Mission, Vision, & Philosophy

Mission Statement

The Charlotte R. Riley Child Center operates under the supervision of the Behavioral Sciences Department. The Child Center is a combination program providing preschool, full day kindergarten, child care, and summer programming.

The Charlotte R. Riley Child Center has a two-fold purpose:

  1. To provide the highest quality of child care and education for children of university students, faculty, staff, and community.
  2. To provide a laboratory setting for students enrolled in the Early Childhood Development curriculum program.

Our Vision

We want to be a place where…

Children are valued
for their meaningful work.

Staff are valued
for their zeal, knowledge, and commitment.

Children’s learning
and growth are seen as intertwined.

Staff create places
and spaces for caring relationships.

Children’s ability
to wonder, explore, and soar.

Staff delight in being with children
and share in their joys.

Parents are valued
as their child’s first advocate.

Together, we appreciate
the child’s ability to play.

Parents receive support
in their child rearing roles.

Together, we realize
we are always learning.

Parents enthusiastically promote
their child’s hands-on approach to play.

Together, we value
each moment of each day.

Our Philosophy

The program of the Charlotte R. Riley Child Center has been developed to meet the physical, mental, emotional, social, and creative needs of the young child. The classroom environment encourages trust and independence. Emphasis is on helping the child gain a positive self-concept, self-discipline, and help in developing warm relationships with others.

Early childhood research shows that young children learn primarily through play. Play is an essential part of childhood. It offers the freedom children need to try out new ideas, practice developing skills, and imitate adult roles. It allows children to learn social skills and develop friendships.

Children are knowledge builders. They apply what they have already learned to different situations. Exploring, discovering, questioning, and guessing are important activities. “Readiness” skills are developed through play, and concepts are formed. Children gain a sense of mastery through their activities. They become the active decision-makers in their own scenarios. Our center promotes the development of the whole child through play.

Activities in the classroom reflect our commitment to provide a developmentally appropriate experience for all children. The National Academy of Early Childhood Programs, our NAEYC accrediting association, is a strong advocate for developmentally appropriate practices and activities for young children.

We believe that children learn through active hands on involvement with materials, equipment, and activities. During active play, a child’s mind, body, and emotions develop, and true learning takes place. We encourage children to be independent in basic care routines because these routines can provide as much opportunity for meaningful learning to occur as experiences planned in the interest areas of the classroom. Our goal is to provide a stimulating, sensitive environment that supports the child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive growth.

Children learn how to form positive, caring, cooperative relationships by interacting with children and adults. Through these interactions, children learn to get along with others. When a child experiences success in play and is encouraged to make choices, communicate thoughts and feelings in a positive way, and accept responsibility for actions, the child learns social skills that will last a lifetime. Early childhood play experiences effect learning and personal growth throughout life. Our objective is to assist families in the task of providing a strong foundation for their child’s future development.

Curriculum Focus

Our curriculum has its early roots in the cognitively oriented High Scope approach to children’s learning. One of the central principles of this constructivist philosophy is children are active learners. It is only through active learning—direct experience with objects, ideas, and interactions with other children and adults that children construct their own knowledge about how things work. The teacher’s role is to facilitate, create, and support an environment that sets the stage for active learning—with real, concrete experiences. Children have opportunities to make choices, explore and discover, plan and reflect on their experiences. Our curriculum is based on the understanding that children learn through play.

As children explore their environment, teachers will listen for children’s emerging ideas about their discoveries. Children’s ideas are expanded on through meaningful interactions with other children and adults. Some experiences may evolve into short-term activities or into long-term projects generated from teacher’s observations and/or the children’s different needs and interests.

The curriculum is designed to meet the needs of the active learner. Care is taken to accommodate the child’s different developmental levels, needs, and interests. Curriculum involves learning through discovery and play. This includes the activities and experiences that take place in the classroom and more importantly the relationships that form between children, their peers, and their teachers. Our major emphasis is on forming relationships. Relationships help children make connections. We focus on the process of learning. For example, the act of constructing a building or the manipulation of art materials is more important than the final product. We take joy in children’s successes.

Plan • Play • Reflect • Revisit • Connect *

  • Planning encourages each child to make choices. Children take the time to think about and make decisions about materials, supplies and activities. Children’s choices lead to goals. This sets the foundation for further exploration and learning.
  • What children do is play. Children play with ideas and actions. Play experiences can help children develop simple concepts into more complex understandings. Other children, adults and the environment play a key role in the play process. Children are supported in their play and are encouraged to take charge and construct and create their own knowledge at their own pace. Play is purposeful.
  • Reflecting involves the what, where and why of it all. Children review and/or recall their actions and experiences. This provides each child the opportunity to re-enact and/or demonstrate their play experiences in meaningful ways— i.e. through the use of language.
  • Children need opportunities to revisit experiences and continue practicing skills. Children learn through repetition. Knowledge builds on previous learning and the incorporation of new ideas.
  • Relationships with other children and adults help children make connections. Children have opportunities to talk about personal meaningful experiences. Specially trained teachers help children make important connections between ideas and people and places.
  • Planning, playing, reflecting, revisiting and connecting promote the development of the whole child (socially, cognitively, emotionally, and physically).

*Adapted from the Massachusetts Preschool Curriculum Framework

Guiding Principles

  • Work in our early childhood classroom is based on current knowledge and understanding of child development and education. We work to create a learning environment that supports children’s growth and development.
  • Interactions with children, families, practicum students, co-workers are based on mutual respect and acceptance in the knowledge that we are all part of a larger community.
  • Curriculum is everything that happens in an early childhood classroom from the environment and daily routine to learning experiences and social interactions.
  • Certain progressions apply to children’s learning. Learning begins concretely and the whole child is actively involved in the learning process.
  • Documenting and representing the child’s process of learning about people, places, and things is important for the development and growth of the child.
  • Teachers are encouraged to take advantage of on-going learning and growth opportunities in their professional development.

Curriculum Understandings/Program Goals & Objectives

  1. Young children are competent decision makers and participate in their own learning.
  2. Play is the core or “hub” of the curriculum. The environment (classroom materials, supplies, schedules) is prepared with the child in mind. Play is a natural process.
  3. Teachers provide children and families and co-workers respect, acceptance and encouragement in a supportive, social climate.
  4. Teachers are responsive and supportive in their interactions with children and families and with each other.
  5. Children are active, “sensory learners.” Children thrive when provided opportunities to learn in different ways.
  6. The curriculum is flexible and may be modified to meet the child’s growing and changing needs. Adaptations can be made to the curriculum to ensure access to the curriculum for all children.
  7. Learning how to get along with others is a life long skill. Teachers facilitate problem solving and assist children in choosing appropriate solutions.
  8. Teachers support children in the acquisition of skills, knowledge and dispositions for learning (concepts or facts, physical and social tasks, curiosity or friendliness).
  9. The child needs opportunities to develop autonomy (self-help skills), independence (self-manage, self-motivated), and creativity (imagination).
  10. Families are invaluable resources on their children and can provide teachers information on family home values, beliefs, experiences, language, and culture.
  11. Families are encouraged to provide information on the care and education of their children. Teachers work collaboratively with families to ensure that families are involved in their children’s learning and development.
  12. Teachers provide children with opportunities for language acquisition that consider the family and community perspectives.
  13. Teachers have the opportunity to learn from children and families and use this information to guide them in their own professional development.
  14. The needs, interests and abilities of the individual child and/or group of children guide classroom planning and assessment on a daily basis.
  15. Teachers use information from assessment to support the individual child in the learning process.

Classroom Goals/Objectives for Children

  1. Children will have opportunities to express their ideas, thoughts, and emotions in a supportive, safe and secure environment.
  2. Children can choose to communicate in a variety of ways (speaking, listening, reading, writing, dramatizing, representing).
  3. Children will have time to explore, and discover their environment during indoor and outdoor activities. The environment will support children making choices that are important to them. A wide variety of materials and supplies will be available for children.
  4. Children will be accepted and recognized for their unique individual characteristics/dispositions, background, culture, and family.
  5. Children’s individuality and autonomy will be encouraged. Children’s abilities to take care of their own needs will be encouraged.
  6. Children will be supported in their efforts in getting along with others and will have opportunities to practice social skills throughout the daily routine.
  7. Children will have opportunities will to develop curiosity and openness to their own learning and to the ideas of others.
  8. Children will be actively involved in their own individual learning process and in the group learning process.
  9. Children will be involved in activities to help document their learning (journals, charting, webbing, dialogue with other children and adults).
  10. Children will be involved in activities that are relevant and meaningful and promote knowledge and skills in the developmental/curriculum content areas (physical, social-emotional, language, cognition—early literacy, early mathematics, science, technology, creative expression and appreciation for the arts, health and safety, and social studies).

Developmentally Appropriate Practice

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines developmentally appropriate practice as resulting from the process of professionals making decisions about the well-being and education of children based on core considerations in developmentally appropriate practices:

  1. What is know about child development and learning—knowledge of age-related human characteristics that permit general predictions within an age range about what activities, materials, interactions, or experiences will be safe, healthy, interesting, achievable, and also challenging to children;
  2. What is known about the strengths, interests, and needs of each individual child in the group, to be able to adapt for and be responsive to inevitable individual variation; and
  3. Knowledge of the social and cultural contexts in which children live to ensure that learning experiences are meaningful, relevant, and respectful for the participating children and their families.

Note: From Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs (p.9). by C.Coppie and S. Bredekamp, 2009. Washington, D.C. Copyright 2009 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Developmentally Appropriate Practice refers to an approach or guide to education/teaching. A program is generally thought of as “developmentally appropriate” if its practices are based on what is appropriate for the age and stage of development of the children they serve and if it meets the individual needs of the child and family. Developmentally appropriate practices looks at what is relevant to and respectful of the child, the child’s family, neighborhood, and community.

This means that we are able to focus on the child and family. We are a child-centered facility. Not only will children’s intellectual needs be met through carefully planned curriculum experiences but care will be given so that children’s–social, emotional, physical, and creative needs are met as well. Equipment, materials, and supplies are age and stage appropriate for the age groups we serve. Teachers and administrators are trained at looking at the needs and interests of the “whole child.” Teachers spend a great deal of time watching, listening and speaking with children. Teachers use their observational skills to help prepare the classroom environment to support the young three-year-old child and to challenge the older five-year-old child. Our classroom environment supports children at different developmental levels so they can participate in activities with equal success.


Play is the core or the “hub” of all early childhood activity. Children need to play with real objects rather than worksheets to form conceptual understandings about things in their world. Children need to move as they learn. Carefully prepared learning centers in the classroom help children interact actively with equipment, materials and supplies. Meaningful learning occurs when children are engaged in activities that support their growth and development in appropriate ways. Play has been referred to as a “window” to the child’s world. Specially trained staff peek into this window to facilitate the child’s whole development. Teachers engage children in meaningful dialogue that supports the acquisition of learning skills in the developmental areas of physical, social-emotional, language, and in the curriculum contents areas of cognitive development; early literacy, early mathematics, science, technology, creative expression and appreciation for the arts, health and safety, and social studies.