Remember the good old days of finger painting, crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and swing sets? Most Wesleyan students don’t have to look too far for a blast from the past, and need only to pay a visit to one of the several preschools in the area.
Neighborhood Preschool is located in two buildings on campus— on Lawn Avenue and behind Butterfield B on High Street. The University provides the preschool with financial support, while additional ties come from Wesleyan students working at the school.
Missy Winzer, a teacher’s aide who has been working at Neighborhood for 12 years, describes Neighborhood as “a very loving school.”
“The students here at Wesleyan love to come and play with the kids. I think it makes them happy,” Winzer said.
Aaron Greenberg ’11 works at Neighborhood as part of work-study.
“Having a couple of hours in the day to run around and be surrounded by people who are really simple, who have really simple wants and needs is kind of refreshing,” Greenberg said.
Last Friday afternoon, Neighborhood was filled with a variety of colored balloons. A three-year-old girl explained that her favorite activity is playing with balloons, especially if they come in her favorite color, pink. When asked if she would ever want to go to school with the big kids at Wesleyan, she shyly nodded her head and said, “Yes.”
Winzer remarked that some of the preschoolers are aware that they are on a college campus because they know that the University is where Mom and Dad work. She estimates that about 90 percent of the students at Neighborhood are children of Wesleyan faculty and staff.
“One of the kids said today, ‘there’s the college,’” Winzer noted.
According to Assistant Professor of Sociology Jonathan Cutler, whose two children graduated from Neighborhood, there seems to have been a baby boom among the faculty in the last few years because of new faculty hiring.
“I can’t really imagine a better working scenario for a working parent than having a preschool right near Wesleyan campus with the greatest teachers,” Cutler said.
Cutler also commented that Wesleyan was his children’s “field trip destination.” They have visited the University’s art galleries, athletic center and Foss Hill.
The interaction with Wesleyan doesn’t stop there. Every June the preschoolers have their art displayed in the Zilkha Gallery.
Christian Morehouse ’11 is a Neighborhood Preschool alumnus. Morehouse’s mother works at Wesleyan, which made the preschool a convenient choice.
“We would go to random fields and stuff,” Morehouse said. “[Wesleyan] provided us an open place to play.”
Neighborhood isn’t the only place to find kids on campus. Walking down William Street to Broad Street Books, students often hear the joyful screams of young three–to–five year-olds running around the playground. The Idella W. Howell Child Development Center is under community renewal and is funded in part by Head Start, a government–sponsored program that helps disadvantaged children and families, according to Unit Manager Lisa Ellis.
“It’s a very comprehensive program,” Ellis said. “It’s not just a preschool, it’s a program for the entire family.”
Service workers will meet with families to support them and help them get involved in committee meetings. The students eat breakfast, lunch and a snack at school, while dental screening and health and nutrition workshops are all provided in the comprehensive program.
Currently, Ellis says about ten Wesleyan students volunteer at the Center, but they are always looking for more students to get involved.
“We love volunteers; it’s just a real nice collaboration,” Ellis said.
Other ties to Wesleyan, such as fieldtrips and participating in on-campus events, have been sporadic over the years.
“I would like to do more,” Ellis said.