Merced College is located a few minutes drive from Highway 99 and Downtown Merced in California’s Central Valley.
Merced College Child Development Center
The College’s Child Development Center first opened in the 1980’s, with the construction of the current state-of-the-art facility being completed in 2001. The California Department of Education, Child Development Division, in collaboration with WestEd, selected Merced College Child Development Center (MCCDC) as a Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC) Demonstration Program in 2010. The center serves a diverse population of families. Most of the child care spaces are subsidized for children of income-eligible Merced College students. The remaining spaces are made available to children with special needs from the surrounding community.
Experience high-quality child care in action
The facility was designed as a high-quality training environment for students seeking to become early care and education professionals as well as for those majoring in the fields of nursing, sociology, and nutrition. As a PITC Demonstration Program, the center now additionally provides an important opportunity for early childhood educators and policy makers throughout the Central Valley to observe and reflect on evidence-based program policies and practices that promote children’s learning and development. The program demonstrates the quality of care that children and families in our communities can and should receive.
Families, children, and visitors enter the PITC Demonstration Program at Merced College Child Development Center through an indoor, sunlit rotunda the children call the “Ball”, because that is where they play with balls on rainy days.
Infant care teachers partner with families to provide care in two rooms: the Water Room, with six infants, approximately 3-months to 11-months old; and the Earth Room, with six to twelve toddlers approximately 12-months to 24-months old.
See the families at the heart of our program
Parents are welcome to visit with their children and the staff throughout the day.
The PITC approach to care emphasizes developing responsive relationships with infants and their families. At Merced College, the infant care teachers continually explore ways to make meaningful connections between their program and each child’s family and culture. Teachers acknowledge the competence and vulnerability of infants and their families, ask family members questions about how the children are cared for at home, and adapt approaches so that, insofar as possible, each child experiences the care setting as an extension of their home experience.
Discover a sense of belonging
Through a partnership with the Merced County Office of Education (MCOE), Merced College has been able to welcome MCOE staff into their learning community, to serve children with special needs and disabilities from the surrounding community.
The principle of partnership extends throughout the MCCDC program. As part of the Family Service Program, a Speech Therapist regularly visits the infant/toddler program to provide screening and specialized support for the children’s developing language abilities. Hearing and vision tests are available on-site, in addition to therapeutic support provided according to children’s individual needs.
All families have access to intervention services through their enrollment at MCCDC. Children with special needs receive services early in life, which maximizes the long-term effectiveness of the interventions.
Watch relationships develop in small groups
Small group sizes allow for peaceful exchanges, personalized care, and the development of intimate relationships.
By spreading themselves throughout the room, often sitting on the floor with children, infant care teachers provide the children with a sense of comfort and security that encourages free exploration of the learning environment.
Reflect on a responsive, relationship-based approach to facilitating early learning
Social-emotional growth and development is essential for children’s later success in school and life. With an understanding that caring and teaching go together, infant care teachers at Merced College reflectively observe, document, and plan to support children’s developing competencies.
Watch how infant care teachers are responsive to the ways that children reveal their feelings.
Teachers observe and respond to each child from moment to moment, and partner with families to anticipate and plan for the children’s development and learning. Infant care teachers do so by practicing the PITC Responsive Process, both by watching as children pursue their own investigations and by acknowledging the values of the children’s families. The process includes asking questions in order to understand the interests, feelings, and needs of individual children and then adapting responses based on the insights gained from watching, acknowledging, and asking.
Watch how infant care teachers allow uninterrupted time for exploration, and then reflect on the children’s discoveries and intentions.
Watch how infant care teachers document children’s interests, and then plan further experiences to help children expand on previous explorations and investigations.
See the California Infant/Toddler Learning & Development System in practice
Using the research-based California Infant/Toddler Learning & Development Foundations as a resource, infant care teachers at Merced College continually learn about child development. They conduct their own research, which includes recording written observations of children’s learning and development and periodically completing a Desired Results Developmental Profile for each child. Infant care teachers follow the Curriculum Planning Process described in the California Infant/Toddler Learning & Development Program Guidelines and the California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework to assist individual children with the transition from one developmental level to the next.
Observe the impact of enduring relationships
Infant care teachers in the Water Room at Merced College move with their primary group of children to the Earth Room to continue relationships established in their first months of life. Continuity of care has been shown to benefit the children’s growth of emotional security, willingness to explore, and their developing sense of self. An infant starting in the Water Room at three months of age stays with the same teacher until it is time to leave the Earth Room approximately 18 months later. Infant care teachers in the Earth Room rotate back to the Water Room after the completion of a two-year cycle.
Observe the practice of primary care
In the Merced College PITC Demonstration Program, one designated infant care teacher is primarily responsible for meeting an infant’s physical and emotional needs throughout the day and for communicating with that child’s family. However, primary care is not exclusive care. Other infant care teachers with whom a child is familiar step in to meet that child’s needs if the primary infant care teacher is not available at a given moment. Even so, children participate in the majority of the care routines throughout the day with their primary infant care teacher.
The system of primary care ensures that individual children have a special person who will be “in tune” with them and help them to make connections between their experiences throughout the day. Having one’s nose wiped, having a teacher sitting nearby while one eats or drinks, exploring and playing together with a teacher who is consistently available, and being held after waking up from a nap are examples of the intimate, developmentally meaningful experiences that children encounter in the primary care system. Instead of seeing care routines as tasks that simply need to be completed, the infant care teachers relate to those times as major components of the curriculum for infants and toddlers.
Discover the environment
See how infant care teachers prepare the environment to encourage both group play and individual exploration throughout the day.
Make use of the investment in technology
Federal Child Care and Development Block Grant funding from the California Department of Education’s Child Development Division enabled the Center to put in place a computerized system for unobtrusive observation. The computerized system offers the capacity to record observations for review and reflection at a later time. The Observation Room is located between the Earth and Water rooms, with large viewing windows on either side that allow the observer to see and hear the infant care teachers as they support children’s learning and strengthen relationships with children and families.