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Hanna Fenichel Center for Child Development

336-340 N. Acacia Ave.
Solana Beach, CA 92075-9207

(858) 755-0860


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Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

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

Quality of Teaching

Individualized Teaching: From the Director

Due to our low student to teacher, our teachers are able to work with individual children and small groups of children paying close attention to children's interests, challenges and strengths. Through careful observation and documentation, teachers are able to plan classroom and outdoor activities accordingly.

Day in the Life

General School Mission

The Hanna Fenichel Center is named in memory of Dr. Hanna Fenichel, a psychoanalyst and educator known for her work in the field of early child development and for her association with The School for Nursery Years in Los Angeles. The Center was founded in 1975 by the San Diego Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. Members of the Institute continue to participate on the Board of Trustees and provide support to the Center.

The school has been endorsed and its philosophy is based on a distinguished group of international professionals in early childhood development including: Erik Erikson, Rudolph Ekstein, Ph.D., Anna Freud, Merton Gil, M.D., and Ralph R. Greenson, M.D.

The Hanna Fenichel Center for Child Development offers educational programs planned and structured to meet the developmental needs of the whole child. We recognize the equal importance of cognitive, social, emotional, and physical growth to the well being of the young child. Utilizing this philosophy, the teachers, parents and school consultants work together to provide a climate for enhancing the innate developmental potential in each child.

A Typical Day

Young children learn by doing, therefore our curriculum is partly determined by the child's own interests. Learning is also expressed as exploring in order to discover personal meaning. To encourage this behavior, teachers initiate activities that are designed to expand children's interests. Teachers are also responsible for asking stimulating questions and for supplying information, materials and guidance. The Center provides children an opportunity to investigate and use a wide variety of educational materials. The school curriculum includes:

Creative Art
Dramatic Play
Science and Mathematics Experience
Conversation Time
Children’s Literature
Poetry, Puppets, Finger Play
Outdoor Play
Field Trips

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

Teachers communicate with families through regular newsletters and photo documentation that is sent via email. All classrooms have email accounts so that parents and teachers can communicate at any time. Additionally, parent teacher conferences are formally held twice a year but parents are encouraged to meet with teachers any time they have questions or concerns. Children's learning is documented by teachers in Student Portfolios (3-5 yr olds), a collection of recorded obervations, conversation and student work that is available both to the children and to the parents to review periodically. The center also produces an all-school newsletter three times per year.
Parent Education is a large component of the center beginning in our Parent and Toddler program. A Parent Educator provides support, guidance and education throughout the school year. We have an active Parent Education Committee that plans 4-5 evening lectures yearly.

Parents Say They are Encouraged to:

  • Sit on the board of trustees
  • 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
  • Parents in classroom early on

Handling Separation: From the Director

All newly enrolled children are visited in their home by their teachers prior to starting in the classroom strengthening the home school connection and allowing the children to begin to develop a relationship with the child and the family. All new parents must attend a "New Parent Orientation" meeting prior to the school year where school procedures and policies are reviewed. The orientation meeting is a mix of social acitivities and school business.
Parents walk their children into the classrooms daily building strong parent-teacher relationships. When children see their parents enjoying a relationship with their teachers, and see that their parents enjoy being at school it naturally follows that the children feel comfortable and happy to be at school.