Middle Earth was founded and established as a non-profit agency in 1971 by dedicated volunteers who sought to create a high quality, affordable and accessible educational program for young children. Many of these individuals were affiliated with the University of Oklahoma as faculty, staff, and students. After securing the lease for one of the 1943 Navy barracks on the South Campus, Middle Earth opened its doors with 39 children, four full-time staff and three student assistants. Middle Earth remained in this facility for 36 years before moving to it’s temporary location while preparing to returning to the South Campus in a new, permanent home very near it’s original location.
The cultural climate of the early 1970s supported a basic principle of respect for the integrity of every child, no matter the child’s sex, race, religion, or socio-economic background. This principle continues to guide Middle Earth today.
“The Board of Directors of Middle Earth understands the concerns for our children and their future. They are consistently striving to improve the quality of education and care of not only my son, Malik, but for all children of the Norman community.” – Don Bradley, former Middle Earth Parent
Our Philosophy Statement was written at Middle Earth’s inception by Dr. Michael Langenbach, University of Oklahoma College of Education (retired), and the center’s first director, Teena Neskora. This document was published in 1977 in what has proven to be the first textbook for day care curriculum in the United States, Day Care Curriculum Considerations (1977; Charles Merrill Publishing). For many years, this philosophy statement has been used nationally as a model for best practices in early childhood education.
In an age when individualized yet affordable care for children is increasingly hard to come by, Middle Earth remains unique. Middle Earth is more than just a place for children…it is a second home. We currently have eight adult alumni with their own children in the center, and four staff members whose children are alumni. Two of our current staff members are alumni themselves. Two families represent three generations of involvement with Middle Earth.
“Instead of our daughter walking by December, which her physical therapist predicted, because of her Middle Earth teachers, she was walking at the beginning of October. What is clear to me is this—this place is magical.” – Garrett P. Olberding, former Middle Earth Parent
The magic is very real, indeed.