Clayton School District's Early Childhood Program offers children from fifteen months to five years a range of preschool programs designed to make the most of each child's natural desire to learn. As part of the Family Center, the Early Childhood Education Program offers families 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 OrganizedThe Early Childhood Education (ECE) Program offers six weekly options (see classroom options page). All of our classrooms include two early childhood educators. To serve the needs of all children, in some of our classrooms, an early childhood special education educator is part of the teaching team. Families 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.
Program CurriculumOur play-based and integrated curriculum is influenced by Missouri Early Learning Standards, the National Association for the Education of Young Children and current child development theory. We are inspired by the innovative public preschool system of Reggio Emilia, Italy, that emphasizes respect for each child and the child’s ability to influence his or her own learning. Children’s prior experiences, backgrounds and early theories are starting points for this inquiry-based education.We believe young children learn to make sense of their world through play, exploration, inquiry, collaboration and interaction with others including peers, teachers, families and their environment. When given the time and space for play, children practice regulating their emotions and further develop their social and cognitive skills while gaining self-confidence to engage in new experiences. We invite children to explore and solve problems independently or in small groups where cooperation, collaboration and disagreements intermix through an environment that is rich with possibilities and provocations.We believe in reciprocal learning relationships among children, teachers and families. We value all children’s capabilities and intelligence, teachers as researchers, and families as their child’s first teachers. We are a community of learners. Children, teachers and families work together to create trust and connections with others and the environment that surrounds them.Our Family Center teachers work closely with Clayton kindergarten teachers and other district colleagues. These relationships support children’s transition from pre-kindergarten to kindergarten, ongoing curricular development and teacher professional learning.
Through daily play, children learn and practice the social-emotional and problem-solving skills they will use throughout their lives. Children eat snack, make plans for their day during morning meeting, listen to stories, play in the classroom, and explore outdoor spaces, including our playgrounds, local parks and nature areas. We offer opportunities to explore block construction, dramatic play, drawing and writing, as well as music and movement, and science and nature exploration. Children take responsibility for caring for their classroom and their friends.
Teachers carefully listen to and observe children. Children’s current understandings and ideas are shared with families through a daily journal or class blog and the classroom webpage. This process supports children as they revisit and reflect on their experiences. It also makes the children’s learning visible to families.
Children in the extended day classes and the five full school day classes have additional time to explore, play and eat lunch. Afternoon rest is also part of the daily routine in full day classes.We offer early childhood classes with the same curriculum framework at two locations in our community: the Gay Avenue campus and the Clayton High School (CHS) campus.The CHS campus includes two classrooms for children three to five years of age and additional outdoor space, including access to the nearby Shaw Park and playground. We value our connections to the high school faculty, students and activities on this campus. We also use the gym and swimming pool at the Center of Clayton.On the Gay Avenue campus, children enjoy cooking in the kitchen, growing vegetables and herbs in the gardens and exploring our nature trail and surrounding grounds. This campus includes classrooms for children fifteen months to kindergarten entry.
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.
Parenting education is another crucial component of our early childhood program. Families enroll in our Parents as Teachers (PAT) program and participate in personal visits with a PAT educator. We encourage participation in our Family Center parenting workshops and family events.