Clayton School District's Early Childhood Program
How Our Early Childhood Classes are Organized
The 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. Class size increases with each age group. Classes may be reorganized around enrollment preferences of families.
Family Center Early Childhood Beliefs
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.
The Role of the Teacher
We value a co-teaching relationship where teachers maintain a balance between being learners along with the children as well as teacher researchers who serve as a resource and guide lending knowledge to children. Teachers carefully listen, observe, and document children’s thoughts, ideas, beliefs and current understandings. Teachers engage in self-reflection and reflective conversations with colleagues and children in order to support the growth of community in the classroom and to provoke children’s thinking.
We believe the curriculum is organic, emerging from the interests of the child, teachers and families.
Our 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.
Our Family Center teachers work closely with Clayton kindergarten teachers and other district colleagues. These relationships support children's transition from pre-kindergarten, ongoing curricular development and teacher professional learning.
The Early Childhood Education curriculum framework includes five strands/units of study. Click on each of the strands below for a detailed description.
- Social-Emotional Development and Approaches to Learning
- Science and Nature Education
- Language and Literacy
- Music, Movement, and Dramatic Play
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.
Gay Avenue and Clayton High School Campuses
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 may also use the gym and swimming pool at the Center of Clayton.
On the Gay Avenue campus, children may 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 program. As safety guidelines allow, we will welcome parents and guardians inside our school. At this time, parents and guardians are especially encouraged to lead and serve on PTO committees, organize events, collect materials or undertake other responsibilities of their choice. Whatever form it takes, parents and guardians are encouraged to share their many talents, as family involvement benefits everyone: it familiarizes parents and guardians with the Family Center; it increases resources available to children; and, it demonstrates to children that their families value their education.
Parenting education is another crucial component of our program. Families enroll in Clayton Schools’ Parents as Teachers (PAT) program to receive personal visits with a certified parent educator, trained in child development and eager to support parents and guardians in their critical parenting role. We strongly suggest that all families access this free program. Parents and guardians will learn about their child’s developmental milestones; access language, motor, social-emotional and intellectual developmental screenings; and, connect to community resources. A Family Center parent educator will contact each family after enrollment.
Parent educators also support families through our fee-based Parent Coaching program and Parent Workshops. Families may check out books from our Parent Library in the Stay, Play and Learn Room.