A two-year-old boy gently brushes blue paint on his cheeks, dabs it on his nose, and squeezes it through his hands. He smiles from ear to ear as he explores the smooth, wet goop, and feels it slide on his skin. It is the first time he's ever painted, and his teachers are letting him fully engage in the experience. "Part of our philosophy is that children are strong and filled with wonder and knowledge. We want to help them understand their world and develop their curiosity," said his teacher Diana Hensley.
Hensley teaches toddlers at the new Cummings Great Expectations Early Childhood Center in Flint, a joint project of the University of Michigan-Flint, Flint Community Schools, and Genesee Intermediate School District. Funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation, the Pritzker Foundation, and The Flint Kids Fund, the center offers nearly 200 Flint children the opportunity to receive free-of-cost, highly specialized, research-based, early childhood care in a newly renovated, meticulously designed facility.
The school's innovative curriculum follows the Reggio Emilia approach, which emphasizes exploration and discovery and respects the child's innate ability to learn. Every detail of the space and teacher training embodies the ideals of inspiring growth and learning. Mary Lynn Gottler, Site Director, believes the school will have an immeasurable impact. "We have been given the ability to build this school from the ground up and bring to bear the very best of what we know about early childhood development to the people who need it most. This is an opportunity that does not happen every day. And we are committed to getting it right. This is now our legacy to the children of Flint."