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Shining a light on early learning

Sunbeam Early Learning Center focuses on child education

Helen Post-Brown never had any intentions of the nursery school she started in 1980 becoming the nationally accredited early learning center it is now. But she’s more than happy about the turn of events.

In September, Sunbeam Early Learning Center in Fairmont celebrated its 35th year.

The school follows a Reggio Emilia Approach to learning.

“The Reggio Emilia Approach is an educational philosophy focused on early education,” said Post-Brown, who is the owner/director of Sunbeam. “It was started in Reggio Emilia in Italy by parents of the villages around Reggio Emilia after World War II.  The city is recognized worldwide for its innovative approach to education.

“At Sunbeam Early Learning Center, we try to follow the philosophy of Reggio Emilia by viewing the child as a protagonist. The focus of the educational experience. The teacher is the partner, nurturer and guide. The environment is the third teacher and parents are partners in the development of the child’s education.”

The center operates from 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and offers year-round care for children 3 months through pre-K.

The children spend time listening to soothing music, doing artwork, playing outside  and eating lunch at a round table passing food to each other.

“We want the children that are at Sunbeam and their families to remember us for not only learning activities but feeling comfortable here, evolving here, growing here  [and] making friends for life, which we have achieved over the years,” Post-Brown said.

One room at Sunbeam is  known as the Atelier, which is Italian for art studio. Post-Brown said the art coordinator Phyllis Grey brings children into the studio during the week and helps them work on creative projects.

And if the children find something that interests them, they learn about it at their own pace. For instance, when one child’s family was building a house, the preschoolers started learning about how a house was constructed. This eventually led them to building their own replica of the school with cheese crackers and graham crackers.

All of the teachers are equipped with iPads so they can keep in touch with parents.

“The iPads have been a wonderful thing for us, that technology now, to increase that relationship,” Post-Brown said.

In fact, as she looks at the center as a whole, it’s the teachers and staff she credits with making the school into what it is today.

“They are dedicated to early childhood education and making Sunbeam a home away from home for its children and families,” Post-Brown said. “The quality and success of my center has everything to do with the quality, dedication and talent of my staff.”

Location: 1654 Mary Lou Retton Drive, Fairmont, WV
Phone:  304-366-8590