Longtime Santa Cruz Toddler Center Built on Respect for the Child
Santa Cruz locals consider the Santa Cruz Toddler Center to be a community treasure. Founded in 1976 by Catherine Boxer and Kate Kelly, the center is a nonprofit childcare serving 1- and 2-year-olds, with sliding scale fees, and a ratio of 4 tots per teacher. The city and county of Santa Cruz contributes about 25 percent of the center's operating costs.
According to the third edition of a book the center publishes, printed last year, "1, 2, 3... The Toddler Years," that means treating children as individuals whose thoughts, feelings and needs are important; giving them the chance to grow and learn at their own pace, and allowing them freedom to create and master their own challenges.http://http://www.amazon.com/One-Two-Three-Toddler-Years/dp/0940953234
The book was written by Irene Van der Zande with help from center staff and is used as a text in community colleges and other child care training settings, Administrative Director Sandy Davie said.
Davie said her background is in history, but that she has stayed at the center for years because she believes so strongly in the way they educate small children to get along with themselves and others.
Janis Keyser, formerly of the Cabrillo College Early Childhood Education Department and coauthor of "Becoming the Parent You Want to Be" stated that the center's book "offers creative, respectful strategies" for both parents and teachers.
Keyser said the center "does things with children, not to children," and she praised their practice of assigning a particular caregiver as each child's main teacher.
They nap when they get tired, and their caregivers have taught them to recognize the signs of being tired, so that they soon begin announcing nap time on their own.
The children were able to leave when they were done, and most carefully carried their dishes to a dirty-dish bin.
"It's amazing how that works, to narrate their feelings," Caruso said.
Caruso offered an example. She said two 2-year-olds were sitting on the edge of the sand box when one pushed the other. Don't push me, the child said, but the other child persisted. So the child said she was "moving my body away now," and simply walked to another area.
She said the program is a model that has hosted early childhood educators from around the world.
"I have nothing but praise for the work of the directors and staff in this remarkable learning community," Anderson said. "It has been an absolute pleasure watching her emotional, cognitive, social, emotional, physical and linguistic development blossom over the past 10 months."