Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007

Discovery’s ‘Crikey Cove’ offers care, creativity for kids

Child care center named for ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Irwin

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Charles E. Shoemaker⁄The Gazette
Terri Irwin, widow of Australian wildlife conservationist and television personality Steve Irwin, known as the ‘‘Crocodile Hunter,” sits with her 9-year-old daughter, Bindi, during a Nov. 7 dedication of ‘‘Discovery Kids Place and Crikey Cove,” a new child care center for employees at Discovery Communications’ headquarters in downtown Silver Spring.
A new child care center for employees at Discovery Communications’ headquarters in downtown Silver Spring will be designed with ‘‘Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin’s two favorite things in mind — crocs and kids.

‘‘Discovery Kids Place and Crikey Cove,” to open next summer, was dedicated last week in memory of Australian wildlife conservationist and television personality Irwin, who died after being stung by a stingray’s barb in September 2006.

The center, with a bright green crocodile as its mascot, will include a program heavy on science education and exploration. Irwin’s children, 9-year-old Bindi and 3-year-old Robert, offered their tips on equipment that should be included in the playground — a wobbly bridge and monkey bars.

‘‘The fact that they wanted to name it in Steve’s honor is just overwhelming,” Irwin’s wife, Terri Irwin, said Nov. 7 after a brief dedication ceremony at Discovery Communications.

The center will be operated by Bright Horizons, a worksite child care provider with 27 centers in the Washington, D.C., metro area, including one at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration headquarters on East West Highway in Silver Spring.

‘‘We’ll be able to do some interesting things with the curriculum here,” said Debi Phelps, director of client services with Bright Horizons. ‘‘It’ll have a distinct feel.”

Adria Alpert-Romm, senior executive vice president of human resources with Discovery, said a lack of child care in the building was the most obvious thing missing when she arrived 10 months ago. David Zaslav, president and chief executive officer of Discovery Communications, said at the dedication that the new center would help the company ‘‘attract the best talent, the best and the brightest.”

Demand already exceeds the number of available slots — there were 85 pregnancies at Discovery last year, and at least 100 already this year, Alpert-Romm said. Employees will be allowed to enroll their children if they are chosen through a lottery, said Tammy Shea, a spokeswoman for Discovery.

‘‘I certainly would have enrolled my first child,” said Michelle Russo, a spokeswoman with Discovery. Russo, who has a 5-year-old and a 14-month-old, will be applying for the lottery. The center will be open to infants through preschool-aged children.

‘‘If you’re running late, you can just go downstairs ... or visit your kid on your lunch break if you have time,” Russo said.

Irwin, who made several stops in the area to promote her new book, ‘‘Steve and Me,” said being connected to the new center could help her launch similar programs in Australia, where on-site day care is not common. She said she was working to start a similar center at the Australia Zoo, which was opened by Steve Irwin’s parents in 1970.

‘‘I am very acquainted with how important it is to have your children with you,” Irwin said at the dedication, holding up a photograph of her family.