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UC Merced Early Childhood Education Center

5200 N. Lake Road
Merced, CA 95343

(209) 228-5437


Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

General Approach to Learning: Play-Based, Montessori, Reggio-Emilia

From the Director:

Children learn best if they are interested in the subject and it's real to them. Math, writing, problem solving, language, reading, cause and effect can all be introduced through interesting and engaging studies of interest.

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
  • dictation, writing area, computers
Oral language  
Nursery rhymes, poems, songs  
Storybook reading  
Emerging literacy skills  
Cognitive development
Math & number sense more

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  • Puzzles
  • blocks, cooking, building with woodworking tools, measurements, surveys/polls, open ended manipulatives, problem solving and exploration
Time & space more

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  • Calendars and clocks
  • Parquetry blocks, pegboards, and mosaic toys
  • Maps
  • Building blocks
  • documentation of learning into books or panels
Sci. reasoning/physical world more

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  • A place for science activities such as growing plants
  • light tables, water and sand indoors and outdoors, magnets, prisms, cooking
Music more

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  • Musical instruments
  • large collection of multi-cultural music
Visual arts more

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  • Materials such as paint, ink, paintbrushes, crayons, markers, chalk, paper, etc.
  • Art work on the walls
  • clay, playdough, light tables
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
  • gardening opportunities and the whole campus to play on
Other subjects taught Gardening. Healthy cooking and eating.

From the Director:

The curriculum that the UC Merced Early Childhood Education Center is using is a mixture of different philosophies and practices. Emergent Curriculum, Play Based, Project Approach and the Reggio Emilia Approach will be combined with the Creative Curriculum. The Creative Curriculum is used as the guide for the teachers in the classrooms. The Creative Curriculum is designed to be a blueprint for our teachers to plan and implement a developmentally appropriate program for your children, while introducing them to topics that are interesting to them. The Creative Curriculum is based on different Child Development theorists and current research as to how children learn. The curriculum also takes into account the following: individual interests and uniqueness, gender, temperament, learning styles, life experiences, culture, special needs and second language learners. Teachers are trained to recognize these aspects of each child and welcome them into the classroom. The Creative Curriculum blends well with other curriculum practices from Reggio Emilia, Emergent Curriculum practices and the Project Approach. The Creative Curriculum is the foundation of the program and the teachers are encouraged to further their exploration with developmentally appropriate practices to maximize the learning and development opportunities within the program. Using the Creative Curriculum as our foundation provides a thorough curriculum that supports the children in meeting the Desired Results, which are mandated by the California Department of Education, Child Development Department. The Creative Curriculum also encourages our teachers to individualize and make the learning experiences relevant to the children in the classroom.

Quality of Teaching

Individualized Teaching: From the Director

The teachers at UC Merced ECEC are degreed, credentialed professionals with experience working with young children. They are excited and committed to make the ECEC a model program for centers throughout the state to take note of.

Day in the Life

General School Mission

The UC Merced Early Childhood Education Center provides a warm, interesting, nurturing and developmentally appropriate environment where each child can explore and grow. Each classroom has been designed to be a welcoming environment to the children and families, as well as provide a comfortable place for the teachers to work in. Classroom teachers and families will partner together to ensure that communication between home and the Center is continual, for this dialogue is for the child.

With infants, each teacher is working with a primary care giving group of four infants. A strong loving relationship between the care giver and child is essential, as well as that between the care giver and the family. With the partnership formed, the child is the focus. Each routine and care giving ritual is individualized for that specific child, his/her temperament and needs. Language and non-verbal communication are both key in the infant classrooms. Children are responded to and their needs addressed individually as the child dictates. The care givers work together to plan and implement a variety of activities for the children to develop their whole selves. Each infantâ??s routines and family practices from home are incorporated as much as possible into the care giving at the Center. This consistency of the routines, schedules, transitions and practices from home to the Center helps the infants establish security and keep their patterns consistent and predictable.

The toddler classroom: where everything is something worth exploring. These classrooms are filled with activities and materials for the children. The toddlers are given many activities and materials that are open ended, to allow them to explore concepts and relations of materials to one another. The toddlers are also in small primary groups, one teacher to every six toddlers. This ensures that all routines and transitions are smooth. Routines such as dressing, self service of meals, napping and toilet training become the focus in this classroom. The toddler is independent and learning how to negotiate this want of being independent and satisfying their personal needs with the other children and their wants and need within the classroom. This becomes a primary task, of how to negotiate materials and space with peers. The toddler classroom is also rich in language. This is when adults spend much of their time role modeling language for the children, giving them the language for them to be able to communicate their needs better on their own.

The Preschool classroom is where exploration becomes more formalized. The children are learning basic skills they will need for Kindergarten: familiarity of routines, social skills in a group setting, math concepts, language arts, cognitive skills, fine and gross motor skills and problem solving within a nurturing environment designed just for them. The children will be studying an interesting topic, such as insects or balls, and while exploring this topic, be exposed to different planned activities and materials that encourage their development in all developmental domains and areas. This planning is carefully thought out by their teachers. Each teacher in the classroom is the primary care giver for ten children. The teacherâ??s responsibility is to develop activities and provide materials in the classroom that will encourage each childâ??s individual developmental needs in his/her primary group, as well as meet the needs of the classroom overall with the other teachers. Each activity, from playdough, playing with others making sand cakes to building a city in the block corner, provides the child with many developmental growth opportunities.
With the Center as a part of the childâ??s life, there is the invitation to all families to participate at the center throughout the year during daily activities or special events. Conferences are held upon enrollment and at least twice a year, or more frequently at parent or teacher request. All parents are members in the Parent Committee, which meets monthly and provides parent input regarding the center, as well as is a forum for parenting issues.

A Typical Day

Infant Classroom
7:30 Classroom Opens/Greetings
Morning Following the Infants Individual Schedule
Explore Indoor and Outdoor Environment
Feeding, Diapering, Hand Washing, Napping, Cuddling, Activities, Songs, Stories and Personalized Care
Afternoon Tooth Brushing (wiping gums with wet gauze)
Following the Infants Individual Schedule
Explore Indoor and Outdoor Environment
Feeding, Diapering, Hand Washing, Napping, Cuddling, Activities, Songs, Stories and Personalized Care
5:30 Classroom Closes/Have a Good Evening

Toddler Classroom
7:30 Classroom Opens/Greetings
Morning Explore Indoor and Outdoor Environment
Diapering, Toileting and Hand Washing, Activity Time, Circle Time and Story Time
10:00 Morning Snack
12:00 Lunch and Tooth Brushing
Afternoon Naptime
Wake Up and Cuddle Time
Diapering, Toileting and Hand Washing
Afternoon Snack
Explore Indoor and Outdoor Environment
Read Stories or Quiet Play
5:30 Classroom Closes/Have a Good Evening
Preschool Classroom
7:30 Classroom Opens/Greetings
Morning Explore the Indoor and Outdoor Environments
Group Time, Choice and Activity Time, Story Time, Toileting and Hand Washing
10:00 Morning Snack
12:00 Lunch and Tooth Brushing
Afternoon Nap/Rest Time
Wake Up, Quiet Time, Toileting and Hand Washing
Afternoon Snack
Explore Indoor and Outdoor Environments
Read Stories or Quiet Play
5:30 Classroom Closes/Have a Good Evening
All Classroom Schedules are subject to change depending on the needs and interests of the children in the class.

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

Parents/guardians are a vital part to our program. We expect you to be an active part in your childâ??s Center through a variety of ways. Children enjoy having a parent work in the classroom and the opportunity to share experiences with them. It gives you an opportunity to see your child interact with his/her peers and learn who his/her friends are. Through your participation in the classroom, you will also learn from our Center Staff on different strategies for conflict resolution and how to support childrenâ??s learning. We ask that all parents who volunteer receive a TB test and write a self declaration of good health for our records. We want our children and staff to be safe while in the program.

The Parent Advisory Committee Meetings are held monthly at the Center or another location on campus. This is a time when Center information and events are shared, a professional may do a parent training, fund-raising events are planned and it is an opportunity to network with the other parents in the program. All parents are invited and encouraged to participate during these PAC Meetings. Please attend these meetings and make it a practice that will continue through your childâ??s educational years.

The UC Merced ECE Center Advisory Committee is a committee that convenes quarterly or as needed throughout the year with a number of parent representatives from the Center. In addition to the parents, there will be UCM staff and faculty, as well as representatives from local community programs. These parent representatives are appointed at the beginning of the program year at the Centerâ??s first parent meeting. The parents who are appointed will advise on issues related to the families and children who attend the ECE Center and bring back the information to the PAC Meetings.


Separation is Handled through:

  • Pre-entry meetings with parents at school
  • Small group sessions
  • Parents in classroom early on

Handling Separation: From the Director

Each child is an individual and we will strategize with you at our orientation how to best meet the needs of your child.