Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Area preschoolers who attend the Grinnell College Preschool Laboratory just got a new playdate—the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation.

The Foundation, which supports Grinnell community projects in education, health, and parks and recreation, will contribute $41,000 to the new preschool’s playground and recreation area. The playground equipment installation brings the new facility in the 1000 block of Park St. one step closer to opening in late January, at the beginning of second semester.

“Our founder, Claude Ahrens, believed in recreational experiences for children beginning at early ages. This gift honors his legacy and our mission of community development and recreational opportunities,” said Foundation President Julie Gosselink.

The preschool, directed by Karen Veerhusen-Langerud, serves approximately 50 local children each year and is a real-time laboratory for approximately 100 Grinnell College psychology students who observe and interact with the preschoolers for introductory coursework. An additional 20-40 upper-level college students conduct developmental psychology research projects there.

The new $1.75 million preschool laboratory, expected to be completed in early January, features areas for large and small motor skills, a classroom with in-floor heating, an observation room, meeting and research spaces, and an entryway with open courtyard.

Monica Chavez-Silva, director of community enhancement and engagement for the college, expressed the importance of community partnerships in projects like the new preschool. “The Ahrens Foundation gift is a wonderful example of the productive collaborations we are fortunate to have in Grinnell. We are very grateful to the Foundation for recognizing the benefits of this new high-quality facility for our community’s preschoolers and in support of inquiry-based learning by our psychology students.”

The popular laboratory program is currently housed in a 1970s-style building at 1207 Park St. which will be removed next summer. Furnishings and materials will be moved into the new building during winter break.