By Nick Beversdorf
The happiness and excitement was palpable at Main Street Daycare and Family Resource Center today as members of the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce, Center Director Susan Elbe, friends and children gathered around for the ceremonial ribbon cutting.
Located across Main Street from Kwik Trip (sharing a building with Salon 64), the new day care facility boasts many features and accommodations not just for children, but for special needs children as well. One of the main focuses of the day care is implementing a teaching curriculum that is accessible and beneficial to all children, as Susan Elbe explains:
“One of our big pushes is to use technology, specifically that such as smart boards and iPads. While all children can benefit from this technology, special needs kids can really benefit from it. It makes what we teach them more engaging and interactive.”
The curriculum is based around “social-emotional learning (SEL),” pioneered at Vanderbilt University, which is “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
Coupled with a “scaffolding” learning approach, children learn and get engaged in multiple subjects through a certain theme.
“An example of this approach would be, say, growing pumpkins like we are currently doing outside,” says Susan. “We can watch and measure the pumpkins grow day by day, which is a science component; we can cut up a pumpkin into slices, which is a math component, we can load up information on an iPad and read about pumpkins, a reading component; and then draw or make paper mache pumpkins, which is an arts & craft component.”
The new day care facility boasts an open play area, kitchen with appliances, laundry facilities and a handicap accessible bathroom. Outside is a fenced in area with plants, including pumpkins, tomatoes and sunflowers along with a sandbox, bird feeder, bird bath, wind chimes and leveled tree stumps to jump on.
“We strive to have everything here be interactive and stimulating,” Elbe said. “We want the children to be able to pick and use, or at least touch everything, as part of our curriculum. If not at least seeing and hearing things, like the wind chimes we have in back. It re-enforces a learning environment for all children.”
Another big part of the center is the family resources services provided to parents and families of the children. Although available to all parents, the family resources focus on those with special needs kids. These include things like healthcare providers/professionals in the area, your rights as a parent, information on the school district programs, homeopathic medicine, and benefits of a gluten-free diet, just to name a few.
“We want to help not just the kids, but the parents as well,” adds Susan. “For instance, we will be having a person from CESA-9 (Cooperative Educational Service Agencies) come and talk about the programs and options available to their children.”
Susan admits that her vision would not have been possible without the help of a few key people.
“All of this would not have been possible without Dave and Sara Wendorf, who not only helped with the construction but also own the building. They turned what was just studs into what it is today.”
Clint Ferguson, husband to Rachel Ferguson (Wendorf), who also helped with the construction, agrees.
“Every time we talked about the project, his [Dave’s] face would light up.” says Clint. “He was really excited about the project from day one.”
Even when other offers presented themselves for the building, Wendorf passed on them and waited until Susan had everything ready so the construction could move forward.
Susan also sends out a thank you to the community that has “been nothing but supportive and helpful during the whole process” and St. Vincent de Paul for donating books to the center.
The center, located at 2308 E. Main St., accepts children from the ages of two and a half to 10, with or without special needs.
Director Susan Elbe is licensed by Lincoln County through the Department of Children and Families to operate this child care center. She has a degree in English from UW-Eau Claire, completed masters coursework in education, is a certified nursing assistant, is CPR and First-Aid certified and is also certified in Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention.
For more information call 715-722-1020. The center will host open house events for the public on Wednesday, Sept. 7 from 5-8 p.m. and on Saturday, Sept. 10 from 9 a.m.-noon.