Campus Child Care Center teaches kids through play


Child Development Supervisor Diane Mathison helps Cameron, 3, and Evan, 4, build a firetruck at the Campus Childcare Center on Monday evening.

By Hailey Kurth

Some may think learning only happens in the halls of NIU, but there is a building on the outskirts of campus that provides education and care for a smaller group of people.

The Campus Child Care Center, located behind Gable hall, offers four-star care and education for children of students, faculty, staff and the community.

The center is not just a day care where parents drop of their children only to play; they also learn, said Kristin Schulz, acting assistant director of the Campus Child Care Center.

“Our philosophy is ‘learning through play,'” Schulz said. “We set up an environment that’s really enriching for them, and then we facilitate their play throughout that.”

Chris Kipp, director of the Campus Child Care Center, said the center received an award, Soaring to Greatness, through Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. The center also has received a four-star rating from the Illinois Department of Human Services. Only four out of 454 other centers in Illinois have received a four-star rating.

The center offers care full-time and part-time for about 120 children, Kipp said. Student-families tend to use the center more, Kipp said.

Kipp said the center prioritizes for students, but it also depends on the schedule they ask for. If there is only a two-day spot available with a student who needs a five-day spot and a teacher asks for a two-day spot, the teacher will be accepted, Kipp said.

Enrollment is done every semester, so the families must re-apply, Kipp said. Kipp said the price for a child depends on many different variables.

Students get a 10 percent discount, which is mostly covered by the Student Association, Kipp said. She also said some student-families receive a state subsidy, so the price is based on their income.

The center is mixed with full-time teachers with degrees and student workers from NIU. Most of the students come from a major that involves children, so it provides a great learning experience for them, Kipp said.

“They’re great. Right now I think we have 55 student workers and 16 full-time teachers,” Kipp said.

Liz Pennacchio, senior special education major and student-worker at the center, said students usually are placed in one classroom so the children can get used to one teacher.

“It’s hands-on experience working with the children, and there’s head staff here that are very educated,” Pennacchio said. “We have team meetings, or staff meetings, where we learn new techniques, and they’re very open to any questions we have. I know I’ve learned a lot that I can use in my teaching career when I graduate.”

The center has a fenced-in playground for the children, and as long as the conditions are good, the children play on it year-round, Schulz said.

“We like to say it’s like ‘spreading a little bit of sunshine’ because anytime you pass students walking on the side, everyone smiles and sometimes they wave,” Schulz said.