Post by Emily Jackson, Growing Minds Program Director
Recently I spent the day getting a tour of the Hot Springs Community Learning Center by Deb Delisle, Co-Director and Program Coordinator. My gosh! How did I not know about this wonderful, dynamic, well-run, most awesome preschool?! I think my mouth stayed open the entire time, as I kept getting wowed over and over.
What have they got going on? Well, every little bit of space is designed with care, deliberation, and attention, with the child’s experience at the center of the design. For example, the “imagination station” was too far from the art supplies station and so a mini-art station had to be set up, because who knows where the imagination will take you and what you may need?
So, I could go on and on about what’s happening on the inside, but the outside?! A tree house, a mud kitchen, an edible garden, a big stage (as well as a small one, for those not quite ready for prime time)...and did I mention a garden? The sweetest little garden which included a table and chairs for chatting or eating, and a bug hotel. Yes, a bug hotel. Do a Google search for “bug hotel;” you’ll get a kick! Bug hotels are created from natural materials and provide shelter for bugs, especially pollinators. The Hot Springs bug hotel is curated by Frank Tennereli, a local farmer; one of many examples that I saw of how the Hot Springs community supports the Community Learning Center.
The Community Learning Center is a five-star rated preschool, they have little to no staff turnover, it’s nestled in the sweet community of Hot Springs, the teachers love coming to work and the kids seem delighted to go to school. Deb and I concluded that if all children, ages 3 to 8, were given this type of real, hands-on experience, that we could abolish poverty, obesity, and crime in that five year span for every child in the world. OK, maybe a bit lofty or hyperbolic, but not too far from the truth!
Being in Hot Springs is charming enough but add the wonder of the Community Learning Center and you have pure magic. Big things are happening for little kids in Hot Springs!