The lights are dimmed low in a classroom at the Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center on Tuesday, Dec. 5, as the teachers prepare kids to for naptime. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — After fours years of planning, funding and renovations, the University of Maine at Farmington’s Sweatt-Winter Center has finally moved into its new home on 274 Front St. and is in full operation, with the program steadily growing into its new space.

The new building opened its doors Oct. 23 and welcomed Erica Thompson, a UMF graduate of the Class of 2015, as the program’s new director a month prior to it opening. A veteran of the Sweatt-Winter program, Thompson said the program’s first year in the building will be testing the waters with the new building.

“This year is obviously a play year,” Thompson stated. “We are figuring out what we use and what’s needed.”

“This is such an exciting time for the Sweatt-Winter Center, our children and their families,” Thompson stated in a press release. “It is a big move to the new location, but I am looking forward to seeing the children explore their new surroundings, discover new interests, have fun in the nature-based outdoor playscape and make it their own.”

The other side of the observation room. Seen here on Tuesday, Dec. 5, looking into the toddler room, the observation room is a great place for students to watch teachers work with kids without bothering the classroom environment. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

As Sweatt-Winter director, Thompson’s role will include the designing, implementing and evaluation of high quality and developmentally appropriate curriculum. Her new role will include overseeing the daily administration and record keeping needed in children’s programming, but being a mother of three herself, she strives to make her office accessible to both students and staff.

“I have toys set up in here because I want kids to feel safe and comfortable when they come in,” she shared.


For more than 30 years, the Sweatt-Winter program has served families in Franklin County and beyond by preparing the next generation of early childhood development professionals for whatever challenges they may face in the field.

The new state-of-the-art Sweatt-Winter Childcare & Education Center will expand on that legacy and transform the look of childcare in the future while also preparing university students for their careers in education. The center takes a comprehensive approach to creating an environment that nurtures children’s holistic development and is a vibrant mix of children, teachers, university students, and UMF early childhood faculty who work directly with the staff and students daily.

The new building is expected to create 20 new slots for children in the Franklin County area, as well as increase enrollment in its undergraduate and graduate early childhood education programs by at least 20% in support of critical state workforce needs in the sector that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The building also features furnishing designed by Dr. Sandra Duncan with Kaplan Early Learning Company. Duncan stated that her design of the furniture, as well as the layout, was centered around The Potential Place, her trademarked design strategy that connects children’s inner [or emotional] needs with the physical built environment.

The toddler room of the new Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center on Tuesday, Dec. 5. The new building will offer four rooms for different age groups as well as a room with a two-way mirror for intrusion-free observation. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

“What we’re starting to develop right here,” Duncan shared, “It’s the intersection between the child in the space and in that intersection, you give children opportunities to experience power and kinship.”

On her website, Duncan describes the potential place as five design conditions of emotions, which are power, thrill, awe, intimacy, and kinship. “Awe and wonder are the spatial conditions of emotion that we’re trying to incorporate into every center and every classroom design,” she said.


The program is fully staffedwith a head teacher in each classroom and kids for almost every room with the exception of the toddler room. Previously, the program had open positions for teaching assistance, but took the positions down with the interest of training from within with UMF students and potentially reopening the positions for next year with the hope that former students of the program will stay and continue with the program. Thompson stated the room for UMF students is incomplete and they plan on having class onsite starting in January.

Previously a NotifyMD call center, the building doubles the amount of space compared to the program’s previous location. At approximately 10,384-square-feet, the building offers four separate rooms based on a child’s age along with a kitchen, classroom for UMF students and an observation room for students to watch teachers working with children. Thompson added that parents have used the observation room as well.

“I know that there are a few parents that do love the observation booths,” Thompson shared. “They’ll go in and watch before they pick up their kid or they might step in after drop off. If their kid is a little bit upset, they’ll go in and watch for a couple of minutes to make sure that they’ve calmed down before they leave.”

“I think, overall, the parents will love the new space and what it has to offer for the kids,” she added.

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