Santa Rosa Junior College
Santa Rosa Junior College is located in Santa Rosa, California, 50 miles north of San Francisco and serves Sonoma, parts of Mendocino and Marin Counties. The College’s Robert Call Child Development Center, named after a former trustee, was opened in 1996 and selected as a PITC Demonstration Program in 1999. The Child Development Center cares for children from 6 months through 5 years of age. Most of the spaces are subsidized for children of low-income college students. The remaining spaces are full fee and available to children of college students or faculty.
The facility is designed to be experienced as a special place. During the course of the year, flowers and trees blossom and there is a planter for the children to tend. The central 'Umbrella Sculpture' is treated with a color-shifting paint that looks different under changing lighting conditions. An intimate, homelike environment, rather than an institutional environment, helps children and families feel comfortable, welcome and safe, important qualities for a PITC Program’s environment.
As part of becoming a PITC Demonstration Program the Santa Rosa’s Child Development Center staff engaged in a process of self-study and change. It meant moving from being a program that was good to one where close relationships could develop and strengthen over time. Implementing Primary Care and Continuity of Care, two essential PITC policies in which each child is assigned one teacher who stays with that child for the entire time while enrolled in the infant toddler program, was pivotal to this program’s process of change.
A Place to Observe and Learn
A facility set up for college students to learn, it is perfect for visitors. A quick tour will give you an overview of the program’s policies and how the environment supports these policies. The building that houses the child care program has two floors. The early childhood education classrooms are upstairs. The child care facility is on the ground floor. The close proximity between instruction and practice supports a natural connection between the infant toddler development classes and the child care center. Students regularly observe the children in the three available observation rooms. One-way windows and microphones allow students to watch and listen to child behaviors and infant/toddler care teacher teaching strategies without interrupting the interactions.
Here’s the ground floor plan. Room 3837 is the Infant Room. Rooms 3835, 3844 and 3848 are the Toddler Rooms. Rooms 3836, 3843 and 3850 are the observation rooms.
The facility is organized as clusters grouped around the central courtyard. The children’s rooms are on the outside wall of the building, which allows natural light into each room. As PITC suggests, natural light adds comfort and warmth to the space and is essential to healthy brain development. Small and intimate, the rooms support the PITC policy of small group size. The peaceful environment helps children focus their attention on adults, other children, and things that interest them. You enter the rooms from the courtyard. There are no interior hallways. This design contributes to feeling of intimacy in the learning environment.
As the following photos of the Infant Room show, this room is designed for a small group of four young infants, 4-18 months of age. It is a cozy place with a variety of choices. Providing choices is central in the PITC approach. It allows children to decide what they are interested in, explore freely and have control of their own discoveries.
There is a low window on the right (not shown in this picture) so babies can view the adjacent Toddler Room, into which they will eventually transition with their primary infant/toddler care teacher. The close proximity to this room eases the transition when the time comes.
Infants stay together as a group in the Infant Room until they are about 18 months old. Then they move with their primary infant/toddler care teacher to the Toddler Room, where they will stay until they are 36 months old. This continuity of care allows relationships to develop and strengthen over time.
The three Toddler Rooms are each designed for twelve toddlers ranging in age from 18-36 months.
In the Toddler Rooms, the furniture is child-scaled or “child size” and the storage areas are conveniently located for easy access. Visitors can see how these PITC concepts work in action.
The loft supports the toddler’s need for movement and large motor development and provides a comfortable place underneath for quieter play. As PITC recommends, appropriate places for active and quiet play are essential to a well-planned toddler environment. Having these choices helps toddlers feel confident, secure and safe.
The cubbies in this toddler room are personalized for each child with photos of family members. These photos help children to see themselves and their families as valued and respected members of the community, which, in turn, strengthens the child’s growing sense of self. Supporting the child’s developing sense of identity is fundamental within the PITC approach.
The children love the window seat in this room. It’s a snug place to read a book or watch what is going on outside in the yard. Providing special niches such as this one, which accommodate one or two children, is especially important when young children spend so much time in a group setting. They offer the children a peaceful place to rest or be quiet.
This parent bulletin board is located outside one of the toddler rooms and is regularly updated with new photos and explanations of recent activities. This information helps parents and visitors understand what takes place during a classroom day. Regular communication supports the development of a healthy partnership with families, an important part of the PITC philosophy.
To expand the intimacy of the interior environments into the outdoor areas, the rather large toddler play yard was divided into three smaller yards. Each yard now serves 12 toddlers, offers room for exploration in nature, movement and flexibility, and facilitates infant/toddler care teacher-child interaction and supervision, essential components of a high quality environment for young children as described by PITC. The infant/toddler care teachers and the children now have the kind of space they need for their relationships to grow and deepen.
“The changes (to the yard were) like night and day. It made a huge difference just to have the more manageable size group. No longer is it hard for a child to find her primary infant/toddler care teacher, nor are children overwhelmed by too many people.”
As the next series of photos show, the small play yards provide rich experiences and intimacy at the same time. Each small yard offers children experiences with a variety of textures, including soft rubberized surfacing, grass, and a smooth stone border around the sand area. These examples illustrate the variety of textures that can be offered to young children who spend so much time close to the ground.
The next photo (below left) shows a child engaged in quiet play on a hammock. Creating special places such as the hammock, where children can be alone or in small groups while still supervised, helps children slow down and regroup. This hammock is also used as a swing, with a pillow tied in the center.
There is a small water faucet (above right) nestled in the smooth rocks of the circular sand area that can be turned on to combine water and sand play, one of the popular choices in the yard.
In the space designed specifically for infants trees give shade and even fruit from spring through fall. The surface is a combination of poured surfacing, smooth rocks and grass. Plants were chosen for their texture, fragrance and color.
Located in Sonoma wine country, the Santa Rosa Child Development Center places high value on nutrition. Healthy development in the first three years depends not only on close caring relationships but also on nutritious meals. The children’s center is indeed fortunate to have a trained chef. Here she is in her workspace: