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Nursery School History

Nursery School Students, 1929

The Farmington State Normal School’s first foray into a community program in early childhood education was a “Play School” in 1926. It provided an opportunity for local young children to learn and socialize while Juniors in the Home Economics program put their lessons in “Child Care and Training” taught by Miss Gates to practical use.

In 1928, the “Nursery School” (as it then became known) had an enrollment of eleven children between the ages of two and five years old. With space at a premium in the Cottage by 1929, the school move to the living room, dining room and kitchen of the Home Economics dormitory, Card Hall.

Ring Around the Rosie, 1927

The children spent lots of time outdoors playing “Ring Around the Rosie” and other group games. There were flower gardens to explore and the school had a tricycle, wooden climbing frame, see-saw, slide and sandbox. Indoor activities included playing with toys, blocks and modeling clay, sing-alongs, story time and caring for the school’s pets – a salamander, a goldfish and bunnies. The children were also provided with lunch.

Valerie, 1927

The school even made use of the services of Miss Johansen, the college’s nurse. She checked the children’s throats each morning and periodically tested their vision. In 1929, the school held two medical clinics for the mothers of the children. One clinic included the services of a leading pediatrician from Portland and the other a child psychologist from New York who specialized in preschool children behaviors.

By fall 1975, the Sweatt-Winter Community Day Care Program was operating out of the basement of Mallett Hall. The program served as a learning lab for education majors and was the first Head Start in Franklin County. It was a unique collaborative effort between by the Western Maine Community Action Council and the university. The financial management and staff advocacy was handled by the Council and the university provided the facilities, a faculty educational coordinator, student staffing and educational supplies. Services included a preschool program for three to six year olds and a school age program for first through fourth grades.

Mallett Hall Play Area, 1985

In 1991, the day care moved to a new location on Lower Main Street. The repurposed building provided less indoor space, but had an ample outdoor play area and easy access to Abbott Park and Hippach Field. It was also handicap accessible. The center had a full time cook who provided the children with two meals and a snack each day. An observation room allowed education majors to study how the children interacted during play. Enrollment was 30 preschoolers and 12 school-age children.

In 2003, the university began offering a new parent-child play group in the evenings. It was supervised by Dolores Appl, professor of early childhood and early childhood special education, and several of her students.

The program expanded to include pre-kindergarten and before- and after-school care for children ages 5 to 10 in 2004. The university also took over sole management and began to incorporate the early childhood learning standards into the curriculum with the Maine Learning Results. At this time, Sweat-Winter was the only child care center in western Maine and one of the few in the state to be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Over the years, the day care and nursery school programs have continued to grow. In 2007, the Infant-Toddler Play Group program expanded to four days a week, with sessions in the mornings and evenings. Each session had a different curriculum so parents could choose the best fit for their child. A new pre-kindergarten program -- a collaborative effort between the university, the local school district (SAD 9) and Head Start and Child Development Services -- opened in 2009.

Exploring the Gardens, 1940

A state bond was passed in November 2018 to provide funding for a new child care center to meet the growing demand for early childhood educators and to expanded child care services in Franklin County. The university purchased a former call-center building on Front Street to become the new Sweatt-Winter facility. The university also received a Davis Family Foundation grant to help strengthen the existing programs, including emphasis on nature-based education, and enhance classroom and outdoor learning spaces.

Sources: Home Economics Photo Albums; Effesseness (1928 and 1929); “Sweatt-Winter Day Care to Celebrate With Carnival”, UMF Newsletter, July 25, 1990; “Day Care Center Settled into New Home, Morning Sentinel, August 27, 1991; Letter to Community from Katherine Yardley, Dean of College of Education, Health and Rehabilitation, June 30, 2004; “UMF to Run Child Care Center Alone”, Morning Sentinel, August 12, 2004; “Expanded Infant-Toddler Playgroup Program Offered at the University of Maine at Farmington”, UMF Press Release, #R067-023, January 10, 2007; “New Pre-Kindergarten Program to Hold Open House Monday”, Morning Sentinel, August 29, 2009; ÚMF Sweatt-Winter Receives Grant to Serve Families Today and Prepare Educators for Tomorrow, UMF Press Release, R189-014, October 19, 2018; “UMF Receives Davis Family Foundation Grant to Help Fund Sweatt-Winter Center Improvements”, UMF Press Release R189-063