Innovative Outdoor Learning Lab will expand children’s minds and stimulate senses

Ellen Nelson

Ellen Nelson

An outdoor learning lab complete with a mini campanile and river water feature was dedicated Sept. 18 at the Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education.

“We wanted a space where children could slow down and think about what they were inquiring about and be able to provide them the space, resources and opportunity to develop the answers to their questions,” said Kay Cutler, Center Director and Associate Professor of Human Development.

The newly remodeled and expanded learning lab, located near the Crothers Engineering Hall and the Pugsley Center, was made financially possible by private donors. The total sum of the center’s renovations and expansions exceeded $200,000, according to speeches given during the dedication.

SDSU faculty, landscape and design students and the children who would be using the space examined plans and layouts for the laboratory.

“The class actually turned the layout/drawing of the playground into their senior design project,” said Laura Gloege, Fishback Center Coordinator.

Eight parking spots were eliminated for the redesign to encompass features of the play area, including the mini campanile and new playhouses, among others.

Currently serving as a preschool and kindergarten, the center has a history within SDSU that can be dated back to January 1921, when it was referred to as the Home Management House within the university’s Department of Home Economics.

Now in conjunction with the Brookings School District, a child can gain admission to the Fishback Center through an application process followed by a random draw of names until the limited class roster is full. Tuition for the center remains constant, as there are no discounts for children of SDSU faculty. Scholarships are limited and are based on disability or an as-needed basis.

Though geared for preschool and kindergarten-age students, Early Childhood Education majors are able to benefit from the center, as well.

“It’s great that the Fishback Center is right here on campus so the ECE majors can gain teaching experience by using the school’s resources,” said Eli Nelson, a senior manufacturing engineering technology and business major from Britton, S.D.

Along with student teachers and faculty, families of the children are able and welcome to experience the day-to-day occurrences of the center. Each classroom has an observation room and cameras in order to review still and video images. When viewed, the images demonstrate all areas of child development throughout the course of learning the curriculum being taught.

“Families and teachers alike are able to benefit from this,” said Gloege.

The Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education currently serves over 110 families in the Brookings area.

#1.881479:2848037273.jpg:Outdoor Learning Lab_Aerial.jpg:An aerial view of the new Fishback Learning Center shows many of the unique features, such as a race track and playhouses.:University Relations