Busy student parents who just want a little time to fit a workout into their schedules can now do so without having to worry about finding a sitter. “Our Little Village,” a drop-off childcare center funded by student fees, has expanded from its first location at Valley Library to a new second location at Dixon Recreation Center. The centers allow student parents the freedom to study or workout for an hour or two while their children are taken care of by OSU students and staff.
“Student parents already have their daily and weekly childcare needs sorted out (during work and school hours),” said Michelle Marie, chair of the OSU Student/Parent Advisory Board. “The goal for the library and Dixon centers is to make these facilities available when they don’t have childcare.”
Sometimes, just having that extra spare hour to exercise or study can make a huge difference in the life of a student parent.
“Both sites are not meeting the entire need of student parents, but it’s what we’re able to do with the resources available,” Marie said. “The holy grail would be drop-off day-care all the time so that it would be available for everything that’s happening on campus.”
Kristi King, who runs both centers, has a staff of 14 student workers who provide childcare and educational activities. A majority of the students are majoring in education or human development and family sciences, which means they get direct experience working with kids.
“The benefit to student workers is they can take what they’re learning in the classroom and put it to practice,” King said. And the children benefit from a childcare center that is not only safe and accessible, but offers educational activities as well.
Kate MacTavish, an associate professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences, was given a Family Friendly Faculty award earlier this year for her support of student parents. She attended the grand opening celebration of the Dixon Our Little Village, and said she remembered what it was like being a single mother and a graduate student, and she always tries to extend as much support and understanding to student parents as she can.
“I’m always happy to make accommodations for child or parental care,” MacTavish said. To not take family priorities into consideration when working with student parents, “You’re asking people to deny part of themselves,” she said.
Tom Kirch, director of OSU Recreational Sports, said the childcare center answers a need that he’s been hearing for some time from student parents who want to work out at Dixon.
“They say ‘I don’t have a chance to work out because I have this barrier,’” he said, so offering up a space to create Our Little Village was a natural fit. What was once a small seating area behind the staircase on the lower level of Dixon has been transformed into a daycare center, complete with a snuggly little carpeted alcove under the staircase that makes a great play space.
“There’s a whole focus around health and well being on campus,” Kirch said, and making sure that all students have the opportunity to use Dixon is a priority. Plus, it’s good for children to see their parents make exercise a priority, he said.
“This is modeling by the parents to their children that they have to take care of themselves,” Kirch said.