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Volume 72, Issue 135, Monday, April 23, 2007

News

Center takes kids around the world

Children given chance to experience variety of cultures at UH child care

by ASMA SIDDIQI
The Daily Cougar

At first glance the UH Child Care Center is just like any other childcare center in Houston. The front lobby has a bulletin board highlighting the children's activities, important information and a calendar of events. But the Center has something that not many others can boast about they've incorporated cultural diversity into daily activities. 

"We have a lot of diversity here," assistant pre-school teacher Laniki Stephenson said. "From kids to parents to teachers, it's well-embraced here."

The Child Care Center has served UH since 1975 and has 10 classrooms with infant, toddler and pre-school programs, director Sherry Howard said. Throughout the past year, each class has tried to involve cultural activities into its daily curriculum as well as to have extra projects for the kids. 

"We do practically every holiday you can imagine. We had a huge Eid and Diwali celebration, and we had all kinds of things out in the lobby like foods and tasting ceremonies," Howard said. "We did the Chinese and Korean New Year and we just have a lot of fun with the diversity."

In November 2006, Jennifer Skopal, master teacher of the toddler program, utilized two large maps to help her kids celebrate diversity, one of the world and one of Texas. The maps were put in the lobby of the Center, Skopal said, with pictures of staff members on their country of origin. 

"Parents would come in to drop their children off and they'd gather in the lobby just studying the maps," Skopal said. "It was a great learning experience for the parents and the kids."

A large Eid and Diwali celebration featured traditional foods from the Muslim and Hindi holidays. Children were encouraged to wear ceremonial garb and talk about what their families did for the special days, master teacher for the pre-school program Nadeema Akhtar said.

"This was the first time we've done these activities. University of Houston is such a diverse university," Akhtar said. "These events also bring the staff together, too."

American celebrations have been highlighted at the Center as well.

"Black History Month in February was another very successful event. We had displays of famous black inventors that each classroom in the pre-school program worked on," Bridgette Lewis, a pre-school teacher, said. "They also made a large quilt where they tacked up their own versions of the I Have A Dream' speech." 

Ultimately, Lewis said, the Center grants students and staff the opportunity to appreciate the diversity that surrounds them.

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