As young families consider the importance of the right preschool, let alone the right grade school and on up through college, some may want to consider enrolling their young explorers in a school filled with scientist parents.
As Erinn Levin, director of the Child Educational Center Preschool at Caltech, describes the 42-year old program as fundamentally child-centric.
“The CEC overall is a unique program in that it’s a child-centered program,” Levin said. “We focus on the needs of children, their interests, and our curriculum, and our programs are built around who the children are and also to support the needs of families.”
The CEC facility in Pasadena is actually a Caltech owned facility, said Levin. While the La Canada location serves infants through preschool aged children, the site in Pasadena is specifically for three to five-year-olds. It’s a preschool program, Levin explained.
As Levin told Pasadena Now, “A lot of our philosophy revolves around research that is based on children learning through play. If children are in well-developed and well-designed outdoor and indoor spaces that are developmentally appropriate, they will thrive, especially at that very young age.”
The CEC program is set up in two Craftsman bungalow-style houses in Pasadena, which fits into the whole Pasadena look, says Levin, who adds, “It’s a very sweet, home-like environment with an indoor set up — basically houses that are converted into children’s spaces with a very large backyard outdoor space that’s also set up as an outdoor classroom for children.”
The school is naturally proud of its longtime special relationship and history with Caltech and JPL. But as Levin explains, “While we prioritize enrollment for Caltech and JPL families, we are definitely open to the community.”
The Pasadena program has recently transformed from a cooperative model with volunteers, but as Levin explained, “We felt like it was time to provide a full day program for families modeled after our preschool program in La Cañada, we are here to serve families more fully with a full-day program for this age group.”
Levin added, “I think Pasadena could always use another play-based progressive school for young children with highly trained teachers educated in the field of child development.”
Like every other school campus in Pasadena, of course, the CEC has been closely watching and working to maintain the health of its staff and students.
“We stay very closely in touch with the department of LA County Public Health of course,” said Levin, “but also Pasadena Public Health, and we follow their guidelines as well as recommendations.”
The program has been following those guidelines since last spring at its location in La Cañada and, according to Levin, has had success in avoiding cases or “minimizing the impact of the virus, as much as possible.”
Levin noted, “It shows us that following the protocols and procedures is working to keep everybody safe. And we do have children over two years old who wear masks while they’re here with us, unless they’re eating but we’re very cautious about what is happening. We stay completely up to speed with what public health is recommending and we attend telebriefings at least every other week to be current with what we need to be doing to keep everybody safe.”
Thus, the school has been open for the fall semester since September 7, and Levin is clearly ready to let the community know it’s here.
“We have space!” says Levin, excitedly.
The center’s web page is now also operating, says Levin, allowing families an opportunity to find more information about the CEC along with a brief virtual tour with photos there.
“But,” emphasized an eager Levin, “Families can just call me directly here. I’m taking enrollment calls and inquiries personally. And we also are doing in-person tours as safely as we can. So families can see the program before they enroll their children.”