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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Children's Village at NMSU celebrates success and continues to dream

The turtles, bobcats and roadrunners darting about the Southeast end of the New Mexico State University campus are not desert wildlife, but children of various age groups who make up the early childhood classes of Myrna's Children's Village. While the village provides childcare and education for little ones, the preschoolers aren't the only people who are engaged in learning there.

The Children's Village also serves as a venue where undergraduate and graduate students participate in field experiences, practicum experiences and student-teaching. It is a place where faculty can conduct research and study things like speech and language progression, developmental stages and counseling and educational psychology in young children. This aspect of higher learning and research is something professors who work at Myrna's Children's Village hope to expand.

"We don't only work with students in the College of Education," said Melissa Jozwiak, who teaches curriculum and instruction for the College of Education. "We're about to work with some nursing students who are interested in helping our children feel more comfortable in medical settings. We have a lot of partnerships across the university that we would like to continue to grow."

Jozwiak said there are opportunities for other departments to collaborate with the Children's Village.

"Not only is there a chance for students to gain practical experience here, but they have an opportunity to really get to know the children and families that make up this community," Jozwiak said.

Nancy Baptiste, early childhood education professor, said through the years, the community involvement and services available at Myrna's Children's Village has grown. Located on the same grounds as the classrooms and playground, is the federal program known as Women, Infants and Children, or WIC. The program provides nutrition education and supplemental foods to low-income women and children. NMSU's Family Resource Center also is located at the village. It offers programs to help enhance family relationships and interactions.

"We also are able to involve the greater community with our family interaction days," Baptiste said. "We've had visitors like the police department and their dogs, the fire department has brought their equipment, we've had the volleyball team, the rodeo club, Gym Magic and even a zumba class. It's a special day for families, children and teachers to interact with appropriate activities."

Elizabeth Cahill, associate professor of curriculum and instruction said one of the things that makes early childhood education full of opportunity for community interaction and universitywide involvement is that it focuses on the education and care of children and their families.

"We look at a child within the context of the home and within the context of the community," Cahill said. "Comprehensive care and well-being is just as important as their academic progress."

Cahill also has a vision for the Children's Village.

"It would be great if in the future all of these buildings could become comprehensive services, more like one-stop shopping. It would really support parents and students at the undergraduate and graduate levels," Cahill said.

The various programs at the village serve children from six weeks old to 5 years old and while some of the programs are free for low-income families, others have fees that use a sliding scale. Some of the programs are federally or state funded, while others have supplemental funding that comes from the Associated Students of NMSU.

A unique aspect of the village, is that they have five master-level teachers who are encouraged to conduct research. Baptiste said that while they are able to offer high-quality education, there is a down side to things at the village - the waiting lists.

"We've always had waiting lists," Baptiste said. "While the Children's Village is a happy place, the saddest thing is having to tell a family, 'We'll be glad to accept your application, but at this moment we cannot tell you when an opening will occur.'"

Despite the limited space, Cahill feels the Children's Village can still have an impact on the community at large, especially if collaborations continue with other departments in the university.

"Myrna's Children's Village could possibly become a demonstration site not only for our students, but for early care and education professionals out in the community," Cahill said. "We could collaborate with NMSU's music department, with the art community in Las Cruces, there is just so much potential here."

Baptiste said community contributions like the children's library from the Glass family have helped enrich the village as a place of learning.

"I am truly appreciative of all the support we've received thus far," Baptiste said. "We could not be where we are without initial and continuing support, but we do have dreams and we'd like to see some of those dreams fulfilled."