Project Profile: Marygrove Early Education Center
For a while now we’ve talked about wellness. Wellness for students, wellness for educators, wellness for communities.
Here is a beautiful new center, the Marygrove Early Education Center, it’s stunning to look at, but it’s especially beautiful because of its intentional design to provide a learning and community environment created around the well being, connection and support of whole families as well as students and educators. You can see from the photographs how successful the project has been.
We have found again and again, the best learning environments are created when all stakeholders are involved from the outset, and Marygrove Early Education Center is a perfect example of that. The design conversations began with the question, “How can learning spaces help children and families be happy and healthy?” The prompt was positioned to families and community members in the area that the planned Marygrove Education Center would serve. Words, sentences, and pictures were shared with the planning team of what the space could be and offer.
“I consider this building a showcase of what’s possible.” – Celina Byrd – First principal
Despite challenges in the construction of the building, due to the pandemic, Marygrove Education Center was able to open on time, September 7, 2021. The Natural Pod team were delighted to be part of this project and have our sustainable furniture support the play and learning of the children the center serves. It’s an exemplary project that was an investment of state and federal dollars, but it was really the community who supported this space and its intention to nurture and grow the youngest generation, creating happy and healthy children in their earliest years. The center supports 140 children (under 5 years old), 10 educators and support staff. There are 26,000 other children within the Detroit community – this center is a step toward offering quality environments and education for this underserved community and showing what’s possible for other communities in the country and beyond.
The Center is complete with learning spaces, 3 beautiful courtyards and a wellness lounge, open for all who support children within the space. The wellness lounge for educators was a thoughtful element to ensure that those who are offering an exceptional learning experience for the children, have a place to take a moment for themselves throughout the day.
Supporting families at the center was also intentionally incorporated. Families are provided with a Parent Lounge complete with coffee, wifi and laptops, where they can connect with other parents and create their own community.
The spaces throughout the building say “We value you.” This was intentional in the planning and design process and was noted early on as a key element of success for the new building in Detroit.
“Every inch of the center was created to support learning throughout the day.” – Celina Byrd – First principal
Each classroom leads into the outdoor playscape. You will not find metal and plastic playscapes at Marygrove. Instead you will find nature, trees, rocks, plants, that are accented with benches and stone walls to offer seating and separation for the children and families, in a natural and budget friendly environment. Outdoor spaces do not have to be cost prohibitive – let nature do its work and create a beautiful space for children to explore, and families to connect.
As we explore the future of early childhood, and the learnings from implementing this impactful space, the Marygrove leaders offer these pieces of insight to how to move the education shift forward: If you’re a leader and advocate within the education community, explore how to co-locate affordable housing and quality education to build communities up. To care for children in their early years and ensure more kids are kindergarten ready. This is also a call to action for employers to create spaces and opportunities for people to return to the workforce.
Areas to consider when creating your own community oriented learning environments:
- Engage with families – including fathers – intentionally and often. Engagement is not a one time check box. Integrate this into your planning process along the way to ensure voices are heard and incorporated. Community engagement creates ownership and pride within communities. Remember, we’re often advocates of the change we help to create.
- Quality matters in early childhood spaces – These are elements to explore to make your space successful:
Temperature & Air: Room temperature and air quality impact student performance
Colors: Use calm neutral tones and let children bring the color, a calm uncluttered space fosters focus and engagement (that is true for all students regardless of age)
Natural Daylight: having windows as large, or as uncovered as possible really does boost learning
Ventilation: Controls odors and reduces illness
Outdoor play: Builds social-emotional and creative skills and reduces behavioral issues
Having a quality facility lifts overall quality: It boosts ROI, inspires students and educators, and reflects family dignity
Less noise: Less noise equals less stress and behavioral issues
We need hope throughout our lives, but most importantly in our heart. Having the Marygrove Early Childhood Center intentionally created specially for them offers more hope within the community it serves, as well as the greater Detroit community – and hopefully for other communities who are seeking to create their own Marygrove!
Photo credits for above photographs: Timothy Hursley – www.timothyhursley.com
Feel free to visit www.iff.org/Marygrove & www.iff.org/LearningSpaces for resources and information on quality ECE facilities!
Book recommendation: Inspiring Spaces for Young Children by Jessica DeViney, Sandra Duncan, and Sara Harris