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UNF Preschool Background and History

The center has been in operation since 1975. UNF Preschool operates under the auspices of the College of Education and Human Services, here, at the University of North Florida. UNF Preschool is a year round program, nationally accredited by NAEYC, 5 star rated by Guiding Stars of Duval County and the proud recipient of the Gold Seal of Excellence by the Florida Department of Children and Families. The center has always been more than a day care or child care. It strives to provide high-quality education to young children ages, 2.5 to five years old in a safe, culturally diverse, and nurturing environment. Motivated to become the premier leader of early childhood education in Northeast Florida and center for early childhood teacher professional development, the UNF Preschool will follow a Reggio-inspired model of learning with a focus on STEAM education. Children will experience a high-quality project and play-based curriculum that cultivates literacy, numeracy, creativity, as well as the social and emotional skills necessary for the development of the whole child. The STEAM focus, includes hands-on nature experiences coupled with arts integration (visual arts, dance, drama, music and media arts) as important curricular components of the children’s daily learning experiences. This approach generates rich meaningful learning across disciplines within the classroom allowing young children to explore, question, research, discover, and develop innovative skills. These skills will lay the foundation for later success in school.


The program is open to the University of North Florida students, faculty, staff and general public. UNF Preschool promotes the cognitive, social and emotional, language and physical development of children through high level curricula, assessments and developmentally appropriate practices. Various options such as free Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) only, VPK wrap around and Part-time hours are available. Enrichment programs such as Spanish, Music and Happy Feet, which is a soccer based movement class are offered every semester.


The center also serves the University's academic community by allowing faculty members to conduct research. The research is more observational than intrusive in nature and usually focuses on the thinking processes of children. Moreover, this research is interdisciplinary in nature and involves various University departments and research projects. Furthermore, the Center also serves as a pre-internship site for its University students as well as students within its region. During summer, UNF Preschool continues to focus on the academic enrichment of children alongside an array of fun filled experiences such as water play days, mud day, picnics and on campus field-trips to the TV station, kitchen at the Café and library.


exterior of preschool

Mission of the Department

The mission of UNF Preschool is to provide high-quality school readiness and development programs for the children of UNF students, faculty, staff and the general public.

Purpose of the Department

The UNF Preschool's purpose is twofold:

  • Firstly, the Center provides children with a warm, accepting environment and meaningful experiences that encourage them to value and respect themselves, others and their world. It strives to help children develop self-worth, self-awareness, consideration for the welfare of others, an ethic of sharing, and a love of learning, while preparing them for their future academic endeavors.
  • Secondly, the Center provides the University a research and training site for students and faculty in Education and other majors. Students and faculty of UNF and partnering institutions use the Center for research, pre-internship work, observation, and volunteer opportunities for their coursework.

State Licensing

UNF Preschool is licensed by the State of Florida through the Department of Children and Families. Quarterly unannounced inspections of the center are conducted by DCF to ensure compliance with state standards, policies and procedures. Our program is licensed to care for 85 children. The center is accredited through National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and Guiding Stars of Duval.


Being NAEYC and Guiding Stars of Duval accredited the center maintains a low student to teacher ratio than the one specified by DCF.

Teacher: Child ratios

NAEYC ratios: 1:10 for Preschool (2.5 year old to 5 year old)

GSOD ratios: 1:7 2year old, 1:10 3 year old, and 1:11 for 4/5 year old

DCF ratios: 1:11 2year old, 1:15 3 year old and 1:20 4 year old

UNF Preschool ratios: 1:9 for 2.5 to 3.5 year old and 1:10 for 3 to 5 year old


What does accreditation mean?

It means the center has voluntarily gone through a rigorous assessment process that determines how well the center meets the requirements for quality early childhood education.

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

NAEYC strives to raise the quality of education for all children from birth through age eight. Accreditation systems are a major part of NAEYC's efforts to improve early childhood education; they allow programs to provide the best learning experiences for young children and their educators by meeting national standards of quality. Our preschool is accredited by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children). This means we are providing your children the highest possible early childhood education available. The center must meet 10 standards and over 400 criteria to achieve accreditation. A major indicator of high quality is the teacher student interaction. The physical environment, curriculum, health and safety and administration are some of the other areas assessed.

Guiding Stars of Duval

The Early Learning Coalition of Duval created a voluntary quality improvement and rating system called Guiding Stars. This rating system was created 10 years ago to help parents locate quality child care and preschool centers and to encourage providers to train themselves to better prepare youngsters for kindergarten. Preschool and child-care providers have to improve because more is expected of children before they enter kindergarten than was expected 10 years ago. The UNF Preschool extends their learning and helps them to think and make decisions. Not only do they know their colors, letters, and shapes, they also excel in early reading and they grasp most literacy skills for their age; understanding the plots of stories, characters, beginning sounds and ending sounds of words, even hearing syllables. Social skills are a big part of being successful in school, we also teach them how to make decisions, take ownership of their actions and to be aware of others.


Guiding Stars of Duval has awarded our facility the highest score available of 5 stars. This is an affirmation of our hard work and dedication in providing children the highest standards and quality of education. Helping children be prepared for school, as well as providing a safe, healthy and happy environment is our top priority.

Gold Seal Quality Care Program

UNF Preschool is a Gold Seal Quality program. Licensing standards established using the Florida Statutes and the Florida Administrative Code are the "minimum" standards that a child care facility, family day care home or large family child care home must meet in order to be licensed or registered. Child care programs accredited by an accrediting agency approved to participate in the Gold Seal Quality Care Program meet additional standards promoting quality in their programs. The Department of Children and Families Child Care Program Office is responsible for approving accrediting agencies for participation in the Gold Seal Quality Care Program. To be approved, accrediting agencies must substantially meet or exceed standards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation Commission (NECPA), or the National Association of Family Child Care (NAFCC). The Gold Seal Quality Care Program does not contain a set of independent standards; rather, it is a level of care that exceeds the minimum licensing standards by meeting the higher standards set by the accrediting agencies in statute. The DCF Child Care Program Office is tasked with ensuring that the accrediting agencies approved for participation are of sufficient variety to meet the needs of all child care providers (i.e., faith-based, school-age, Montessori, school-based, private, etc.). The DCF Child Care Program Office is also responsible for recognizing each program that meets these additional standards by issuing a Gold Seal certificate. The Gold Seal Quality Care Program is a voluntary program with potential benefits of participation including, but not limited to: a positive marketing tool for parents, sales tax exemption, VPK eligibility and an increased reimbursement rate for children participating in school readiness programs.


little boy making macaroni art

little boy making biscuits



In our continued effort to provide the best quality of care and education to children, UNF preschool provides a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon snack. we have partnered with Chartwells, UNF's Catering Company to provide freshly prepared snack on a daily basis for our students twice a day. We feel that by partnering with Chartwells we are able to provide a wider variety of healthy and nutritious snack options. The children love the wide variety of foods such as hummus, guacamole, granola, seasonal fruits, apple sauce etc. to name a few.

School Readiness provider

The School Readiness Program offers financial assistance to low-income families for early child education and care so families can become financially self-sufficient and their young children can be successful in school in the future. To learn about eligibility criteria and find out more, contact your county's early learning coalition. You can also call the Child Care Resource and Referral Network toll-free at 1-866-357-3239. Parents are responsible for paying any difference in tuition that is not covered by subsidies.

Child Care Aware of America®

Child Care Aware® of America is a national membership-based non-profit organization working to advance affordability, accessibility, development and learning of children in child care. It provides information, referrals, tools and resources to families seeking child care nationwide. MILITARY FEE ASSISTANCE: Child Care Aware® of America operates a Fee Assistance Program that serves Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps families. If you have a valid state license and annual licensing inspection, you may be eligible to participate in the program. Parents are responsible for paying any difference in tuition that is not covered by subsidies. For further information please visit their website at Child Care Aware® of America.


VPK is a federal program run by the state. The program provides families with free early education for their children to prepare for kindergarten. Children are not required to attend VPK, attendance is on a voluntary basis only. Children must live in Florida and be 4 years old on or before Sept. 1 of the current school year to be eligible. If their fourth birthday falls Feb. 2 through Sept. 1 in a calendar year, parents can postpone enrolling their child in VPK that year and wait until the following year when their child is 5. Parents can choose from different educational settings and various program options. Private childcare centers, public schools and specialized instructional services providers offer VPK.