Working with Sallie Surface, the executive director of Choanoke Area Development Association of NC, the HCC child care center leads the way in opportunities for children in the Roanoke Valley.
It is the only five-star-rated center in Halifax County, earning the rating through the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
As part of the initiative, the NC State University College of Landscape Architecture is designing the new outdoor learning environment to engage children in STEM learning from an early age.
“We all need to remember that wherever we are, we need to do the best we can for our children and families around us,” said Surface.
Presenting the purpose behind the design was Robin Moore, professor of landscape architecture and the director of the National Learning Initiative at NC State.
“The purpose of the NLI is to create healthy human development and a healthy biosphere for generations to come,” Moore said. “The focus is on getting students connected to nature and knowing their impact on the world and earth.”
According to Moore, there are approximately 240,000 children, ages 2-5, enrolled in the 5,000 licensed childcare centers in North Carolina.
As part of the NLI, he and his staff are working to create Preventing Obesity by Design environments for childcare centers to combat the effects of childhood obesity.
Research shows that physical activity increases by 22 perceny with the POD OLEs.
As part of the process for developing a STEM OLE, a partnership with Lowes Distribution proved to be the final catalyst to success.
Daniel Lovett, special assistant to the president and director of the Title III & PRIDE Programs at HCC, said the generosity of Lowes and regional director Nathan Sidden altered the project into much more than imagined.
As the project grew, Sidden and his team increased the Lowes giving, transforming the current playground into a top-notch facility.
Originally, Lowes was going to provide a covering for the outdoor walkway.
After visiting the site, Lovett said Sidden came back with even more.
Lowes donated rubberized mulch for the playground, making it safer for the children.
Finally, to complete the initial stage, Lowes provided sod for the remainder of the playground.
According to Lovett, the Lowes partnership has been critical in improving the lives of area children.
Michael Elam, president of HCC, recognized the efforts of Lowes and Lovett, adding the long-term impacts of this project will greatly benefit the Roanoke Valley.
“This childcare center now becomes a STEM school for all four school districts,” Elam said. “They are looking to the universities around us, but not to HCC. By creating this pipeline, we increase the opportunities for our students. We start them at a young age and make STEM a part of their lives. After gaining their education, they stay here to impact the Roanoke Valley with their skills and knowledge.”