Kindergarten Program


What Makes the ECDC Kindergarten Unique

The ECDC Kindergarten program which began in 1978 was the first full day kindergarten in the South Bend Community.  The ECDC Kindergarten, located at ECDC-Notre Dame, has a degreed early childhood teacher who works with two other teachers with a combined teaching experience of 50 years who serve as facilitators/guides with 26 kindergarten children. The kindergarten room is housed in a state of the art early childhood facility as reviewed and awarded by the American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education and displayed in the 1995-96 Educational Facilities Review.

The spacious kindergarten room is framed by large windows overlooking the university campus. The combination of linoleum and comfortable carpet supports both complex creative art/sensory activities as well as quiet engagements. Learning centers are filled with the tools children need to learn, explore, create and discover, including art & writing supplies, building blocks, math/manipulatives, dramatic play props, computers and a rich and diverse classroom library.

Kindergarten Information Meetings – In November and January each year, ECDC hosts a Kindergarten Information Meeting for families to gather and learn more about the ECDC Kindergarten program that is located at ECDC-ND. At this information meeting the ECDC K lead teacher and a program administrator present the K’s philosophy, curriculum, daily schedule, registration process and include a tour of the K learning environment. After January, individual tours are provided to families interested in the ECDC Kindergarten.

The ECDC Kindergarten is open first to families enrolled in the ECDC-SMC and ECDC-ND preschool classrooms. If enrollment space is available, new to ECDC children/families affiliated to ND and SMC are enrolled followed by families from the public, if enrollment permits.

After ECDC Kindergarten – Children who complete Kindergarten at ECDC-ND move very successfully to various elementary schools in our community, including all of the 7 public school systems in our area (South Bend Community School Corporation, Penn Harris Madison, Mishawaka Schools, North Liberty, Edwardsburg, Buchanan, and Niles). Some families elect a parochial school for their children after ECDC including St. Joseph, Holy Cross, Corpus Christi or a private school including Good Shepherd Montessori GSMS, The Montessori at Edison Lakes or Stanley Clark School. Some of the public schools and parochial/private schools have deadlines for applications beginning as early as December the year before, such as SBCSC has December application due dates for their magnet schools. Families considering School Choice should visit the desired school system’s website to determine the application process for School Choice (applying for a school outside of your district/system). The ECDC executive director, Kari Alford, as well as the Kindergarten lead teacher, are available to meet with individual families to discuss the various elementary schools in our community as families begin to consider public, parochial and private schools. We also will provide families with contact information of other ECDC families who are willing to share about their child’s/family’s school experiences.

“ECDC provided a wonderful and welcoming environment for both our children. After a rocky move to the area, it has been the educational institution where they’ve both felt most at home, in fall, winter, spring….and summer. The teachers have appreciated our children for all their strengths and foibles, and have both challenged them intellectually and gently guided them socially and emotionally.

–Parent of 2 children who attend ECDC-ND

K​indergarten Curriculum

Project Approach Curriculum

The Project Approach Curriculum functions at the heart of the kindergarten program. The Project Approach is a method of teaching in which an in-depth investigation of a topic is conducted by the children and teachers. The study integrates learning across the subject areas, including, reading, writing, math, social studies, science, art, creative dramatics and movement.

The Kindergarten conducts several projects throughout the school year.

Quilt Study

As we come together as a new community, we begin our kindergarten journey with a study of quilts as objects of family history and tradition. Children share their family quilts, examine the patterns contained within these beautiful objects, identify shapes and colors, read quality children’s books about quilts and quilt making, and create several kinds of quilts, including, a name quilt, painting design quilt, family photograph quilt and an intricate fabric quilt depicting key kindergarten experiences.

Farm and Multicultural Markets Study

We examine how food is grown and harvested on a farm and prepared and sold at market. We explore multicultural markets in our city as we investigate different kinds of ethnic food traditions. We launch our study with a field trip to a local family farm. We conclude our project by constructing our very own kindergarten market at ECDC. During our kindergarten market, children experience the roles and responsibilities involved in the operation of a store.

“Fairy Tales Study”

Through our exploration of multicultural fairy tales, the children examine how a story is organized with a beginning, middle and an end, the development of story elements such as plot and character, and the meaning of the tale we construct as readers. We study many versions of the Cinderella story. The kindergartners create skits about our favorite versions of the tale that include sets, costumes and dramatic play.

“ECDC: Our School Study”

Our study includes an examination of our school building, the people who work at ECDC and the children of ECDC. The kindergarten children learn about architecture and construction as we explore the parts of the building, the use of shapes and signs in the design, and how the building is used by the adults and children of ECDC. They visit the activity rooms of the younger children at ECDC to determine how children grow and develop at school and interview teachers and administrators about their work. The kindergartners participate in community service activities for the children and teachers of the ECDC rooms that include toy making, storytelling and helping with classroom chores.

“The University of Notre Dame as Our Neighborhood Study”

We explore how the University functions as a community by visiting centers of campus life, such as the Hesburgh Library, the Golden Dome, a student dormitory and classroom. The children interact with college staff members, professors and students as they investigate the culture of ECDC’s neighborhood. The kindergarten engages in the construction of an elaborate model of the Notre Dame campus. This culminating activity is enhanced by the children’s visit to the School of Architecture, where they study how to design and construct buildings.

Experience Based Learning – Field Trips

Field trips, an integral part of the kindergarten curriculum, provide children with the opportunity to explore their environment, its people and materials. ECDC believes that through these hands-on experiences, children construct knowledge and develop academic skills. After returning to their kindergarten classroom from the field trip site, the children reflect on their experiences through discussions, reading, writing, math, block building and art activities. As the children work to make sense of their interactions with the environment, they begin to develop an understanding of their world. They are actively involved in the construction of knowledge.

Conscious Discipline

Conscious Discipline, a comprehensive classroom management and social emotional program, creates learning environments where children know, “Yes, I am safe,” and “Yes, I am loved.” From this foundation of safety and caring, children will begin learning how to solve conflicts, manage their emotions and take responsibility for their actions. Learn more about Conscious Discipline here.

Enrichment Opportunities:

Children have the opportunity to participate in special activities beyond their kindergarten program.

Parents may register children, for a small fee, for a series of Dance Classes each semester with Bonnie Baxter.

Through Gymnasts in Motion, parents may register, for a small fee, for a weekly gymnastics program. This supports gross and fine motor development, balance, and agility.

Theatre Performances
Field trips to community theatre may include The Nutcracker Ballet, Christopher’s Christmas, and other community performances.

Field Trips
Children participate in a variety of field trips in the community, which support their learning.

Special Visitors
Visit the activity rooms to share information and materials regarding topics of interest and topics of study. Special visitors may include storytellers, artists, musicians, writers, parents sharing a hobby or interest, individuals from another country sharing songs, games, traditions, clothing, toys and other aspects of their culture, firefighters, paramedics, police officers.

Special Activities
Music, creative dramatics and gardening/nature are integrated within the program.

Speech and Language Screenings
Speech and Language Screenings are provided once per year during fall semester by the Saint Mary’s College Speech and Language graduate students who also provide speech and language therapy at the ECDC program sites during the school year under the supervision of SMC faculty members.

Parenting Meetings
Family Enrichment Seminars entitled “Conversations About Everyday Life With Children” are offered throughout the school year. Meetings address specific topics related to child guidance, child development, and education with information and resources presented in the context of ECDC’s philosophy. Topics include sibling rivalry, morning and bedtime routines, mealtime struggles, establishing healthy eating, dealing with public tantrums, and insecurity and over-sensitivity.

Curriculum Night occurs in late September for parents at each ECDC program. Parents “virtually” spend time with their child’s teachers learning about the ECDC curriculum and learning goals for the School Year. This evening event for parents provides the opportunity to get further acquainted with the teachers and learn about the daily schedule, curriculum and program related topics as well as have their questions answered. 

School Readiness Resources / ECDC School Readiness Booklet share with parents the many ways the ECDC program supports a love of learning, school readiness for elementary school, and readiness for life.

Parent Teacher Conferences are scheduled two times per year, once in the fall and once in the spring. These 30 minute conferences provide families with one-on-one time with their child’s teacher to discuss their child’s progress.