classrooms are located between the two facilities and function as daycare centers for local Menomonie families and Stout students with children.
About one third of the children attending day care at the center have one or both parents attending Stout, while two thirds of the children are affiliated with the campus community, i.e. professor’s children, campus workers’ children, etc.
According to the center’s mission statement, it works to serve students as “a laboratory school and observation site…allowing university students to link educational theory with practice.”
It is necessary for the Early Childhood Education program to have facilities to provide Stout students with hands-on experience in the field because it is the most populated program within the College of Education. “Early Childhood Education is the largest education major on campus,” said Gifford.
With a focus on physical development, creativity and appreciation for the natural environment, Stout students who work in the classrooms help children develop critical skills through these focuses. More apparent on campus, however, is the red buggies found rolling through campus sidewalks filled with children from the center.
“Buggie-walks on campus have gone on every year since there has been Early Education programs on campus,” said Gifford. Stout students who work in the classrooms, and are majoring in Early Childhood Education, take the children on walks in the buggies at least once a day, weather permitting. Infants, one-year-olds and two-year-olds are taken on buggie rides to expose them to natural surroundings.
The red buggies seen around campus actually needed to be replaced this year because of use and wear from how often students take children on walks. Red buggies can be seen around campus on a daily basis and can even be parked by the old bell across from Applied Arts with children reading and picnicking on the grounds.
“Since we are part of the Stout campus, that’s where our route takes us,” said Gifford.