UNK to celebrate childhood education center groundbreaking

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When: 10 a.m., Oct. 5, 2018

Where: south of Village Flats, on University Village (U.S. Highway 30 west of West Center)

Who: UNK administration, NU Foundation, UNK child development center children and staff, College of Education faculty and staff, benefactor, construction and architect.

University of Nebraska at Kearney, the community and greater Nebraska will celebrate on Oct. 5 the beginning of Nebraska’s most innovative center of early childhood excellence at a groundbreaking ceremony of the LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center.

The event will take place at the construction site on University Village, beginning at 10 a.m.

The groundbreaking ceremony marks the construction of the first academic building on UNK’s University Village. It is a $7.8-million, 19,900-square-foot building that will serve as the university and communitywide child education center for up to 176 children, from infants to age 6. This more than doubles the capacity of the existing Child Development Center housed in the Otto Olsen building, which is slated for demolition following completion of three separate buildings.

The early childhood building was originally approved by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents in January 2017 and approved for expansion and naming for the benefactor in June 2018 following the Plambeck leadership gift. Dr. Plambeck’s gift enables the addition of two dedicated Montessori education classrooms, an endowed Montessori education professorship and endowed excellence funds for early childhood programs.

UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen said the education center will be the state’s most innovative center of early childhood excellence.

“Because of the vision of Dr. Plambeck, the University of Nebraska and UNK, this will be the premier education center for young children and their families, right here in Kearney, Nebraska,” Kristensen said. “It will also be a center for transforming the quality and number of early childhood educators for generations to come.”

The center will become a model for exemplary early childhood education, early childhood educator preparation, and research. In addition to training undergraduate and graduate students and integrating coursework from all across all three of UNK’s academic colleges and University of Nebraska Medical Center, the ECEC will serve Kearney-area children and families with developmentally appropriate early education for a diverse population.

When completed in fall 2019 the ECEC will feature three research-based philosophies of Early Childhood Education: Eclectic (Waldorf, Reggio and others), Montessori, and Project Based. One classroom will be devoted to Project Based Early Childhood Education, two classrooms to Montessori, and eight classrooms to Eclectic.

LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck of Omaha has been an advocate for early childhood education for nearly 50 years. Inspired by the Montessori teaching method, based on a philosophy that puts much of the responsibility and freedom for learning within a child’s control, she opened Omaha’s first Montessori Educational Center in 1968 and later added seven locations and opened schools in Denver and Fort Worth. She launched the Mid-America Montessori Teacher Training Institute to provide professionals with training and certification. Plambeck will attend and speak at the event.

Site preparation for the construction is already underway. The building is funded by state funds through LB 957 and dedicated facility funds from the Plambeck gift.

All are welcome to attend the celebration.

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