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Mini 'United Nations' offers diverse day care

Although MIT does not offer day care directly to staff, faculty and students, the Institute does hook up community members with child care resources. One of these resources is the Technology Children's Center, a preschool program affiliated with MIT that offers a diverse play and learning environment.

The TCC serves the MIT community by providing day care preschool programs for children from the ages of two to six. The center started a toddler program last year. At present, 69 children are enrolled in TCC.

The center currently has an opening at the Westgate location for a preschooler (2.9-5.5 years old) who would attend from 8:30am-3:30pm for two, three or five days a week.

Although families don't need an MIT link to have their children participate in the center, about 85 percent of the parents are affiliated with MIT. By far the largest users of TCC are MIT's graduate students, constituting more than half of the families.

TCC is an unusual program because of the international diversity of the children who go to the school. Children attending the programs represent 22 countries and nine states.

"I call the program the United Nations," said Olga Slocum, Technology Children's Center director and a member of the staff since 1981. Program teachers come from Armenia, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

The activities offered to the children are also diverse, with the teachers taking advantage of the variety of countries represented as a jumping-off point to talk about different cultures. Once a week the children's snack is some sort of international food, usually made by one of the parents.

Children in the program have a variety of creative play, learning experiences and outings. They are encouraged to help decide which activities they will pursue, and work as a group on many projects both at the center and in the community. The program follows a teaching curriculum for preschool, the Reggio-Emilia approach, currently in use in Italy.

"In the US we try to push learning so fast that we don't let the children be creative," Ms. Slocum said.

Parents seem to be pleased with the Reggio-Emilia approach, according to Ms. Slocum. "The parents think it's great that the children have so much say in what they do. They feel so much a part of classroom," she said. As part of the approach, the children's work is well documented by photos of the activities and quotes from the children which are posted on the walls every day, reminding them of what they have done and learned and keeping parents in tune with their activities. "They feel like they are there," Ms. Slocum said.

The center was set up as a cooperative nursery school called the Technology Nursery School and was incorporated in 1965. The name was changed to Technology Children's Center in 1973. TCC offers half-day, extended half-day and full-day programs. Interested families are encouraged to get on the waiting list because it can take over a year to get in.

TCC held a book fair in the Student Center earlier this month to raise funds for enrichment programs at the center. The proceeds will go to activities such as field trips to the Discovery Museum, the aquarium and apple picking as well as taped stories and visits from children's singer Hugh Hanley.

A version of this article appeared in the November 30, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 13).

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