Clayton School District's Early Childhood Program offers children from fifteen months to five years a fun and varied preschool program. Part of the Family Center, the Early Childhood Education Program offers parents many opportunities to participate in their child’s education,both in and out of the classroom. Please call the Family Center at 854-6900 with questions or to make an appointment to observe our classrooms in action. How Our Early Childhood Classes Are Organized The Early Childhood Education (ECE) Program has offered the eight weekly options (see classroom options page). We staff each classroom with two teachers; parents and university practicum students often work in the classrooms as well. Class size increases with each age group.Classes may be reorganized around enrollment preferences of families.We invite parents to make suggestions at program application time. Program Curriculum Our curriculum is based on frameworks developed by the Missouri Department of Education, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and current child development theory. One notable influence on the program is the innovative public preschool system in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The Reggio Approach emphasizes respect for each individual child and each child’s ability to influence his/her own learning experiences.
At the Family Center, the Reggio Approach is visible in a number of ways. The teachers strive to create beautiful classroom environments that are filled with interesting materials rich in color, texture, and variety for the children to see and use. Children’s work also contributes to the beauty of the space. Group and individual experiences change depending on the children’s interests and developing abilities. At the beginning of each planning cycle, the teachers outline ideas for enjoyable and educational experiences. The teachers then continually observe the children; learning evolves in ways the children and teachers determine together. This approach often allows for small-group work and in-depth studies of subjects ranging from spiders to neighborhoods. Parents often help with these experiences;sometimes it is a parent who sparks the children’s interest in a new idea. Teachers and the children document class experiences and learning.The teachers photograph the children as they learn and they record what the children say. The children draw and may also write about what they have done. Documents are incorporated into a daily journal, a child’s portfolio, or panels that hang on the walls. This process helps the children remember and learn from their experiences. It also is a way of showing parents and visitors what the children are learning.
The influence of Reggio Emilia on the Early Childhood Program is subtle and, in many ways, the program looks like a conventional preschool. The day includes morning meeting where the children discuss the events of the day. Weather permitting, the children play outside on the playground or in the park or nature trail. They enjoy snacks, listen to stories, and make friends. They are encouraged to treat one another with respect and to clean up after themselves. The program is unusual in that it is, at all times, there is an evolving collaboration among the children, teachers, and parents to create an engaging learning experience. You are encouraged to visit the Family Center to observe classes and receive information about the curriculum.
Family Involvement Involvement by family members is a vital component of our ECE Program. At school parents and teachers often work together in small group activities such as moving to music, working with clay or accompanying children for walks along the Family Center’s nature trail. In the two- and three- morning classes, each family is required to send an adult (parent, grandparent or caregiver) to work with the children in the classroom several times each semester. In classes for three to five year old children, parents are encouraged to work inside as well as outside the classroom. Parents may organize events, serve on committees, collect materials, or undertake other responsibilities of their choice. Whatever form it takes, parents are encouraged to share their many talents as family involvement benefits everyone: it familiarizes parents with the program; it increases the resources available to the Family Center staff; and it demonstrates to the children that their families care about their education.
Gay Avenue and CHS Campuses for 3- to 5-Year-Olds During the 2001-2002 school year the Family Center staff opened a full school day (8:45 a.m.-3:15 p.m.) classroom for 3-5 year old children on the high school campus in a small building separate from the main building and tucked behind the Center of Clayton, the City of Clayton and district’s joint use recreational facility. During the 2010-2011 school year the Family Center added two additional classrooms on the Gay Avenue campus. A full school day (8:45 a.m.-3:15 p.m.) and an additional four morning class (M-Th 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. the first semester and 9:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Tues/Thurs the second semester) were added.
To help the Family Center accommodate the projected growth in numbers of children 3-5 years of age during the 2002-2003 school year, the district provided us with the option of a second classroom across the hall from the first classroom. By having the two classrooms we were able to enroll all currently enrolled 3-5 year old children and open our program to new families who wanted to join us. Our goal was to satisfy all currently enrolled families with their child’s class placement while further developing a program that the community values.We also wanted to maintain the sense of community felt by parents and teachers while sharing the resources of the district with new families.The second classroom on the Maryland campus allows us to offer a five full day class and a five morning with two extended days classes.In 2009-2010 these classrooms will be enrolled with children who will have turned 36 months by July 31, 2009.
The structure of the environment and the collaboration among the teachers allows for the two classes to share spaces each morning. After outdoor play time and snack in the separate rooms the teachers and children organize for a morning of small group and individual work in either of the two classrooms.Among the many opportunities available, children spend the morning working in the message and writing centers, mini-studios,science-nature area, dramatics on the stage, and block-construction. At the end of the morning the groups clean up and prepare for either dismissal or for lunch in their separate classrooms. Children in the full day class have small group experiences each afternoon after rest time. The five morning class also has planned experiences between lunch and dismissal on their two extended days. The afternoons frequently include music and movement experiences.
Please call 854-6900 to make an appointment to see the spaces and to observe the classes in action.
Last Modified on January 3, 2013
301 North Gay Avenue / Clayton, MO 63105
Tel: 314-854-6900 / Fax: 314-854-6940