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Mills College Children's School

5000 MacArthur Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94613

(510) 430-2118


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Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

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

From the Director:

We offer a Reggio Emilia-inspired approach where children often are found engaged in long-term projects. Children are encouraged to participate and contribute to a communal approach in order to share and build knowledge. There are daily group times, as well, with a more teacher-led format.

Curriculum & Teaching Approach

Learning Philosophy & Tools

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

More Information

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

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  • Puzzles
  • Many manipulative toys, daily cooking projects.
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
  • A beautiful campus to explore; it includes creeks, woods, bridges, a cemetery, and hills.
Music more

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  • Musical instruments
  • Many recordings of music from around the world.
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
  • A large college campus with a creek, vast lawns, and wooded trails.
Other subjects taught Our emphasis in creating curriculum is based on John Dewey's child-centered approach. There is a delicate balance between teacher-initiated and child-driven ideas and interests.

From the Director:

By providing a Reggio-inspired setting, we believe we have found a near perfect balance of giving children the freedom to inquire and explore, as well as providing focus on projects and in-depth learning.

Quality of Teaching

Individualized Teaching: From the Director

Our philosophic and spoken approach is to recognize that we are all unique, with unique strengths and 'tools'. We model inclusion by including the children in our problem solving.

Day in the Life

General School Mission

Children are respected as rich and competent people who will flourish in an appealing environment and learning community. Active learners, they utilize language, physical activity, symbolic play and representation, and social experience to construct their understanding of the world around them.

Teachers prepare the learning environment to offer opportunities for the children to interact with objects and ideas that are developmentally appropriate and intellectually engaging. Children are encouraged to expand their understanding of the world, experiment with different learning styles and strategies, and to consider new perspectives in order to refine and expand their developing understanding.

In the Elementary School, our curriculum is guided by the California Department of Education's grade-level academic standards and curriculum frameworks. As the Children's School, we value and support social, emotional, cognitive and physical development of the whole child. A central goal of our practice is for each child to learn how to be a member of a community and to reflect on his or her place in relationship to the larger community of people, plants, and animals. This means understanding the rewards of working and playing in collaboration with others as well as being able to make the daily negotiations and compromises that collaboration requires.

Children thrive when they have stable, trusting bonds with important peers and adults. Families are of central importance to the development of each child, and their contribution to the learning process is fundamental. At the Children's School, teachers, parents, and children work interdependently to build a productive school experience and a caring community in which children feel safe, valued, and secure.

A Typical Day

Several activities are happening in the inside and outside environments simultaneously. Children have a chance to explore together, as well as to pursue individual interests. Teachers understand the multiple ways of learning and provide for all learning styles. There is a group time for all, which may include reading, singing and movement, story making, celebrations, and problem solving. Children help prepare nutritious snacks in both the morning and afternoon programs.

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

We hold two formal parent conferences each year, and meet with parents at other times as needs may arise; either the school or the parent may request a conference. As a laboratory school we display extensive photo and text documentation illustrating children's work and learning. There are classroom potluck parties, daily notices, a weekly school newsletter, semiannual journals, and arge boards which present both news and student work.

Parents Say They are Encouraged to:

  • Hold social events at the school to build community
  • Fundraise
  • Are required to make donations ourselves
  • 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:

  • Home visits by teachers
  • Pre-entry meetings with parents at school
  • Small group sessions
  • Extra staff dedicated to handle separation
  • Parents in classroom early on
  • Abbreviated schedule at start of school year

Handling Separation: From the Director

A home visit is scheduled before the start of school and the first days of school are limited to smaller groups. Parents are encouraged to develop a goodbye ritual and a variety of models can be followed. Family pictures are posted in each child's cubby and children are supported in talking about their families and dictating letters.