MLC to break ground on learning center

NEW ULM – Martin Luther College will celebrate the groundbreaking for a new Early Childhood Learning Center at the site of the former Highland Manor building at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 6.

The groundbreaking service will take place on the construction site at the corner of North Highland and 5th North Street.

The opening of the new center will mark a new chapter in early childhood education at MLC, MLC officials said.

The new center will feature:

Classrooms for infants and toddlers, as well as three-, four- and five-year-olds. MLC student teachers can get all facets of their training in one high-quality facility, said MLC officials. Families can bring all their children to one safe place. Siblings can see each other throughout the day. Children can transition easily from room to room, teacher to teacher, as they grow.

Dedicated family space. This will be a place for informal conversation, parent to teacher and parent to parent.

Observation room/learning space for parents, college students and visitors. It will provide an oprtunity to teach college students how to teach, as they watch children in real classrooms. Video technology can be used for distance learning: webinars, online courses and simple demonstrations.

Onsite college classroom. College students, as well as inservice teachers from all over the United States who are continuing their education at MLC, can attend class in the onsite college classroom and then move directly to the children’s rooms. This proximity will allow students to link theory and application in real time.

“The groundbreaking is an important step in early childhood ministry-not only at MLC, but for our synod,” said President Mark Zarling. “God is not just allowing a new building to be constructed. He is allowing another opportunity to share his saving name with precious souls! He is allowing more student teachers and in-service teachers to be trained in response to the growing early childhood ministries in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).”

Cynthia Holman, national coordinator for WELS Early Childhood Ministries, commented on the importance of this center to the expanding early childhood ministries in WELS.

“One of the challenges we face is providing directors and teachers who are trained for early childhood ministry. The new Early Childhood Learning Center at MLC will be a marvelous facility to provide the training and the field experience to prepare young men and women to serve his little ones and their families,” she said.

Cheryl Loomis, MLC professor of Early Childhood Education, knows that this center will provide a great learning environment for the MLC students. “When MLC graduates are assigned to begin an ECE ministry, they often start from scratch to find appropriate physical space, recruit students, develop mission statements, lay out curricula, meet countless government regulations and do publicity. And they do that with confidence. This center will help provide that confidence.”

Pastor Michael Otterstatter, member of the MLC Governing Board and pastor at St. John, Redwood Falls, will be the officiating pastor for the groundbreaking. Early Childhood Center staff and students will also participate in the ceremony.

Occupancy for the new center is slated for September, with 44 pre-primary students already on the enrollment list.

Construction is set to begin Monday with occupancy anticipated in September.

The timeline below gives an overview to this event:

2009 Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Conference of Presidents directs MLC to train more early childhood educators for the 400+ preschools and early childhood centers across the U.S.

2009 MLC Governing Board makes the building of a new Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC) an institutional priority.

2009-2010 MLC conducts research related to needs of current and future early childhood education ministries.

April 2010 MLC Governing Board approves the construction of a new ECLC.

February 2011 MLC Governing Board authorizes a capital campaign to fund the project.

May 2012 MLC Governing Board delays groundbreaking to allow for additional fundraising. Construction start is moved from summer 2012 to spring 2013.

March 25 Demolition of current structure begins.

April 6 MLC celebrates with a groundbreaking service.

April 8 Site work and construction begin.

September Building is completed and ready for occupancy.

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