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Group of young children making art from pinecones

The Center for Early Childhood Education is located on the Fort Hill campus of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. The center, commonly referred to as “Fort Hill,” offers full- and part-time early education and care for children from infancy through preschool, and is open to all children in the surrounding communities. The program provides exemplary early education and care for young children; offers a laboratory for research and fieldwork for college students and faculty; and supports the child care needs of families.

It is our vision that each child who comes through our door join a community of children, families and teachers engaged in the joy, work and wonder of childhood.


With a mission to provide exemplary early education and care for young children, we create and sustain a caring and respectful community dedicated to supporting the growth and development of each child. In such a cooperative and responsive community, differences are valued and all relationships are based on respect.

Central to our philosophy is the belief that emotional security and attachment to responsive and respectful adults provide the basis for learning. We view the learning process as a dynamic one that is enhanced by new ideas and a willingness to take intellectual risks while developing, testing and revising understandings. Guided by a deep respect for the potential of all young children, we recognize the individual development and personal strength of each child as they grow and learn within the context of their family and community.

We believe that children learn best through active exploration, experience, interaction, experimentation and modeling. We see the classroom environment as another teacher; each classroom design is carefully planned and may evolve throughout the year to meet the needs of the children. The teachers maintain a structure through routine, predictability, and consistency. Teachers are guides, observers and collaborators with children in their learning and discovery. They are also partners with parents and collaborators with one another.

Our core values

We value:

We value a dynamic, engaging, and aesthetically pleasing learning environment that encourages safe interactions between members of the community and invites interactions with materials.  The space is thoughtfully designed and materials are chosen with meaning and purpose. The environment is intentional and reflects beauty, joy, order, comfort, and appreciation for the natural world.  It is a relational space, where social and emotional expression is nurtured and communication is sustained.

Each member of the community is valued for his or her individuality and contribution to the group life of the school.  Relationships are characterized by genuine listening, compassion, and respectful communication.  We believe relationships are fundamental to teaching and to development.

We value a pace of daily living and learning that provides time for reflection and mindful awareness.  This pace should allow for learning from experiences, caring for each other, for our school community members, and for the natural world.  We strive to offer children unstructured time and space to engage in activities of their choosing at an unhurried pace.  We value children’s health and respect their natural rhythms. We support their healthy development by planning for time outside, sleep and/or rest and good nutrition.

Within a culture of inquiry and research, teachers actively engage in in-depth and ongoing professional activities to understand children’s thinking.  Teachers value listening, observation, and documentation as the basis of curriculum development.  Children are offered a wide variety of materials to express their theories and understandings and are supported in pursuing extensive investigations and explorations. 

We value the exchange with parents and colleagues that is stimulated when the everyday details of the lives of the children are shared.  Documentation fosters teachers’ and parents’ connections to the children and the school and encourages collaboration.  Documentation invites focused conversation, a deep level of exchange and a sense of community.

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”
Elizabeth Lawrence
Young boy playing in water from downspout

Contact Center for Early Childhood Education

Fort Hill
28 Lyman Road
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Phone: 413-585-3290 Email:

Director: Jennifer Godlesky

Assistant Director: Laurie DeMello

Office Coordinator: Lori McKenna