TRU dean: Kamloops is an early childhood education leader

Thompson Rivers University is planning co-location of its early childhood education program, research and non-profit day-care services into one centre on McGill Road, a project believed to be a first in Canada.

Thompson Rivers University wants to put Interior British Columbia on the map when it comes to raising children.

TRU dean of faculty of education and social work Airini (the dean has a single name) said to make that happen, the university needs excellence in early childhood education to understand what helps children learn and grow well in early years and to put it all into practice.

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Thompson Rivers University is planning co-location of its early childhood education program, research and non-profit day-care services into one centre on McGill Road, a decision that will expand its campus to the west, moving into a typically industrial area of Kamloops.

“Our vision is that the Interior of B.C. should be the best place in Canada for little ones to grow up,” Airini told KTW, noting programming will not change.

RELATED: TRU planning early childhood education centre

Airini said the three components existed at TRU for about a decade. However, the pieces are currently dispersed throughout campus. The ECE program is taught out of the Arts and Education Building. A Canada research chair for early childhood and the law is currently located in the Culinary Arts Building. A non-profit day care for students, faculty and staff, called the Cariboo Child Care Society, is located in one of the houses on Westgate Road, between the Old Main Building and the Brown Family House of Learning.

The new centre will bring all three under one roof and Airini said it will create opportunity for incidental learning, with all elements together as one community, which Airini said would be unique in Canada.

“It’s like this perfect community of practitioners, children themselves, those who are learning to be teachers and researchers,” she said. “It’s the ideal community come together where everybody has the shared love for early childhood education and seeing it go forward. That in itself is very special. It’s that combination of teaching, research, practice, which makes it available for informing policy and for helping our community develop in really good ways.”

Airini said it is also unique in that it is being led from the Interior for the Interior.

Airini said the city is growing and needs more child-care services. In addition, she said research shows that within five years of becoming a childhood educator, 50 per cent of the work force leaves the profession, meaning “considerable turnover.” She said that research, conducted by TRU professor Laura Doan, has led provincewide research and development to help early childhood educators stay in their roles through developing their professional identity.

“We are genuine leaders for the province when it comes to growing early childhood leaders and understanding what helps them to stay in the profession,” Airini said.

She said the move amid the pandemic shows the community puts children at the forefront.

As for what will go into space formerly occupied by the early childhood education program and day care, the Arts and Education Building will have more general classroom space available and the house is part of TRU’s campus master plan that earmarks the area for future academic space.

The project is the subject if a property rezoning application at 1274 McGill Rd. The application will go to a public hearing before Kamloops council on Nov. 17 in the Valley First Lounge at Sandman Centre. The property was formerly the site of a Majestic Ginseng Products facility.


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