Children’s center offers unique learning opportunities

Children's center offers unique learning opportunities
The Vucurevich Children's Center on campus at The University of South Dakota isn't your ordinary daycare center.

It's true, the center takes care of dozens of local youngsters each day, but students in the preschool program at the center are getting more than they bargained for when their parents first signed them up.

The Vucurevich Children's Center has instituted a new Preschool Enrichment program and members of the Vermillion community are chipping in to make it a success.

The center's director, Merle Eintracht, was faced with a dilemma this past fall; hire a teacher or find another other alternative. She opted for the latter and as a result, was blessed with five afternoon teaching segments this past fall including: intergenerational learning (students visit the senior citizen center weekly), Spanish, music, three-dimensional art and Kung Fu. All classes are taught by specialists who live right in the community.

"What I love about this program is that instead of moms and dads taking their kids somewhere else to have this opportunity, they get to do it right here at the center," Eintracht said. It's created a very different and unique program offering that Eintracht plans to continue this spring.

Eintracht is a member of an on-campus childcare association that has over 800 members across the country. She says this program is a major benefit for both students and their parents, because it's not traditionally offered in other places.

"I've seen a lot of centers and I've been to national conferences to learn about other centers," said Eintracht. "I believe that USD should be very proud of the operation here. I think this is a unique and a really quality program."

One of the main reasons the center is so successful, she says, is the involvement of students from USD, who come to the center as part of their educational opportunity at the university.

For Eintracht and the staff at Vucurevich, the program just makes sense. She's been involved in education on five continents and understands that children don't just learn from textbooks, they learn from doing and from experiencing all sorts of new things. She said her job as the center's director, and the role her teachers must play, is to "walk beside" students as they work their way through the early years.

"It's really about who these children are and what they need as they go from infancy to the school system. We want to give them everything they may need along the way so that when they leave us, they are as equipped as we are able to make them to deal with what's coming next," Eintracht said.

The Preschool Enrichment program continues this spring with five afternoon classes.

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