playtime: Parents give high marks to
UCAR Child Care Center
Eojin Lee plays with a stuffed bear
at the UCAR Child Care Center.
Just a few blocks from the data analysis, computer
modeling, and other cutting-edge research in Foothills Lab,
a bunch of small children are engaging in some intense
projects of their own.
Like cooking muffins, stringing beads, and mixing together
as many different colors of paint as they can get their fingers
in. Or, in the case of the littlest ones, mastering the simple
arts of standing and walking.
“We have fun every single day,” says Mia Strugar-Fritsch,
who helps supervise the activities as director of the new
UCAR Child Care Center.
Six months after it opened its doors, the new center on 34th
Street is winning rave reviews. Parents praised it unanimously
in a survey, and a UCAR board that oversees the center gave
it a rating of “outstanding” in its first semiannual
evaluation—the highest grade possible.
“They’re great with the kids,” says RAL’s
Louisa Nance, who enrolled her
7-month-old daughter, Kaylee, in the fall. “We really
haven’t had any complaints at all.”
Sophia Ammann pursues the fine arts.
Michele Chiswell, wife of Unidata’s Steve Chiswell
and mother of 3-year-old Chase, agrees wholeheartedly. “It’s
just wonderful. I like that it’s new and friendly;
I like all the equipment and
the program; I like that it’s right down the street
from Daddy’s office.”
The center now has more than 30 children. That’s a
big increase over the 16 it had when it opened on August
30, but still far short of capacity, which is 78. To boost
enrollment, it is beginning to accept children from the general
public, although the overwhelming majority are still children
of UCAR staffers. UCAR parents get a 10% discount and special
rates for drop-in care, and they can serve on a parents’ advisory
UCAR established the daycare center to help staffers with
their childcare needs as well as to make the organization
more attractive to perspective employees. The center is overseen
by a childcare board that is composed primarily of UCAR staffers,
with a representative from the parents’ advisory board.
It is operated by a California-based company, with the official
name of Childrens’ Creative Learning Centers, that
manages 18 centers.
UCAR vice president for finance and administration Katy Schmoll,
who chairs the board, visits the center about once a month. “I
could not be more pleased with the quality,” she says.
Mia says the center is committed to maintaining high standards,
and she hopes it will be certified
by the National Association
for the Education of Young Children as soon as this fall.
Only 10% of childcare centers earn this certification,
and they have to meet stringent criteria, including low
In addition to its daily activities, the center throws special
events for the children, such as parties for Valentine’s
Day and other holidays. It stays open late one Friday a month,
enabling parents to drop off their children and have an evening
out. Within a few months, the center will begin offering
extracurricular activities, which may include classes ranging
from Spanish to yoga.
Teacher Rola Awad pulls out pieces for a calendar.
With her are (left to right) Matthew Hartnett, Eojin
Lee, Nicolas Ammann, and Benjamin Hosansky.
Because the center is close to the
FL and CG campuses, parents can take a break during the
day to have lunch with their children, and mothers can
nurse their infants. “I’ve
actually gotten to know other people who work at UCAR who
I didn’t know before,” Louisa says. “With
the parents going over and visiting during the day, it has
a family feel.”
Katy enjoys visiting, too, even though she doesn’t
have children at the center. “The kids are so adorable
and they are having so much fun there,” she says. “I
just want to go play in the yard.”
Another weather fanatic
It just figures that the UCAR Child Care Center
would have a weather enthusiast as its director.
“The Weather Channel’s my favorite channel,” says
Mia Strugar-Fritsch, who grew up watching storms in
Michigan. “I love weather.” For Christmas
this year, Mia got a set of cloud books so she
could interpret the sky during backcountry camping
The classrooms in the center are named after
weather phenomena, such
as Dew Drops and Sunshine. Mia’s office
is the Storm Chaser room.
After Mia applied for the job with the Childrens’ Creative
Learning Centers, which runs the center, she was
delighted to find out the client was UCAR. “I
thought it was a good sign,” she recalls.
It’s been useful for her weather insights as
well. She can hit up parents, such as COMET’s
Doug Wesley, for the latest forecasts.
On the Web
Child Care Center
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complicated study of warm rain
scientists recall time at NSF
Holland, MMM’s new director
interface to NCL’s graphics library now available
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