Opened in early October, the new David H. Koch Childcare Center nearly doubles MIT’s on-campus capacity for day childcare for the MIT community. Enrollment wait times are expected to drop to weeks from nearly three years.
The center’s educational curriculum shares the Institute’s tenets of learning by exploration and the Reggio Emilia environment-as-curricula pedagogical models. “We see a great parallel between the way children learn and the way adults at MIT—especially scientists and engineers—approach discovery and problem solving,” said Kathy L. Simons, senior program manager of MIT’s Child Care Services.
Children will be learning with all of their senses—from painting objects they find outdoors and experimenting with magnifying lenses, to acting out plays and witnessing (and tasting!) food transformations in the kitchen. According to Simons, such a rich, educational experience in early childhood “is hugely predictive of their later success in school.”
The center’s building-block, modular construction also acts as living laboratory for the children. The center is made up of 21 individual modules with ceilings painted bright hues of yellow, blue, or green to emphasize the unique construction. Building systems like water pipes and air ducts are in full view to encourage children to ask questions about how the building functions. Angular fans cast shadows and add movement to hanging art and plants.
“We are trying to integrate children’s awareness of their environment with the building so that they are using all of their senses to learn by exploring,” said Dogan Woodward Arthur, the building’s architect and principal of DW Arthur Associates Architecture, Inc.
Outside play spaces mirror what children can find in the natural outdoors. There is a river bed, bamboo garden, logs, and rolling hills to play king of the mountain or simply roll down. And on rainy days, children can enjoy the natural light from oversized windows designed to create “a continuous flow between the outside and the inside,” said Arthur.
Part of a day’s lesson might even be learning about the building’s rapid construction. In 16 weeks, the 21 modules were constructed and assembled in a Pennsylvania parking lot. Once the building was completed, builders took it apart, and transported each module on a flatbed truck to its present location on MIT’s campus. Builders used cranes to place each module in the correct position with “Swiss watch precision” according to Arthur. In one weekend in mid-June, the building was 80 percent complete and finished two and a half months later.
The Koch Childcare Center is one of five Technology Childcare Centers at MIT for families of faculty, staff, and students. Funding for the center came from David H. Koch ’62, SM ’63, who provided the lead gift; Charles W. Johnson ’55; and Jennifer C. Johnson.