The crib area of the new Sweatt-Winter Early Care and Education program is seen Wednesday at the University of Maine at Farmington. This classroom will expand the program to include infants and toddlers. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington gave a sneak peak this week of its new space for its nationally accredited Sweatt-Winter Early Care and Education program.

The building, which was originally a NotifyMD call center at 274 Front St. was purchased in 2019 and the University of Maine System board of trustees approved the renovations in February 2022.

The new building is expected to create 20 new slots for children in the Franklin County area, as well as increase enrollment in its undergraduate and graduate early childhood education programs by at least 20%.

The observation room shown Wednesday will allow students in the University of Maine at Farmington’s Sweatt-Winter Early Care and Education center to watch teachers interact with the children without disturbing the classroom environment. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

Furthermore, the program will add infants and toddlers to the curriculum, with two wings of the building dedicated entirely to those stages of development. All classrooms will be outfitted with cameras and microphones to allow for nonintrusive observation for undergraduate and graduate students.

Added to that, each wing will have an observation room separated by a two-way mirror to allow students to observe teachers working with the children.

“This will be used not just for the practical classes, but for other early childhood classrooms,” Patty Bailie, associate professor of early childhood education, said. “They’ll come in and observe how they teach math, or how they do language literacy.”


Bailie was apart of the building committee and helped influence the aesthetic design of the classrooms.

“The goal of the classrooms is to make it as authentic (and) more home-like,” she said. “(We wanted) natural materials to be more nature oriented, and bring a lot of the nature aspects into the classroom.”

The new home of the University of Maine’s Sweatt-Winter Early Care and Education program in Farmington includes spaces for infants and toddlers. It is expected to open this fall at 274 Front St. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

Another aspect of the building highlighted during the showing was classroom furnishings.

Designed by Sandra Duncan with the help Kaplan Early Learning Co., the furniture, as well as the layout, is centered around The Potential Place, Duncan’s trademarked design that connects children’s inner or emotional needs with the physical environment.

Duncan, an international consultant and author of seven books focused on the environmental design of early childhood places, said, “It’s the intersection between the child in the space and in that intersection, you give children opportunities to experience power and kinship.”

On her website, Duncan describes the place as five design conditions of emotions, which are power, thrill, awe, intimacy and kinship. “Awe and wonder are the spatial conditions of emotion that we’re trying to incorporate into every center and every classroom design,” she said.


The building is expected to open this fall.

The total cost of the renovations is $3.1 million, with $1 million from the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, $600,000 in congressionally directed spending and $100,000 from the Lennox Foundation contributed specifically for the outdoor nature-based areas.

“We are thankful for the support from Governor Mills, Senators Collins and King, the Maine Legislature, and the University of Maine System board of trustees,” UMF President Joseph McDonnell wrote in a news release.

For more information on the program, please visit UMF’s website.

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