The Chickasaw Nation Child Development Center

Leaders at the Chickasaw Nation had the vision of creating a kid’s version of an entire town within the corridors of their Child Development Center. The center includes a post office, fire department, police station, bookstore, flower shop, and a movie theater. Each classroom resembles a scene you might see walking through a typical downtown.

Tammy Whitaker and other designers in the Chickasaw Nation Division of Housing and Tribal Development collaborated with the tribe’s Division of Education, artist Doug Fakkel of McKinney, Tex., and architect Dayna Boynton of Boynton Williams and Associates to bring her vision to life. Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby says the facility was designed to be much more than a day care center.

“This center was designed based on the idea that imagination is a natural and important part of the learning and development process,” says Gov. Anoatubby. “Our goal is to inspire the imagination and make learning fun.”

“Because language is such an important part of our culture, we incorporated Chickasaw words in the street signs and in the classroom. These children will carry our heritage into the next generations, so it is important that it is part of their early experience.”

Lisa John, administrator for the tribe’s Division of Education, says that the design was developed with parents and children in mind.

“This is a place where children will be excited to learn and parents will know that their children are in a safe, nurturing environment,” Ms. John says. “This facility engages all the senses and helps children explore and understand the world while building confidence in a secure surrounding.”  

The use of color progresses from gentle pastels in the baby rooms to bolder and more intense colors for the older kids.

Whitaker, a project coordinator for The Chickasaw Nation, was part of the design team.

“Babies like pastels, they’re more soothing,” says Whitaker. “The older kids like more energy in their surroundings, so the bolder colors are more stimulating for them. We used Wilsonart Laminates in solid colors and in their Brush series, because their wide range of colors make it really easy to build into almost any palette you’re looking for. And we know it can hold up well in a classroom setting.

“We have worked with Wilsonart several times in the past and really enjoy it, because we know we can always find the patterns and colors we need. They just really have a great selection.”

Whitaker says other youth-oriented projects are on the drawing board for The Chickasaw Nation.

“They may have similar themes, based on the success of the Child Development Center, and I’m sure Wilsonart will play a role when the time comes.” 

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