We interviewed Nancy Beall of Just Us Kids, an early learning center in West Lafayette, Indiana.
“Just Us Kids” is a licensed, nationally accredited child care and early learning center serving 200 children, 12 classrooms and cares for children from infants through school age. According to Nancy, ”Just Us Kids was established in 1979 by myself, so here we are 35 years later. We are part of the Purdue Research Park, we are in a very academic environment, where our parents are expecting the very best for their children”.
Nancy became aware of BEAM interactive games since she’s constantly searching for new products and services to facilitate in her early learning center. As Nancy described: “I feel it’s my responsibility to always keep my center at the very top. For me, caring for the children is part of my job but caring for the business and my employees is also part of my job. Keeping my center on the top ensures my employee’s job stability and the longevity of our careers here. That’s my goal for everyone.”
The reason in which Nancy has decided to use the BEAM interactive playground was in order to better utilize the multi-purpose room in her early learning center, Just Us Kids. The multi-purpose room has high ceilings and loud echoes and for open-ended purposeful play. For the teachers, it was another area where they have to plan something again, whereas in good weather, you open the door and children go out to play on the playground. All of the elements of gross motor play and imaginary play are already out there, they can facilitate play but they didn’t have to plan for all of it.
As Nancy described: “The purpose of that room is to be an indoor, gross motor playground area when they can’t go outside. I don’t want my children to be stuck in a room eight hours a day when the weather is adverse and they can’t be outside. Providing them with an indoor play space was a big priority. If the kids have to play indoors, you either had to plan way ahead of time or plan on this very moment. Sometimes it’s difficult when you’re already planning eight to ten hours of curriculum for a day”.
By choosing BEAM, Nancy managed to overcome the challenge she had with the multi-purpose room of her early learning center. “BEAM interactive games gave us gross motor activity indoors at a push of a button that the children love. We want the children to have breathless play and here they can have it indoors in a smaller space combined with purposeful play that we don’t have to spend hours planning. ”The teachers love it. They no longer dread going to the gym or the children being out of control because the space is too big or too loud for them. With the lights down, the children are calmly coming into the room and they’re excited about what’s happening. They are taking turns, running, jumping, cheering on each other and expending energy. It’s just working wonderful.”
Nancy published a video on Facebook showing children playing and interacting with the BEAM interactive playground – the feedback from parents was very positive. “Parents love the idea of the children being excited. It’s another reason the children love coming to school, they get to use the BEAM.” Apparently not only the pre-school children enjoyed the new game area but also the school-agers as Nancy describes: “It was a huge hit for our school agers. They are excited to come because they have something very unique and very fun that they can use after school.”
Using technology for educational purposes can be a great tool, however, educators must understand how to utilize that tool correctly. “One of the things in early childhood that we, as educators, are worried about, is the amount of idle-play when children are using technology such as iPads. This is a great alternative. BEAM uses technology that the children are excited about, and yet, they’re not sitting and staring at a screen. They’re moving and interacting with each other. That’s what I was looking for, for my children.”