Hand-in-Hand Early Childhood Education Center

The Sheridan Early Childhood Education Center is a Reggio Emilia-based learning center. The 12,220 sq. ft. facility enhances the learning environment of children, and helps disadvantaged mothers get back into the workforce.

Joy, love, wonder.  Touching, listening, seeing, hearing. Celebrating each other. Promoting infants, crawlers, toddlers, and preschoolers to learn through experiences is the spirit behind the design of the Hand-in-Hand Early Childhood Education Center in Sheridan, WY.

Based on the Reggio Emilia approach, developed in Italy after World War II, the curriculum at Hand-in-Hand emphasizes that learning must make sense from a child’s point of view. Connecting children to their environment — the third teacher — is the impulse behind opening classrooms, art spaces, and the lunch room around a central community piazza, and connecting learning spaces to the outdoor play areas with large windows. These interconnected spaces encourage community and help build relationships. A story tree, performance stage, children’s garden, and tricycle path create compliment indoor activities and create further opportunities for outdoor exploration and expression.

As a response to the need for more childcare in the community, to enhance the early learning of the community’s children, and help disadvantaged mothers get back into the workforce, the center was a product of the Sheridan Quality Childcare Initiative and represented a special collaboration between the Sheridan Economic Development Association, Sheridan College, Sheridan School District, and the Wyoming Business Council.

The center also serves as a laboratory learning environment for students enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program at Sheridan College. It is designed to meet not only Wyoming Department of Family Services standards, but also the more restrictive National Association for the Education of Young Children standards. Strategies for daylight and natural ventilation, as well as an energy modeling, were explored during design to predict and balance operations costs with construction costs, important elements in the business plan for Hand-in-Hand.