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A Model for District and State

Campbell Early Learning Center: A Model for District and State
Posted on 09/01/2023
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In the words of Campbell Early Learning Center Principal Holly Sexton, the renovations at the school in Arvada yielded “a complete makeover” of the 60-year-old building.

The love arrived. And it’s everywhere.

Let’s start outside with two new, fenced-in playgrounds and freshly striped parking lots. A new secure vestibule gives staff the ability to control visitors. Inside, new paint gives a cohesive feel throughout all 10 classrooms. The electrical system has been upgraded. New fixtures have replaced sagging lights. All the classrooms have new tables and furniture—all the right height for three- and four-year-old students. Updated bathrooms adjoin each classroom, too, with size-appropriate fixtures.

“Student spaces are designed with our preschool students in mind.,” says Sexton.

But the improvements, funded by Jefferson County’s voter-approved bond program in 2018, are primarily about the quality of the learning environment.

There’s a makerspace in the library, where a teacher-librarian will work with the preschool students on robotics projects and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills. Each of the six wheeled tables in the makerspace come with a storage cart filled with sticks, rocks, glue, tape, nails, cotton balls, cardboard and anything the students want to work with.

Campbell Early Learning Center space

“We want the preschoolers to learn through every mode that they might be interested in—including outdoors,” says Sexton.

The school property is adjacent to Oak Park and nearby Ralston Creek, which is ideal for walking field trips and outdoor learning. A plot in the courtyard is being prepared as a garden to grow vegetables. The two new playgrounds include a variety of climbing structures for students to work on their gross and fine motor skills and upper body strength.

Many of the Campbell ELC teachers are trained in the Reggio Emilia Approach to early childhood development, which begins with observing what students already know and are curious about. Based on what they observe, teachers then develop ways to help students expand their academic, physical, cognitive, language, and social potential. The approach includes an emphasis on inquiry-based learning. As Sexton puts it, “to learn through wonder, discovery, and purposeful play opportunities that have been intentionally planned by teachers.”

To that end, the learning environment fits—quite literally—the needs of those being taught. For instance, everything mounted on the wall is no more than 24 inches off the floor.

The only adult seating will be in the Family Liaison Center, a converted art room that will be used for parents to mingle and to offer evening classes for parent education, including a program called HIPPY— Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters. Those classes will be offered to parents of Campbell’s preschoolers at first, but Sexton says she is open to serving the entire Arvada community.

The school will also be the working home for a group of adults, including 30 members of the district’s Child Find team, the district Occupational Therapy team, the district Physical Therapist team, and five district audiologists.

“I can't wait for our community to see it,” says Sexton. “I hope that they're overjoyed with what the district has been able to create for our students and families.

“The entire school has been envisioned for early learners and their experiential education,” says Sexton. “It is very much a space designed for kids.”

Campbell Early Learning Center had a ribbon cutting on August 14, to celebrate their new learning environment.

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