On March 4th, The Porter-Leath & University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy at Orange Mound celebrated its grand opening. The Academy is a research-based educational facility which serves children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old, where care is most crucial and underprovided in Shelby County.
At the grand opening event, representatives from both organizations recognized supporters and leadership that helped make the world-class facility a reality. With the help of some young friends (and their safety scissors), a ribbon was also cut to commemoriate the special day!
The Academy, itself, features 18 classrooms, serving 288 local children. The site design has been inspired by the community and neighborhood traditions of Orange Mound. Through intentional design, the space evokes feelings of community and home with unique features like the addition of a front-porch facade on each classroom, natural playscape designed to promote play-based learning, vaulted ceiling brings and open and airy feeling into developmentally appropriate classrooms, house shaped nooks in hallway for reading and mini hallway stages to promote pretend play.
Like Porter-Leath’s Academies in South Memphis and in Frayser, this Early Childhood Academy will serve as a model of excellence for the education of young children and improves the quality of early childhood staff throughout Shelby County.
Classrooms feature age-appropriate areas for reading, art, science, pretend play and nutrition. Classrooms also hosts two early childhood professionals trained to provide high-quality education for young children and prepare students for kindergarten. All enrolled families receive ongoing, supportive wraparound services to ensure they are connected to community resources and have the opportunity to thrive.
The impact of this project is significant, not only in providing quality early childhood care and wraparound support for children and families in our community, but also on the research, practice and laboratory education it provides for the field of child development, particularly in urban education settings. Both Porter-Leath’s Teacher Excellence Program, which provides professional development and training for current early childhood educators, and the University of Memphis, which will host classes for future early learning professionals, can utilize the state-of-the-art research space and observation technology, and training facilities. Training and observation can also be accomplished through on site in-classroom practice and experiences working with families of young children.
The Academy's main lobby is called "Lynne's Room" in memory of Lynne Jordan Turley by her husband, Henry Turley. For decades, Mrs. Turley was a educator, musician and advocate for early learning. Near the main entry desk, visitors can hear about Mrs. Turley's experience and some of her lessons at a special interactive station.
It also features works of local artists a way to highlight the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Orange Mound. Local artists were chosen in partnership with the Urban Art Commission and 3 artists were selected - Juan Rojo, Daria Davis and Sarai Payne.
The Academy is the latest in a series of additions and expansions to the University of Memphis’ University Schools educational compendium which seeks to provide the children of our community with educational experiences that enhance their development from birth to graduation and promote dynamic research, collaborative partnerships and innovative practices.
To learn more about or tour the new Porter-Leath & University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy in Orange Mound contact the site at (901) 505-0168 or visit porterleath.org/orange-mound.