Mrs. Betty Winn, owner of Winn’s Discovery Center, lights up when she sees Gabriel and all her other “babies” come in to the center. A lifelong educator with 30 years of experience in the New Orleans school system, Mrs. Betty is right at home with her “babies.” “I’m very passionate about children and setting the foundation for academic success,” she explained. “I love working with children in their early years to prepare them for kindergarten in addition to helping them build their own self-confidence.”
Originally a photography studio before Hurricane Katrina, Mrs. Betty and family (you’ll see son Marlon and daughter Lorenza) opened Winn's Discovery Center in response to the changes in the area after the storm.
“We knew that in order for families to start coming back, they needed good spaces for their children to be cared for,” Mrs. Betty explained. “Because we are a new facility, we had to bring the building up to code. For example, in each classroom, we put in child-sized sinks and toilets so that the children can reach everything instead of having to step up on a stool. When the children see that, they think, ‘Somebody thought about me!’ They look at the larger facilities and they feel intimidated, but when they see the smaller ones, they know they’re for them. Little things like that make the environment more comfortable for the little ones. In addition to that, each room is designed so that there are no spaces that a child can hide. Each child will always be supervised because there are no spaces where they can’t be seen.”
Winn's accommodates children from 3 months to 5 years old (or until they are ready for kindergarten). “Our license allows us to care for children up to 12 years old, so when older children are on break from school, we’ll often have them drop in. When they come, we have things prepared to support them in completing homework or other kinds of enrichment activities, such as arts and crafts.”
During the summer, Winn’s, in partenership with NORDC (New Orleans Recreation Development Commission), operates a summer camp for older children from ages four to nine. "The older children are the Saints and the younger children are the Pelicans. We bring in an art and music teacher once a week and we take them out on field trips to teach them about their culture here in New Orleans. It’s important even at this age to teach them about culture because we have so much that the world looks up to and I want them to be proud of what New Orleans gives to the world.”
For the children, a day at Winn’s is full…no idle time for them! “First and foremost are socialization and language development, which are especially important for young children. In terms of socialization, we want to the kids to feel comfortable and confident in who they are. Language development helps to stimulate their imagination and allows them to connect to other things. It’s really important to talk to kids and encourage them to talk. We do a lot of reading to them and asking them questions. We introduce them to big concepts through pictures, books, music, finger plays, and games. We’re constantly reinforcing different concepts and we follow a ‘milestones’ type of approach with our different groups to develop those skills.”
Mrs. Betty continued, “I spent time observing the education systems in Switzerland and Germany, where they are more open to ideas about child development. While I was there, I picked up a lot and I was able to incorporate those ideas into my own philosophies about children to plan our center's environment. One thing we don’t do enough of is giving children experiences outside to understand and interact with nature. There are so many interesting things that they can learn and do outside. Outside is just as much of a classroom as inside. We want to be able to take the books and blocks out there, but we also want to bring out magnifying glasses and have them see the insects that interact with the plants and show them how to care for plants. We want them to know that their food just doesn’t show up at Rouses, so we want to eventually have a garden where they can grow things and be a part of taking care and nurturing them.”
For a child like the IntheNOLA baby, the school day at Winn’ is right up his alley. He and his Monkey Hill classmates (for 1-2 year olds) enjoy two meals (breakfast and lunch), snacks (morning and afternoon), reading time, outside and free play time, and plenty of good ol’ New Orleans lovin’ from all the teachers and staff.
Mrs. Betty concluded, “I love the smile on their faces, the excitement in their eyes, and watching them grow. I’ve worked very hard to build a nurturing and comfortable environment for our children. When they walk in our doors, they feel safe and they know that they’re going to have a good day. Our parents are happy and our children want to be here so we take that as a good sign."
For more information about Winn’s Discovery Center, please visit their website and Facebook.
Winn’s Discovery Center
2367 Prentiss Ave.
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