UCI Campus Child Care History
Child care has been part of the UCI campus almost since it’s inception, with Verano Preschool opening up in student housing in 1969, just 4 years after the campus opened. As the student, staff, and faculty population grew, so did the need for quality child care on campus, and the UCI Children’s Center, another preschool program, opened in 1972. The UCI Extended Day Center, which serves school-age children, opened in 1978 to serve children of student families, and then expanded into a new building in 2002, where enrollment increased and faculty and staff families were able to be served. The UCI Infant Toddler Center opened in a small building in 1980 to serve children of staff, faculty, and students, expanded in 2004, and then expanded again in 2015 into a new modular building that could serve more families. In 1989, the Early Childhood Education Center opened to serve additional preschool children of students, staff, faculty, and the community, as well as to house our administrative office.
UCI Child Care Services seeks to provide excellent early care and education to children from infancy through elementary school-age whose parents are staff, faculty, or students at UCI, or who are members of the surrounding community. Children will be cared for in nurturing and engaging environments that promote healthy relationships, compassion, creativity, a lifelong love of learning, and a genuine appreciation for diversity. We are committed to keeping abreast of current research in early care and education and incorporating this into our practice, as well as providing a hands-on learning environment that allows undergraduate students to seek employment and internship experiences at our centers.
We value early childhood as a unique time of learning and growth. We believe that children are competent and curious learners, full of their own knowledge and potential, and interested in connecting to the world around them. Through their deep connection with teachers and other children, we want children to feel safe, loved, respected, and valued, and to develop into healthy, compassionate, community-minded, and creative individuals. We value children’s play as a way for them to practice and reinforce their learning throughout the day and understand the importance of the scaffolding that happens with teachers and peers.
We embrace each family as a welcomed member of our child care community. We seek to appreciate and understand the diversity each family brings, and recognize the critical role that parents play as their child’s first teacher. We believe in open and respectful communication and interactions with families, and welcome, encourage, and support families to contribute to the life of their child’s program.
We value an environment where children are supported in their desire to explore, and in their eagerness to take on new challenges. We believe children should have access to materials and experiences in both the indoor and outdoor classroom that promote a sense of joy and wonder, and that support their urges to feel empowered and competent. We value a constructivist approach to learning that takes a holistic view of the child and appreciates that each child has a unique learning style. We believe that an emergent and interest-driven curriculum will help children to be intellectually curious, skilled problem-solvers, collaborators, and critical thinkers.
We value the varied experiences and diverse backgrounds of our teaching staff and seek to support teachers and directors in their quest for current knowledge and in their growth as professionals. We value collaboration among teachers and understand that mentoring and sharing resources is how we learn most effectively. We seek to nurture and encourage our staff in their journey as individuals and early care and education professionals and appreciate the passion, commitment, and joy that they bring to their jobs.
UCI Child Care Services has developed a curriculum framework that aligns with our guiding values and constructivist approach to learning and incorporates three critical elements into our teaching: the Outdoor Classroom, Mindfulness, Empathy and Compassion, and Anti-Bias Education.
At all of our centers, we design and maintain a rich and nurturing natural environment and provide children with ample space and time for exploration. We recognize the important social, emotional, cognitive, and physical benefits that children gain from being outside and strive to provide them with as much time as possible to interact with nature. We commit to fostering a sense of wonder about nature and encourage stewardship by giving children opportunities to care for living things.
We develop trusting relationships with children and their families, and both model for and teach children how to show kindness and compassion toward others. We take the time to be fully present with children, which allows them to feel genuinely listened to and understood and helps them to gain self-awareness and self-regulation skills. We use mindfulness practices to help children increase positive emotions and healthy coping skills and reduce stress and anxiety.
All of our centers are committed to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We exercise the four core goals of Anti-Bias Education (identity, diversity, justice and activism) in every element of our daily practice and incorporate them into developmentally and contextually appropriate curriculum plans. We treat all children with respect and nurture their development of a positive cultural and social identity. We serve families with equity and learn about and celebrate their unique cultures and traditions.
UCI Child Care Services is committed to hiring and retaining career teachers who are highly qualified, well-trained, and committed to the field of early care and education. All full-time staff holds a Child Development Permit issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and are certified in Pediatric First Aid and CPR. Teachers participate in ongoing professional development in order to enhance their skills, deepen their knowledge, and keep them abreast of current research and practices in the field of early care and education.
Teacher assistants are full-time students at UCI who come from diverse academic backgrounds but share an interest in working with children. They are an integral part of all of the centers and bring a diverse perspective into the classroom. All of the centers also provide internship and fieldwork opportunities through several majors on campus, as well as through local community colleges.
The Early Childhood Education Center and Verano Preschool are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which administers the largest and most widely recognized accreditation system for all types of early childhood schools and child care centers
Programs accredited by NAEYC have voluntarily undergone a comprehensive process of internal self-study and external professional review, ensuring they meet the following criteria:
- Frequent, positive, warm interaction among teacher and children
- Planned learning activities appropriate to children’s age and development, such as reading stories, block building, painting, dress-up, and active outdoor play
- Specially trained teachers and administrators
- Ongoing professional development
- Enough adults to respond to individual children
- Many varied age-appropriate materials
- Respect for cultural diversity
- A healthy and safe environment for adults and children
- Inclusive environments
- Nutritious meals and/or snack
- Regular, two-way communication with families who are welcome visitors at all times
- Effective administration
- Ongoing, systematic evaluation
Three of our centers (Infant Toddler Center, Verano Preschool, and Children’s Center) participate in Quality Stars, which is a part of QualityStart OC, a community partnership led by the Orange County Department of Education. Quality Stars helps to support early learning teachers and programs by giving them the tools and resources they need to create a safe, high-quality learning environment for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Our participating centers receive teacher training and coaching, feedback on environment and teacher interactions, and a rating, based on a scale of 5 stars, so that parents know that our programs are committed to providing the best possible learning environment for children.
Outdoor Classroom Project
The UCI Extended Day Center is an Outdoor Classroom Demonstration Site. The Outdoor Classroom Project is an initiative of the Child Educational Center in La Canada, whose premise is that most activities that can be done indoors can also be done outdoors. In programs that employ an outdoor classroom philosophy, children spend substantial periods of time outside, and it is easy and safe for them to get there; they are free to move easily between the indoors and outdoors. While outside, children frequently have the opportunity to initiate their own learning experiences and activities, with teachers available to support them. The outdoor curriculum evolves from and changes with children’s changing needs and interests, and children experience nature in as many ways as possible.
The Outdoor Classroom Project Demonstration Site Network is a group of programs of early care and education that voluntarily maintain a mutually agreed-upon set of standards developed by the Outdoor Classroom Project for the purpose of promoting and supporting the Outdoor Classroom philosophy and practices. By participating, programs agree to receive visitors to their programs to observe their unique implementation of the Outdoor Classroom in action.
Nature Explore Classroom
The UCI Extended Day Center is a certified Nature Explore Classroom. The Nature Explore Classroom Certification Program is a national initiative that recognizes schools that have made a commitment to providing outdoor classrooms and comprehensive programming to help children use the natural world as an integral part of learning. Certification requirements include well-designed outdoor spaces using the principles of the Nature Explore Classroom program, staff development which includes attending workshops related to nature education, and family involvement, which includes providing families with activities or materials designed to increase their awareness and involvement in nature education for young children.