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Children's School

Frequently Asked Questions about our Elementary School

What is a lab school?
What is your philosophy?
How many classrooms are there?
What is the class size?
What is the curriculum? Do you have art, music, and language?
Do you follow state content standards? What about standardized testing and letter grades?
What’s the homework policy?
What are the school hours? What’s the daily schedule?
What happens at recess? Do students bring their own lunch?
What about after care?

What is a lab school?
Mills College Children's School is the oldest laboratory school on the West Coast and serves as an integral part of the School of Education's mission to prepare early childhood professionals and future elementary school teachers. We serve as a bridge between theory and practice for adult learners, provide quality care and education for children and create classroom learning environments that offer opportunities to research best practices in education. Our students have the benefit of Head Teachers who have Master's degrees or commensurate years of experience in the classroom, as well as Student Teachers preparing for careers in education. Students benefit from instruction by Head Teachers who take an inquiry approach to teaching and model reflective practice. Head Teachers are responsible for curriculum and instruction, while the presence of Student Teachers allows for small group instruction, with focused attention on teaching and learning for each individual student.

What is your philosophy?
MCCS is a progressive independent school with a constructivist model of education, a hands-on learning process which allows students to experience an environment first-hand, giving them reliable, trust-worthy knowledge. Everyone has a stake in the value of learning, with the result that each child is engaged at her or his own level of ability, challenged to take the next step, encouraged to make hypotheses and provided with the tools to test her or his ideas. Here, all learning is respected and celebrated and the students are teachers just as our teachers are learners. From our youngest infant learners to our fifth grade students, we strive to provide learning environments that foster autonomy, belonging and competence, where each student develops as a unique individual.

How many classrooms are there?
The Elementary School program currently has separate Kindergarten and First grade classrooms and two mixed-grade classrooms, 2/3 and 4/5. All of them serve students of different ages with a broad range of skills. In multi-age classrooms, children have ex¬panded opportunities to be both leaders and followers, to learn from and to teach one another and to develop a strong sense of community. Class configuration may shift in response to enrollment changes, so as to provide quality education for our learners.

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What is the class size?
We target 20 students. Small classes afford us the opportunity to get to know our students well, build strong relationships and provide project based learning experiences that foster targeted instruction to meet the needs of each learner.

What is the curriculum? Do you have art, music, and language?
In each of our classrooms, a myriad of instructional models are employed: workshop, centers, learning stations, along with direct instruction and project-based learning. Our teachers have the freedom to draw from multiple curricula—including Lucy Calkins, Write Source and Words Their Way for Language Arts; Japanese Math; Foss for science; and Responsive Classroom for social/emotional development—as well as to reach outside of these approaches and use different techniques as necessary for individual students or groups. We supplement our core curriculum with art, music, physical education and Spanish, each for one hour per week. We take advantage of the beautiful Mills College campus for PE, which includes use of the track field, or on rainy days, the campus gymnasium. In the spring, students swim at the Mills College Pool. Our music classes incorporate movement, percussion, xylophones and recorders.  

Do you follow state content standards? What about standardized testing and letter grades?

Student interest, teacher passion and State of California content standards form the basis of our curriculum mapping. We do not administer STAR assessments; instead, formative and authentic assessments inform our curriculum decisions. We offer teacher-parent conferences twice a year, along with narrative progress reports that convey a thorough description of each child's mastery of the different subject matters, without letter grades.

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What’s the homework policy?
Our primary goals for homework are to provide a home-to-school connection regarding academic content, to foster self-discipline and to make connections and extend learning. We value family togetherness and share your commitment to spending quality time at home, not inundated with homework. In 2011, we screened the "Race to Nowhere" film and invited the director to participate in a panel discussion with Children's School staff and professors from the School of Education. The experience reinforced our commitment to making homework manageable for students and their families. As a home-school connection, however, homework does have a purpose in helping parents know what their children are learning. Homework begins in K, where students are encouraged to read 30 minutes per night with their families and progresses to weekly packets in First Grade, daily homework in 2/3 and then long-term projects with periodic deadlines in 4/5. This progression gives children the opportunity to develop skills related to time management, planning and self-discipline.

What are the school hours? What’s the daily schedule?
The school hours are 8:30 am to 2 pm for K and 1 and 8:30 am to 3 pm for 2/3 and 4/5. All students get out at 2 pm on Wednesdays. Students have a 30-minute morning recess, including 10 minutes of snack time, and a one-hour lunch recess, including 30 minutes of eating. Weekly schedules for each classroom are displayed at our tours.

What happens at recess? Do students bring their own lunch? Our morning recess is supervised by a Head Teacher and all of the Student Teachers on the Elementary playground, while our lunch recess is overseen by the director of our after-care program, which is called School Age Care (SAC), along with a staff of Mills College undergraduate students. We have an expansive yard with a large lawn, basketball and tether ball courts, play structure, seesaw and sand-and-water play area. All of the grades come out to recess at the same time and it's a wonderful opportunity for a mix of ages to play together. In fact, we often see the older students taking the younger children under their wings, tying their shoes, taking them to the bathroom and playing tag together. Our SAC director, who is also our PE teacher, ensures that our children are developing gross motor skills while enjoying creative and cooperative play. There is always a structured game (capture the flag, Frisbee golf, basketball, etc.) offered at lunch time and our SAC director provides clinics, teaching specific skills, both physical and social, about how to play and include each other in play. Students bring their own snack and lunch to school. A hot snack is served to students who stay after school. Younger students (K & 1) eat their snack and lunch on the porch outside of their classrooms, while the older grades (2/3 & 4/5) sit at tables on the playground. On rainy days, students have recess in their classrooms and look forward to this free time with a variety of indoor activities and games.

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What about after care?
After school, our classrooms and yard convert to the School Age Care (SAC) program, which runs from 2 pm until 5:45 pm every day (see tuition sheet for pricing). Families have lots of flexibility with SAC. You can sign up for full time care—one hour a day, three times a week, whatever you need. It is also convenient to drop in or schedule at the last minute by emailing or phoning the office. During SAC, there are many play options made available, including structured games, open-ended creative play, fine-motor activities, Lego and block engineering, crafts and board games. We also offer 2-3 enrichment classes each semester, such as martial arts, cooking, Legos, chess, dance, drama and more, which parents can sign up for in addition to or instead of SAC. Student can get homework support in SAC, but we also believe that free play is important for children after a day of learning in the classroom.

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What is a Lab School?

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P: 510.430.2118
F: 510.430.3223
E: children@mills.edu

Last Updated: 10/1/14