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UNF Preschool - children playing on a playground

Our Mission

Mission of the Department

A child-centered, inquiry-based lab school for curious preschoolers to wonder, explore and construct the knowledge, skills and dispositions to thrive in the 21st century and learn together in an intellectually stimulating, nurturing and creative environment 

Purpose of the Department

The UNF Preschool's purpose is twofold:

 

  • Firstly, the UNF Preschool provides children with a warm, responsive environment and meaningful learning experiences that encourage them to value their ideas and theories and to respect themselves, others and their world.  The lab school strives to nurture curiosity and help children develop the 6 C’s of 21st century learning: creative thinking, critical thinking, communication skills, collaboration, content and confidence.

  • The UNF Preschool is a lab school and provides a research and training site for the University's academic community including students and faculty in Education and other majors. Students and faculty of UNF and partnering institutions use the UNF Preschool for research, observations and volunteer opportunities for coursework. The goal of research conducted at the preschool is to ultimately benefit the children who attend.  Some research examples include a series of observations focused in a particular area and/or the implementation of specific instructional strategies or protocols.  Furthermore, the lab school serves as a pre-internship and internship site for the early childhood teacher candidates.

 

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.

Philosophy

The UNF Preschool embraces a Reggio-Inspired philosophy. The image of each child as competent, creative, resourceful, full of ideas, theories and questions is at the heart of all the decisions we make.  Children engage daily in an inquiry and play-based program that nurtures curiosity and honors individual children’s theories and questions as they engage in meaningful project work that cultivates the 6 C’s of 21st century learning: critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration, content and confidence.  In addition, children will simultaneously build literacy, numeracy, science, SEL skills and more.  The focus of our program is on the development of the whole child. The teacher follows a pedagogy of listening to support and scaffold children’s learning. STEAM learning, includes a focus on science, technology, engineering and math and art.  Children will be encouraged to develop, communicate and learn using “one hundred languages”.  This hands-on approach generates rich meaningful connections across disciplines within the classroom encouraging young children to explore, question, research, discover, and develop innovative skills. These skills will lay the foundation for later success in school and in life. The program is open to the University of North Florida students, faculty, alumni, staff and general public. UNF Preschool promotes the cognitive, social and emotional, language, and physical development of children through engaging curricula, authentic assessments and developmentally appropriate practices. 

In addition, the teachers intentionally arrange their classroom environments to function as a third teacher in the classroom.  The classroom environment sparks curiosity, fosters a sense of agency and facilitates connections across disciplines.  This approach to learning is focused on supporting children to develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions for children to become life-long learners successful in school and in life.

UNF 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 thepremier 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.