Children's Learning Center opens at Laurie Care Center

Good Shepherd Children’s Learning Center is looking to offer the community a little something different, a place that brings together older and younger for an enhanced learning, and living, experience. Located in the lower level of Laurie Care Center, this is a daycare that’s about more than just a babysitter for your little ones, although it does serve that purpose. 

District administrator Lance Smith explains, “There’s a true difference between a learning center and a daycare. A daycare [is where] you just babysit kids; drop them off, they are going to have fun all day, run around, be crazy. Here we are going to have fun, but it’s more about that education —not only [kids’] formal education, but expectations as human beings.” 

The learning center is made up of various classrooms organized by age. The after school program consists of kids ages six through 12. The room includes a computer lab of eight computers with one headphone at each computer to restrain the noise. The children can learn online with during that time. Everything Smith and his team designed in the Center has a lesson behind it. One room will have a “Critter Corner” (as Smith described it) in which pets will be kept for the children to take care of. Eventually, the teachers will assign a pet to one child to take home for the weekend so the child will learn responsibility. 

The teachers eat with the kids in order to teach the children table manners as well.

Unity in the Center 

Smith remembers the first collaborative activity the Center put on for the kids and residents: “The first activity was bowling where we had elderly bowling—and they have this frame and they push the ball down this ramp and it hits the pins—so that was the first activity we decided to try with the children. We partnered up each elderly person with a child. The elderly person would put the ball up on the rack and the child would push it. Everybody was nervous at first. The elderly would lean over and try to talk to them [the children] and the little kids were nervous at first, but once the pins started falling, then they were excited to get up there and they started talking and having fun.” Afterwards Smith asked the residents what they thought about it. “I would get comments like, ‘My heart is glowing,’ ‘[It was the] best day of my life,’ ‘I wish they [the kids] could be up here longer.’ Several of the residents were crying.” 

Smith wants to bring life back into nursing homes: “Nursing homes get this reputation of people just dump their loved ones off and forget about them. To a lesser extent, that does happen, but their world consists of these four walls and this roof. That’s not great and when’s the last time you think some of these people probably haven’t even seen a small child. That’s not great because their world consists of nothing but in here. We are trying to bring real life back to these nursing homes patients and part of real life is having children around, having that laughter, having those kids being kids.” 

Aims and Values 

“In 2017, the Board of Directors of the Good Shepherd Nursing Home District recognized the need for an integrated Child Learning Center within their Skilled Nursing Facilities,” according to an informational brochure about the Learning Center. “They believed that if they were able to address the needs of both of these groups of people in one setting, there would be common benefits to each. The Board recognized there were needs in the youngest of our community to better prepare them for their futures by providing quality early education, access to technology and learning, and reestablishment of respect and value for the elderly. ‘Building a Community One Child at a Time’ became their mission. At the same time, the oldest of our community members benefit greatly emotionally and psychologically with intergenerational activities and personal contact with the children.” 

According to the Learning Center’s mission statement, “We will take advantage of the teachable moments that happen every day by fostering the intellectual, creative, social, emotional, and physical growth and development of the children and to inspire a lifelong commitment to learning. A caring, cooperative classroom environment promotes cultural values and supports positive relationships and respectful interaction. We believe the leaders of tomorrow aren’t born: they are made with a strong foundation.”