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About the Center

Student drawing from still life root

The Smith College Center for Early Childhood Education at Fort Hill offers full- and part-time early education and child care in Northampton for children infancy through preschool. The program enrolls approximately 80 children, about half of whom are affiliated with Smith College.

The mission of the program is to provide exemplary early education and care for young children; to offer a laboratory for research and fieldwork for college students and faculty; and, to support the child care needs of families.

Smith College students participate in the program in a variety of ways. Students work directly with children as members of classroom teaching teams through Student Financial Services, and complete observations and field work for courses in the departments of education and child study, psychology, art, engineering and the landscape studies program.

The facility, completed in August 2005, is located at Fort Hill on Lyman Road, about a half-mile from the center of Northampton, Massachusetts.

The teachers at Fort Hill are dedicated and responsive to children’s individual and group needs and work collaboratively with parents to develop a community of learners. Teachers thoughtfully plan the classroom environments and the curriculum is child-centered, emerging from children’s interests and based on a deep respect for children’s potential.

Admission is open to children two months to five years of age. Smith College employees receive priority in admission. 

Application Deadline
February 14

Licensed Capacity
The program is licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care.

  • Infant/ IT mixed: 7/8
  • Toddler: 9
  • Preschool: 54
  • IT mixed: 9
  • TP mixed: 10
  • Total capacity: 90

Age is determined by age at the start of the program. 

  • Infant: two months–15 months
  • Toddler: 15 months–two years and nine months
  • Preschool: three years old by December 1 to 4.11 years old

Teacher:Child Ratio

  • Preschool: 3:18
  • Infants: 3:7
  • Toddlers: 3:9

Classrooms are taught by a supervising teacher and one or two teachers. The program is supported by studio teachers in visual arts and music and by two rotating assistants who substitute when teachers are absent. The administration includes a director, assistant director and office coordinator. Smith College students participate in the program in a variety of ways. 


  • Academic-year: August-May, 40 weeks 
  • Summer: June-August, 10-week program (enrollment is open to children enrolled for an academic year)

Enrollment and Schedule Options
Enrollment is for the entire academic-year or summer session. Payroll deduction is available to Smith employees. Full-time enrollment receives priority.

  • Preschool: three-, four- or five-day enrollment, 8 a.m. arrival, option for 12:45, 2:45, 4:45 p.m. departure. 
  • Infant/Toddler: three-, four- or five-day enrollment, 8 a.m. arrival, option for 2:45 or 4:45 p.m. departure.

Children are placed in classrooms at the beginning of the academic-year and remain in the same classroom for the year. To the greatest extent possible, children remain with a familiar teacher for three years in the infant/toddler program.

Tuition Grants for Smith Employees
Benefited Smith employees are eligible for a tuition grant through the Office of Human Resources.

Tuition Rates
Tuition is determined by age at the start of the program. Tuition category (i.e., infant, toddler, or preschooler) applies for the academic year and the summer following that year. View our tuition rates.

The center follows the Smith College administrative calendar. The program also closes for the college spring recess in March and closes periodically for professional activities. There is a two-week closing in August between the end of the summer program and the beginning of the academic-year.


Admission Priorities

  1. Siblings of presently enrolled Smith children (siblings are defined as children concurrently attending CECE)
  2. Children of new Smith-affiliated families (Smith affiliation is defined as follows: at least one of the child's parents is a benefited faculty or staff member at Smith College, whether full or part-time) 
  3. Siblings of presently enrolled community children
  4. New community families


Reenrollment Placement Priorities

  1. Presently enrolled children of Smith-affiliated families (see above for definition of Smith-affiliated)
  2. Children of new Smith-affiliated families
  3. Children of presently enrolled community families


Other Admission/Reenrollment Placement Priorities

  • Full-time schedule requests have priority over part-time requests
  • Specific day requests within a part-time schedule will only be accomodated as space allows
  • Admission/reenrollment of non-Smith families to the Infant/Toddler Program does not guarantee placement for a subsequent year in the Infant/Toddler Program
The Fort Hill building in 1907

The Center for Early Childhood Education developed from separate preschool, infant/toddler and extended-day programs. The preschool program began in 1926 when Smith College President William Allan Neilson established the Smith College Nursery School as a cooperative school to provide educational opportunities for Smith graduate students. The preschool program was a half-day program until the early 1990s when an afternoon “extended-day” program was established to accommodate the increasing need for child care services. An infant/toddler program was developed in 1992 to provide childcare services for Smith faculty and staff.

In 2003, in response to a campus-wide Child Care Study Committee report, the Preschool Program, the Infant/Toddler Program and the Extended-Day Program formed the Smith College Center for Early Childhood Education to provide continuity for children, families, and staff.

The program currently enrolls about 80 children, infants through preschoolers, in seven classrooms. The mission of the program is to provide exemplary early education and care for young children, to offer a laboratory for research and fieldwork for college students and faculty, and to support the child care needs of families.

The program has been located on Lyman Road since 1964. Fort Hill refers to the land where English settlers offered shelter to the local Nonotuck Indians when the latter were attacked by Mohawk Iroquois Indians from the West in 1664, a decade after the English town was founded. No archaeological evidence of the fort has ever been found.

Fort Hill Facility

The program moved from the historic home and apartments on the site to a new facility in August of 2005. The building was designed to provide an environment that offers opportunities for interaction between and among teachers, children and parents. The transparency of the doors and windows extends an invitation to encounters with the playgrounds and with the interior environments and members of the community.

The building program, conceptual floor planand exterior were designed by Kuhn Riddle Architects. The detailing, engineering and construction were by O’Leary Company and the interior finishes were selected and coordinated by the interior design firm of Lukas Design Interiors.

There are three adjoining preschool classrooms, an infant room and three adjoining toddler rooms. The spaces are designed to offer opportunities for encounters and interactions. The interior doors are glass and many windows provide views to the outside. There is a main “Common” where groups gather for gross motor activities and block play, a smaller Common in the infant/toddler wing for more intimate gatherings, and a studio that supports extended investigations and explorations with materials.

Two fenced playground areas were developed in collaboration with Smith College faculty and students. The playgrounds include structures and equipment as well as a naturalized landscape that reflects the history of the site.


The outside space at Fort Hill is carefully designed and is an integral part of the program. Every classroom has access to the playground; the infant/toddler classrooms have a space designed especially for our youngest children and the preschoolers have a space for more challenging experiences. Children go outside every day—rain or shine! Our motto is the Norwegian adage “There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!”

The playgrounds feature plantings and stones, tricycle paths, gazebos, swings, sand, climbers, musical instruments, and spaces for reading and quiet activities. Large lawn areas leave room for spontaneous and cooperative games and parachute play.

The Playground Project began in the spring of 2005 when a committee was formed to plan for developing the playgrounds at the new facility. The committee, which included parents, teachers and Smith faculty members, worked with Denig Design Associates to plan a playground that reflects the rich history of the Fort Hill site and combines structures with naturalized elements.

The gardens in the playgrounds are developed and maintained by Smith College students participating in the Praxis internship program. Smith students have worked closely with the Botanic Garden and Fort Hill staff to implement landscape architect Nancy Denig’s (Smith ’68) design and to bring their own creativity to the site.

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