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The Early Learning Center has proudly offered a kindergarten program since 2006. The program operates from the same philosophical base as the ELC preschool program with an emphasis on the individual child, play, and project-based learning, and the view that children are capable and competent learners. Within this framework, the curriculum is designed to integrate and meet the Tennessee State Standards for kindergarten programs and is licensed by the Tennessee Department of Education as a private kindergarten.

Melissa Westfall

Demonstration Teacher


How would you describe the ELC kindergarten?


The Early Learning Center kindergarten is a place where kids engage in rich, authentic, meaningful work. It is child-driven, intellectually challenging, and messy. We get out in the community, explore, ask questions, and share our findings with our school community. Our environment is relationship rich and our families are a huge part of the kindergarten year.
What are some of the things you enjoy most about teaching kindergarten here at the ELC?


  • Co-learning alongside the children through an emergent curriculum
  • The opportunity to be able to take walking trips around the community to explore our inquiries
  • The strong relationship with families and having our families be a part of our learning experiences
What makes the ELC different from other schools? Authentic curriculum, family and child focus, community-based, teacher education, and outdoor play are traits that set us apart from other schools. The ELC kindergarten differs from other kindergarten programs because we have an emergent, project-based curriculum. This allows us the freedom to explore what the children are inquiring about and learn kindergarten skills within that context.

We are family and child-focused—families play a huge role in what’s happening in the classroom. We are also centrally located on campus and close to downtown, which provides us fabulous opportunities to take walking trips whenever we’d like! We walk to the public library, downtown farmer’s market, events at the University of Tennessee, and events downtown. Exploring our community is a big part of the kindergarten year at the ELC.

Our other purpose is educating upcoming teachers in the Early Childhood program at UT. This means we often have college students working in our classrooms to learn about children and lesson planning. We typically have anywhere from three to five teachers in the classroom at a time. We also really value outdoor play and nature-based learning. Our children spend a great amount of time exploring outdoors—something that is rare elsewhere. In kindergarten, our children spend about 2 hours outside every day! This is where much of our curriculum stems from.

Links and Important Information 2021-2022 Kindergarten Calendar

Kindergarten Attendance Policy

Schedule: The official school day runs from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Children should arrive between 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. After-school care is available onsite from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. for an additional fee. The official school year lasts approximately nine and a half months from August through May. Transition visits occur at the beginning of the school year in August.

Kindergarten Open House: Virtually!

Due to the ongoing pandemic, in-person open houses are currently paused.
You can request a virtual tour by emailing