WAYNE — They build skyscrapers out of wooden blocks, pound lumps of kinetic sand with their little fists and stand about 40 inches tall.

But if they are lacking in stature, they more than make up for it with their charm.

These budding scholars of William Paterson University are in a preschool program that opened this semester in a former office building at 1800 Valley Road.

Twenty-eight children as young as 2½ years old are now enrolled in the state-licensed Child Development Center, which runs five days per week. University students pursuing teaching degrees supplement their own learning by helping administer the program.

In that way, said university officials, the 10,800-square-foot center is like a laboratory.

“Teacher candidates have their fingertips on the pulse of current trends and best practices and will undoubtedly elevate the level of learning in our classrooms,” said Cindy Gennarelli, the program director.

Amy Ginsberg, a professor and dean of the College of Education, said it is “wonderful that our classrooms and hallways are filled with the sounds of children exploring.”

The curriculum was inspired by what is known as the Reggio Emilia approach, Gennarelli said. It is a philosophy in which children are viewed as “capable co-constructors of their own learning,” she said.

Each nook and cranny of the center was designed to promote curiosity, Gennarelli said. And unlike more traditional day care programs, which may have brightly colored furnishings, she said, the environment in this preschool is filled with neutral hues that are “not overstimulating.”

“Everything is calm and respectful of children,” Gennarelli said.

The university purchased the former office building for its School of Continuing and Professional Education in May 2019. The 11.3-acre property abuts High Mountain Park Preserve to the north and west.

The building was previously occupied by Haier Group Corp., a Chinese maker of consumer electronics and home appliances.

William Paterson officials said the university spent $2.1 million to renovate the building for the preschool, which has two playgrounds, and that most of the cost for the project was allocated in the state budget.

The center is planning several upcoming activities, including a child safety seat inspection by university police, a collection for rain boots and family hikes along nearby trails.

Tuition assistance of up to 75% on the cost of child care is offered to eligible William Paterson students. Visit the center’s website for more information.

Philip DeVencentis is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Source: NorthJersey.com