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Berglund Hall boasts community appeal

Open friday - New facility houses university's education and business programs, plus a preschool
by: Chase Allgood, A kindergarten classroom in the Child Learning and Development Center in Berglund Hall awaits young students.

Friday's grand opening of shiny, stately Berglund Hall will be a dream come true for Mark Bailey - an epic dream that has lasted for more than 12 years.

When dignitaries from Pacific University and the surrounding community cut the red ribbon on the $12 million building Friday afternoon, Bailey will heave a deep sigh of relief.

'I'm guardedly ecstatic,' the exuberant, pony-tailed education professor said during a tour of the facility last week.

Bailey, an educational psychologist with a background in human learning and instruction, first envisioned the facility - complete with its Child Learning and Development Center - more than a dozen years ago, after he arrived on the Forest Grove campus.

'This is going to serve as a great resource for the entire community,' Bailey predicted as he showed off the classrooms and workspaces inside the CLDC, which occupies much of the building's ground floor.

There are tiny, ergonomically correct chairs and tables for the children, ages 2 to 6, who'll enroll at the center, 'a model earning community that reflects the community around it,' Bailey said.

Younger children will delight in the outdoor play yard, which features artificial turf and a gazebo fashioned of wood reclaimed from trees that used to grow on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Cedar Street.

Eventually, they'll climb and slide on a play structure on the east side of the building, a project Bailey hopes will spring from the creative minds of teachers and students alike.

They'll grow herbs and plants in an organic garden, to be planted where bark dust exists today.

Inside, older children will use laptop computers and digital microscopes to explore technological and scientific worlds. They'll create ceramic art, present plays on a real stage and read developmentally appropriate books.

One facet

The learning center is just one facet of the 42,000-square-foot building, named for Pacific benefactors Jim and Mary Berglund, who live in southern California. It also houses the College of Education, the Department of Business and the Berglund Center for Internet Studies.

But what really charges Bailey up is the idea of providing an 'active and interactive' learning environment that will couple the community's children with Pacific students enrolled in optometry, occupational therapy, education and business programs on campus.

'It'll be an exercise in learning how young people learn in real time,' Bailey said.

A $1 million grant from the Gates Foundation helped to build Berglund Hall, but Bailey is especially proud that his vision helped bring that money in.

'They really liked our focus on reflecting the surrounding community and on providing an environment for differently abled and multi-cultural children,' he said.

The center will soon have a director, three teachers and 'quite a few aides and assistants,' said Bailey, who has been busy writing job descriptions.

Bailey isn't taking reservations right now - there will be only 60 spots for children - but classes will start the end of August. 'I imagine we'll fill up rather quickly,' he said.

Conversations with 'all sorts of parents' persuaded Bailey to pursue the learning center idea. He plans to use years of research on early childhood teaching methods and 'apply the very best principles' to daily operations at the center.

He doesn't see a conflict with other preschool programs in the area. 'I think there's room for all of us together,' Bailey said.

The entire facility is wheelchair accessible and has garnered the federal government's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for environmentally sensitive buildings.

'A big part of our vision is sustainability,' Bailey said. 'The other part is a symbiosis between Pacific and the Forest Grove community.'