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Childcare program draws positive reviews and expansion hopes

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Early childhood education experts at Oklahoma State University are hoping to expand a training program that received positive reviews when they presented it to almost 200 child care licensing professionals across the state this summer.

“Many of the participants recommended that we offer the training to every professional child caregiver in Oklahoma and we eventually hope to offer something similar to parents,” said Dr. Barbara Sorrels, assistant professor of early childhood education at OSU-Tulsa.

Sorrels and her colleague, Faye Ann Presnal, both with the OSU College of Human Environmental Sciences, developed and recently presented the training module to child care licensing experts from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

“The program encourages child care providers to make the best use of materials and equipment that most of them already have on hand at their facilities,” Sorrels said. “We’re really talking about helping caregivers organize and use what they have to provide children with an optimal learning experience.”

The program, called “Creating Effective Learning Environments,” is based on research by Dr. Deborah Norris at OSU, which shows that focusing on five different "interest centers" in a child care facility can help create a better environment for learning. The five centers include art, blocks, dramatic play, library and manipulatives (hands-on toys and games).

“Quality care is directly related to the quality of training that care givers receive and that’s why we’re hoping to find avenues of funding so we can make this available on a voluntary basis to child caregivers throughout Oklahoma,” Sorrels said.

State-of-the-art facilities and materials don’t necessarily indicate a quality environment and instead it is often the level of interactions between caregivers and children that determines real quality, Sorrels said.

“Appearances can be deceiving. That’s why we’d like to develop a parent version of the program, so that parents can understand what quality environments not only look like but how they can best support their child’s development,” she said.

The “Creating Effective Learning Environments” is a training module developed to support a quality enhancement initiative known as “Reaching for the Stars.” The initiative awards child care facilities that meet and exceed state and national standards. For more information about the “Creating Effective Learning Environments” training module, contact Dr. Barbara Sorrels at 918-594-8169.

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