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Altadena Children's Center

791 E. Calaveras Street
Altadena, CA 91001

(626) 797-6142


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Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

General Approach to Learning: Play-Based, Teacher-Led

From the Director:

We believe that our educational philosophy is based on an approach that balances teacher-directed and child-initiated activities within the context of an understanding of developmental theory. In addition, we acknowledge the reality of the changing expectations in kindergarten. We want children who leave our program for kindergarten to be equipped with the competencies necessary to be successful.

Curriculum & Teaching Approach

Learning Philosophy & Tools

  Play- based mostly teacher led not formally in curriculum conducive environment
Language       more

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  • Tracing paper and other writing instruments
  • A well-stocked bookcase
Oral language  
Nursery rhymes, poems, songs  
Storybook reading  
Emerging literacy skills  
Cognitive development
Math & number sense more

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  • Puzzles
Time & space more

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  • Calendars and clocks
  • Parquetry blocks, pegboards, and mosaic toys
  • Maps
  • Building blocks
Sci. reasoning/physical world more

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  • A place for science activities such as growing plants
  • Pets for children to watch and care for
Music more

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  • Musical instruments
Visual arts more

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  • Materials such as paint, ink, paintbrushes, crayons, markers, chalk, paper, etc.
  • Art work on the walls
Physical activity more

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  • A playground with climbing equipment
  • Bean bags, balls, and other objects that children can throw, kick, and play
  • Tricycles
  • Enough room for children to move around and play and a suitable indoor alternative to the outdoor playground on rainy days
  • Sandboxes and/or water stations for play
Other subjects taught The activities and experiences that we provide for the children are offered with an anti-bias perspective. This approach was developed at Pacific Oaks College and supports the child in learning about self and others, our similarities and differences. The goals for the child are to learn respect for self, respect for others, expressions of activism when things are not fair based on prejudices, and critical thinking skills.

From the Director:

We have indicated that in all of the areas except literacy and math and number sense we offer "Play based" (e.g. stations, some teacher encouragement). However, we don't believe that this adequately describes our approach. We use The Creative Curriculum as our framework and believe that the following better describes our philosophy: 'Play and structure are balanced with children given the opportunity to make choices from among activities carefully planned by the teachers to facilitate their optimal growth and development. Individual children are observed and listened to and their ideas, interests, strengths, and needs are integrated into the curriculum planning. Conscious Discipline, a brain state model, is the approach we use to guiding children's behavior and helping them to learn skills of self regulation and cooperation.

Quality of Teaching

Individualized Teaching: From the Director

A developmental assessment using the tool, Desired Results Developmental Profile, is done for each child twice a year. This assessment tool gives us information about each child's unique development. The completed assessment is discussed with families at Parent Teacher Conferences which are held twice a year. Together, the teachers and families plan together to create a program that best meets the strengths and needs of each child.

Day in the Life

General School Mission

At the heart of ACC is a philosophy that guides and directs its structures, systems and operations. This philosophy and the educational practices that come from it are captured through the following 5 concepts:

1)the whole child
2)developmentally appropriate education 3)anti-bias perspective
4)family centered
5)competent, caring teaching staff

Whole Child - The curriculum - activities and experiences - that are provided for the children are based on an understanding that there are specific areas of growth and development within the child including social, emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual/moral. These areas are not separate from one another, but interactive. It is our belief that tremendous growth occurs in children in all of the above areas and it is our job to provide an enriching environment that nurtures this growth.
Developmentally Appropriate Education - this approach to education is based on the understanding that children progress through stages of development in the different areas of growth. For example, in physical growth we know that children roll over and sit up before they crawl, and crawl before they walk (usually!). Likewise, in social growth children play alone first (parallel play) before they begin to play with others (cooperative play). In general, there are predictable patterns to growth. The rate at which individual children progress through the stages varies from child to child. Even within the same child there are variations of growth. A child may be intellectually precocious, yet socially delayed. This information is important as teachers plan curriculum, set up classrooms and design routines. We are currently using The Creative Curriculum which is based on developmental theory and a learning center structure as our curricular framework. Our understanding of the developmental growth of children is largely based on the work of Jean Piaget who studied how children acquire knowledge, Erik Erikson who studied the social dimension of human growth, Stanley Greenspan who charted the milestones of emotional development and Lawrence Kohlberg who marked the stages of moral growth. We are indebted to these theorists as we observe children and plan environments that help all the children to reach their potential. Developmental assessments using the tool called Desired Results Developmental Profile are done twice a year on each child to determine the developmental stage of each child and to plan for future growth. These assessments are discussed with families at Parent-Teacher conferences which are held in the Fall and Spring each year.
Anti-bias Perspective - The children we are caring for are growing up into a society that is becoming increasingly more diverse. They need specific tools to become effective citizens of this global society. An 'anti-bias' perspective begins with a recognition and celebration of the uniqueness of each child. It honors the children in terms of their color, likes and dislikes, abilities, ethnic heritage, etc. In addition, children learn to appreciate the differences in others while at the same time learning about the common ties that bind us as human beings. Issues of justice come into play as children work on questions of 'fairness' in their own classrooms. We are grateful to Pacific Oaks College for their development of this theory and its application in the classroom. Family Centered - Our work with the children in our programs is not complete without the active participation of the parents. The most recent research about children's success in education seems to indicate that the most accurate predictor of academic success is the level of involvement of a child's parents. We want to help you begin or continue that involvement! While your participation definitely enhances your child's experiences, it also enriches the quality of programs we can offer. Parents have many talents and skills to bring to our program. With the support of parents we can offer special activities for children, raise funds for new equipment and learn about interesting topics! But, probably the most important reason for the involvement of parents in our programs is to create a sense of community for the children and adults. A sense of belonging is important to the well-being of kids and grownups! Competent, Caring Teaching Staff - If parent involvement is key to a child's success in school, a well-trained teaching staff is essential to this success as well. The greatest predictor of a quality child care program is a quality teaching staff. We understand this and work hard to recruit and retain competent and caring teachers. The work of a child care teacher is hard. It requires a vast knowledge of children and families, skills and techniques for managing a classroom and, even, plumbing expertise! The work is hard, yet the rewards are great. Teachers thrive on being a part of the growth of a child. Yet teachers in child care are undervalued and underpaid. It is a part of the work of Altadena Children's Center to support teachers in their struggle to be recognized as the professionals they are and to participate in the nationwide campaign to increase the status and salaries of child care workers.

A Typical Day

Our days provide a balance of indoor and outdoor times, large and small group experiences, and teacher directed and child initiated activities. The schedule of each day is consistent for the children to provide the security and predictability they need in their day. Following is the flow of a typical day:

*Indoor self-selected activities
*Outdoor activities
*Indoor Group Gathering for language development (stories, songs, fingerplays)
*Learning Center choices (literacy, art, science, dramatic play, blocks, math/manipulatives, etc.)
*Nap/Rest time
*Afternoon snack
*Learning Center choices
*Group Gathering
*Late night snack
*Indoor quiet activities

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

Families play an integral role in the development of the programs of Altadena Children's Center. Our programs are family centered because we believe that families know their children best. We want to develop a healthy partnership with families regarding the care and education of their child so that we are working together to create the best experience for each child. This partnership requires effective communication and opportunities for involvement. Regular communication through verbal exchanges, written tools such as daily notes on each child and weekly curriculum newsletters is key to a good partnership. We want to share information from home to school and school to home about your child's experiences and growth. In addition, our work with the children in our programs is not complete without the active participation of the families. In fact, the most recent research about children's success in education seems to indicate that one of the best predictors of academic success is the involvement of a child's family in their educational experience. While your participation definitely enhances your child's experiences, it also enriches the quality of our programs for all the children. Each ACC family brings unique gifts and talents to the ACC community. And, as a community -children, staff, families- we all benefit from the involvement of each and every family. With the support of parents we can offer special activities for children, raise funds for new equipment and learn about interesting topics! As stated in the admission agreement, ACC requires all families to perform a total of 30 hours of creditable work during the year. We will endeavor to make available a variety of tasks through which this obligation may be met including membership on the Board of Directors, participation in Parent Advisory League activities, helping in the classroom, etc., etc., etc.! Tell us how you would like to be involved and we will try to make it happen! During Parent Teacher conferences with a developmental assessment of the child in hand, teachers and families discuss together options for the child for kindergarten. In addition, parent education meetings are held informing families of the expectations for kindergarten, the different approaches to kindergarten and finding a good 'fit' for each child.

Parents Say They are Encouraged to:

  • Sit on the board of trustees
  • Hold social events at the school to build community
  • Fundraise
  • Are able to visit the school anytime we want
  • Go on field trips
  • Volunteer in the classroom
  • Receive newsletters

Modes of Communication

  • Notes
  • Phone Calls
  • Voice Mail
  • Email
  • Special Meetings
  • Two or More Regular Conferences
  • Drop-Off
  • Pick-Up
  • Regular newsletter/printed updates circulated to the whole school


Separation is Handled through:

  • Pre-entry meetings with parents at school
  • Parents in classroom early on
  • Abbreviated schedule at start of school year

Handling Separation: From the Director

Children and families are asked to visit the program before the child's first day of attendance. We want the child to become familiar with the teachers, the other children and the environment before they actually attend by themselves. The amount of visiting time varies according to the age and stage of the child, the child's temperament and the availability of family in terms of work schedules, etc. We view this as an essential time for the child to develop trust in their new caregivers. A successful beginning really is key to a healthy adjustment in the program.