Area Center Offers Unique Learning Atmosphere

SELBYVILLE, Del. � The Next Step Learning Center is growing rapidly with future plans for even more expansion.

With a unique strategy for classroom development, a thriving social program and an emphasis on positive attitude and creative activity, Next Step has made impressive progress in a short period of time. There are already 109 students enrolled, despite the center only opening last year.

�I wanted it to be full the day that we opened, but now I�m super glad it wasn�t,� said owner and operator Leigh Scott.

Scott pointed out that it was small matters that would have easily overwhelmed the staff if the center had a full 156 students enrolled opening day.

�It�s the little things like not having enough trashcans in every room,� explained Scott.

However, now that Next Step has fallen into its rhythm Scott believes that it will continue to build momentum and expand in the near future. In fact, the initial actions towards that goal have already been taken.

�We�ve already added pre-k and extended day kindergarten, things we didn�t have last year,� she said.

The additional programs are being matched by an increase in interest, especially in an unlikely age group.

�Surprisingly, our numbers and our waiting list are for the preschool age, not the babies,� Scott said.

Currently providing for children aged anywhere between a couple weeks up to elementary school age, Scott had expected the infant daycare facilities to attract more members than the educational programs. It might be considered a compliment to the center�s itinerary that so many school age kids are trying to attend.

The center is divided into several different rooms, which children rotate through. Points of interest include a rock wall, stage, dance zone complete with mirrored walls, science labs, and reading areas decorated with castles and other imagination igniters. Scott believes that these rooms, and the way the center rotates children through levels of development distinguish Next Step from other facilities in the region.

�The biggest difference is the way we run rotations of the rooms,� Scott said. �There aren�t a lot of centers like that�we move children when they�re ready developmentally, not when they turn a certain age.�

Another unique aspect of Next Step is the �pass or participate� rule, where kids are granted the responsibility to decide whether they want to work or not.

�They [the students] have the right to pass or participate,� said Scott. �In most places you have to do it, but they�re taught that they have the right to pass if they�re not comfortable doing an activity. � But by participating they�re going to get more out of the program.�

The center also concentrates on forming social bonds, placing the kids into �tribes�, which foster community and cooperation.

�One of the rotations is building social friendships, how to be a friend � they also have activities that they have to do individually, as well as in a group,� Scott said. �The children are building a family.�

While the activities and educational aspects of Next Step are the main draw, parents will likely also be impressed by the security the center offers to children. Visitors may only enter the building after being buzzed in via an intercom. There are also several surveillance cameras throughout the building. Anyone wishing to remove a child must physically come into the building and check them out in front of the faculty.

As it stands, Next Step is looking to not just expand its programs and roster, but to reach out to other age groups as well.

�We definitely want to do something at some point to hit the older kids,� said Scott. �We�ve discussed that there�s a big need for hitting sixth grade and up. It would help kids avoid trouble if there�s a place they can go where they�re safe and they�re having fun.�

One final aspect that differentiates Next Step from most other places is its feeling of tradition. The walls are painted with murals showing everything from classic storybook characters interacting with real students to an artistic representation of historic Selbyville, complete with a theatre and candy store. The only addition to the painted town that is wholly imaginary is a pet store, which Scott named after her son Aiden, and daughter Isabella.

When asked why she decided to open Next Step, Scott declared it was a case of needing something done right so being forced to do it herself.

�I taught school for years in California,� she said, �and then when I moved back here I started managing a restaurant. When I had my daughter I was away from her for too long and when I went to look for childcare, I had a hard time finding any of quality.�

Scott decided to open her own daycare, which she ran from her home for several years. When it came time to expand, the current Selbyville location was an obvious choice, despite being last used for retail, not childcare. The building had been in Scott�s family since her great-great-grandfather was alive, passing down to her own father, where it was the location of a clothing store.

However, Scott decided to keep the building in her family and, with some creativity, restructured the store into its current identity as the Next Step Learning Center.

To learn more about the center, call 302-436-3633.