The Program

The Child Study Center is a laboratory preschool for the Wellesley College Psychology Department

The CSC is open during the College's academic year, early September through the third week in May. Beginning in Fall 2021, the program hours in the Middle and Oldest Classrooms (3-4 and 4-5 year olds) are 8:30am-1:00pm on M/Tu/Th/Fr and 8:30-11:30am on Wednesdays. Families with children enrolled in the Youngest Classroom (2-3 year olds) may choose to enroll their child for the morning program only (8:30-11:30am) or opt-in for the 1:00pm pick-up time. There are three classes, one for two year olds, one for three year olds and one for four year olds. The age cut-off date is August 31st. Two-year-olds may come for two, three or five mornings per week. Three and four-year-olds come five days a week and stay until 1pm every day except Wednesday, which is an early release day (11:30am) for the Center. Preference is given to the children of Wellesley's faculty and staff, to siblings of children already attending, and the remaining spaces are open to the general community. The children are observed and participate in simple research projects, which are carefully monitored. Because of this research, an even number of boys and girls are enrolled in the morning program and a range of birth months within each class is preferred.


The Child Study Center provides a well-balanced, child-centered, emergent curriculum to preschool children. The curriculum seeks to nurture children's development in all four areas: social, emotional, cognitive and physical. To this end the school offers a modified open structured classroom concept in which the schedule, routines, staff, classroom activity areas and presentation of materials are highly structured to meet the needs of each developing child within the context of the whole group. The curriculum model is "open" in that children are provided free activity times in which they learn to make choices of areas that are of interest and/or need and to negotiate their way into and out of various subject areas. These curriculum areas are: sand, water, playdough, language arts, blocks, dramatic play, art, music, science and math. In addition to free activity times and outdoor play, the schedule includes group meeting times, snack times, and walks on campus. On extended days, the schedule also includes lunch time and rest time. The outdoor activities are considered to be equally important to the indoor and are carefully planned to support specific developmental goals for each child as well as the group as a whole. Each child's progress is noted daily by careful staff observations and future curriculum is planned accordingly.

Core Values

1) Preschool children learn through direct hands on experience using all of their senses: taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing. Thus, the curriculum must present a wide range of activities that include experiencing the stuff of the world (all sorts of animals, minerals and vegetables, like shells, leaves, flour, water, butterflies, wood, clay, and metal) as long as that stuff is safe.

2) Preschool children think differently from older people. They are concrete rather than abstract thinkers. They cannot understand fully about things that they cannot see, touch, feel, taste and hear in the present. Thus, it is most effective to show them tadpoles and frogs than to lecture to them about tadpoles and frogs.

3) Because preschool children are not abstract thinkers, they are just beginning to understand representation, such as a toy telephone represents a real telephone or a block can represent a hammer or a child can represent a daddy. Since they are just learning that some things can stand for (represent) other things, the curriculum must provide lots of practice in representation. This is known as pretend play or dramatic play. When a child can practice and learn that a toy red hat can represent a firefighter, then she can begin to understand that the alphabetic letter "B" stands for a sound in our language, "buh." Understanding representation is one of the most basic beginning reading skills.

4) All children develop along certain predictable timetables in all four areas, social, emotional, physical and cognitive. Yet each child is an individual and may be more or less advanced in each area. Thus the curriculum must offer open-ended experiences that children can learn from on many levels. For example, in blocks, one child might make an elaborate representational castle, while the next child simply lines up two blocks on the floor. Sand, water, playdough, dramatic play props, art materials, and music, for example, all offer opportunities for complex or simpler play, depending upon the child's development.

5) All children are individuals with their own backgrounds and constitutions. Each child has a particular history (family, medical, social, educational), birth order, culture (perhaps second language), set of strengths and challenges, needs and desires. A preschool must provide a curriculum that teaches to the "generic" 2, 3, or 4-year-old as well as to each individual child. For example, all 3-year-olds should learn to recognize and name the colors, but, in addition, Sammy might be particularly drawn to colors because his mommy is an artist. All 4-year-olds should be using language to communicate to others, but Alfredo might need particular instruction since his primary language is Italian.

6) Preschool children (all children) must feel and be safe in order to learn. Thus the curriculum must include clear expectations for behavior in which children treat materials, themselves and others with respect. Safety is not limited to looking for rusty nails or covering electrical outlets. The best safety is offered by a developmentally appropriate curriculum in a well-supervised classroom.

7) Directors and teachers must be able to express a clearly articulated philosophy of education according to these guidelines and to justify each activity according to its social, emotional, cognitive and physical benefits to development. In addition, since preschoolers are concrete (not abstract) thinkers, their classroom (and playground) itself is the curriculum. Therefore, teachers must be able to express their philosophy directly by how they plan the space (furniture, walls, yard) to be appropriate for young children's stages of learning.

8) Our curriculum conforms to the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) standards and NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) guidelines for diversity, developmental appropriateness, (including physical safety) and the most up-to-date research and teaching practices.