Philosophy and Curriculum


We believe that children learn best through play and hands-on experiences.  This means celebrating who they are, rather than rushing them to get ready for the next classroom.

Our focus is therefore on forming caring relationships; creating a nurturing, home-like environment; and offering challenging, contextualized learning experiences while we support the social and emotional development of each child in a group setting.

Our continuous goals include: 

  • Supporting professional development for staff, UH students, and the early childhood community.
  • Maintaining an authentic and rigorous program curriculum.
  • Maintaining a cohesive pedagogical stance that supports diversity and research-based practices.

Our program operates with just three universal rules consistent with our philosophy:

  • We take care of ourselves.
  • We take care of each other.
  • We take care of the things around us.

Our philosophy is present in our four principles of practice:

  • Be intentional
  • Be collaborative
  • Be personally relevant
  • Be reflective

Our philosophy is present in our Braided Curriculum: Ten interconnected content strands that focus on fundamental skills, concepts and values that address the whole child.


Young children are learning all the time and from all of their experiences. The question that teachers at the Center address is:

How, when, and in what ways should and can teachers facilitate this natural process?

Teachers use their knowledge of child development, pedagogy and curriculum, as well as skills in observation and assessment to thoughtfully plan curriculum and design the program. The Children’s Center focuses on the whole child and provides a variety of experiences.

Building upon children’s interests and motivation, as well as their own passions, teachers plan a wide range of experiences. Teachers nurture curiosity, help children understand the world, and develop positive feelings towards learning. The better young children know, appreciate, and understand their physical and social environment and themselves, the better they will be able to respect and care for themselves and others.

At an age appropriate level, every child experiences curriculum designed to develop:

  • Independence in caring for him/herself
  • Physical skills and coordination
  • Social skills and relationships with other children
  • Positive self-concept and confidence
  • Oral and written language and communication skills,
  • Thinking and problem-solving skills; and,
  • Creative means to express ideas.

The Ongoing and Spontaneous Curriculum

The Children’s Center features two approaches to curriculum planning. The ongoing and spontaneous curriculum is what happens on a day-to-day basis. Teachers arrange the learning environment based on their observations of children in relationship to the developmental domains stated above. Learning centers will very often have similar kinds of equipment regardless of the age group. However, based upon their observations of the children, teachers create new challenges and opportunities by adding to and changing the materials in the classroom and on the playground. Toddler teachers might notice an interest in collecting bugs and start a terrarium. Sometimes, teachers will observe children reaching a developmental milestone. Teachers of 4-year-olds might observe that children are experimenting with letters in the writing center and will provide “special words” or include children in generating a shopping list for a cooking activity. The spontaneous and on-going curriculum emerges along with children’s interests and budding abilities. This is very important in all programs, but forms the core of the Children’s Center program for 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds.

Thematic Curriculum

In our 3- through 5-year-old programs, teachers also organize learning activities around themes and long-term inquiry. Older preschoolers are able to sustain interest in a topic over several weeks and are hungry for more in-depth information and exploration. When teachers observe that children are interested and ready for more long term explorations, thematic curriculum is added to the on-going and spontaneous curriculum.

Thematic planning involves selecting a topic and organizing appropriate learning activities around the concepts or skills to be developed. Teachers may choose to study something the children are interested in. They might also decide that a theme such as “family” is important and will be able to generate interest in the children.

Depending on the topic, a theme can be integrated into learning centers or small and large group activities. For instance, if “family” is the theme, books about families might be added to the library, a family member matching game to the manipulative center, or various kitchen and home props to the pretend play area. Group time activities might include songs about the members in different families or the jobs family members have at home, putting together a book of pictures from home featuring each child’s family, or inviting a parent to share a favorite dinner recipe.

Very often, teachers in the older children’s classrooms will plan and organize experiences around both the thematic curriculum and the ongoing and spontaneous discoveries of the children. Regardless of whether teachers are focusing on the ongoing and spontaneous curriculum or adding thematic curriculum to the way they organize learning, curriculum is always planned with the goal of fostering children’s development in all areas.