Mills College Children’s School is the oldest laboratory school on the West Coast and serves as an integral part of the School of Education’s mission to prepare early childhood professionals and future elementary school teachers. We serve as a bridge between theory and practice for adult learners, provide quality care and education for children, and create classroom learning environments that offer research opportunities. In our Early Childhood program, which includes Infant/Toddler, Preschool, and Transitional Kindergarten classrooms, students have the benefit of head teachers, who have Master’s degrees or commensurate years of experience in the classroom and are responsible for curriculum and instruction. Our student teachers are preparing for a variety of careers in education, and their presence allows for low teacher-child ratios and helps us to build trusting relationships with children and families.
MCCS is a progressive independent school with a constructivist model of education, a hands-on learning process that starts in our Infant/Toddler classroom and carries all the way through Fifth Grade. Teachers create spaces for design thinking, building, and constructing, giving all children the opportunity to enjoy experiences that foster exploration, creativity, and imagination. At the same time, our teachers approach education from an inquiry stance and model reflective practice with each other and the students. At the Children’s School, everyone has a stake in teaching and learning, with the result that children are engaged at their own levels of ability, challenged to take the next steps, encouraged to make hypotheses, and provided with the tools to test their ideas. Here, learning is respected, documented, and celebrated because our students are teachers just as our teachers are learners.
Our Early Childhood curriculum is emergent and play-based. Our teachers closely observe the interests of the children and build in-depth, project-based curriculum that draws on deep knowledge of developmentally-appropriate practice and the California Preschool Learning Foundations. Our curriculum includes all learning domains, such as social-emotional learning, language and literacy, math, science, gross motor and fine motor, as well as art and hands-on projects. An music and movement specialist comes to our school to work with the children in each classroom every week.
The Early Childhood program includes four classrooms: one Infant/Toddler room, two Younger Preschool rooms, and a Transitional Kindergarten.
The Infant/Toddler classroom has just 12 little ones, ranging in age from 5-27 months old when the school year begins in late August. The teacher: child ratio in this room is typically 1:3. We have two Younger Preschool classrooms for 2 and 3 year olds (ranging from 28-47 months old): One is a half-day program with 15 students and the other is a full-day program with 18 students; both have a 1:5 ratio. Our TK classroom serves 20 children (1:6 ratio) who are 4 years old and starting Kindergarten the following year. Small classes afford us the opportunity to get to know our students well, build strong relationships, and provide in-depth project-based learning experiences that address the needs of each learner. All of our classrooms serve students with a range of ages and skills so children have opportunities to be both leaders and followers, to learn from and to teach one another, and to develop a strong sense of community. Class configuration may shift in response to enrollment changes, so as to provide a quality education.
As the laboratory school for the School of Education at Mills College, we operate on an academic calendar. We conduct tours in January and February each year, prioritize acceptance of applications in February, send out enrollment decisions in late March or early April, and school starts in late August. We carefully limit observations of our youngest students and are unable to conduct private tours of our Early Childhood program outside of our scheduled group tours in the winter. However, we do accept applications all year round and spots often open up in the spring and summer. We don’t maintain a first-come, first-served waiting list, so if a spot opens up, we check our applicant pool for the best fit. If we have an opening for your child and you have not yet seen our facilities, we will contact you to come in for a private tour before you decide about enrolling. If we’re unable to offer your child enrollment in the coming school year, please contact us again in January to come on a group tour and request that your application be held over for the following school year. We’re very mindful about enrolling children by age cohorts, so if your child misses our age cut off for the classroom of your choice, we invite you to apply for the following school year.
School starts at 8:30 am across all of our programs. Our InfantToddler, Younger Preschool, and Transitional Kindergarten classrooms offer both a 3:30 or a 5:30 pick-up option. The Geranium Younger Preschool classroom offers a 12:00 pick-up for families looking for a half-day option. The teaching team sets up intentional learning provocations for the children both inside the classroom and out. Each room has a developmentally-appropriate outside learning space and the doors to the yard are almost always open, allowing opportunities for play both inside and outside. Each class is structured to include circle time and snack time, with lunch and naps for children who stay for a full day. More examples of each classroom’s daily schedules are discussed on our tours.
Our laboratory school is aligned with the Mills College calendar, so the Infant/Toddler, Preschool, and TK classrooms operate from late August to mid-May with a three-week winter break and a one-week spring break. For our currently-enrolled students, we also offer optional summer sessions that run in 2- to 4-week blocks from mid-May through the end of July. We are closed for the first three weeks of August. You can view a detailed calendar and tuition schedule with the summer rates online.
No, we know that learning to use the potty consistently and successfully is a personal journey for each child and family, so we are happy to support you and your child at whatever stage you are in along the way. All of our classrooms have child-sized bathrooms, but our teachers also change diapers, help children with pull-ups and emergency clothing changes, and will give you lots of feedback to help your family in this transition.
Yes, we work with a delivery service called Flo’s Friendly Foods, specializing in nutrient-dense, organic lunches that can be custom-made to suit any dietary restriction, picky eater, or big appetite. Families have the option of ordering via this delivery service or sending children with their own lunch to school. Teachers also prepare and serve two healthy snacks each day, often with help from the children–one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We strive to make snacks that all the children can eat, regardless of allergies. If there is a child with a life-threatening nut-allergy, for instance, all the snacks served in that classroom will be nut-free and we’ll ask families not to bring food from home that contains nuts.
We believe that families are an integral part of a child’s education and we greatly appreciate our partnership with you. We welcome participation from parents and adult family members who have a skill to share or just want to come in and help out. Since we often have a large number of adults in the classroom, teachers like to schedule these visits in advance. Preschool teachers use a variety of mechanisms to communicate with families and keep you informed about current curriculum and upcoming events. Children’s learning is documented and displayed so families can see the process and product of the classroom projects. Parent-teacher conferences are held twice a year, and teachers are able to meet with families if and when questions or concerns arise. Our Parent/Family Association (PFA) is a thriving group of families that sponsor events and fundraisers to support our learning community. We ask that each family contribute 20 volunteer hours per year (10 for single parent households) and there are multiple ways to participate, both in and out of the classroom.