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The Early Learning Center for Research and Practice 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.


Kindergarten Calendar

Kindergarten Attendance Policy

Kindergarten Information Website

Program Application

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.

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. Aftercare 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.

Deposit and Tuition:

The kindergarten deposit amount is $900 per child, due by the acceptance deadline in an enrollment offer. These funds serve as a security deposit for both parties: families are guaranteed enrollment for their child and the ELC acknowledges the family’s serious intent to enroll. Families who fail to follow through on enrollment as expected for any reason forfeit all deposit monies. Families who follow through on enrollment and have maintained all tuition and fee payments throughout the school year will be eligible for a full transfer of deposit monies to their final account balance.

Monthly tuition is $900 for the school day. Aftercare is available from 3:00-5:30pm at an additional monthly cost of $200.