FARMINGTON The new University of Maine at Farmington Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center, designed by CHA Architecture of Portland, has won a Maine American Institute of Architects design award.

The award was announced at a public event on May 9, and the Sweatt-Winter center will be featured along with other award-winning projects in the June Maine Home + Design magazine.

The vision for the new 10,000-square-foot center was developed over a two-year stakeholder process that prioritized the new space conveying a feeling of safety and comfort. It’s similar to the security a child feels in their home, and to feature a connection to the outdoors and the natural world through a comprehensive focus on nature-based education. An initiative championed at UMF, nature-based education is the intentional use of nature in all learning environments, which benefits children with physical and social/emotional development and confidence building.

The design project transformed a former call center on the UMF campus into an innovative facility that provides expanded access to nature-based child care and early education for children from infants to early school age.

Since relocating to the new building in October 2023, the center has welcomed dozens of children, introduced its new infant and toddler program, hosted a regional conference on nature-based playscapes and has spurred the addition of a nature-based graduate certificate program in the UMF education program.

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