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In 1926, Smith College President William Allan Neilson established both the Smith College Nursery School and the Smith College Day School.  

The Nursery School opened with 15 students, many of them children of the Smith College faculty. It had been organized as a cooperative school by the Institute for the Coordination of Women’s Interests and provided educational opportunities for Smith graduate students. It became a part of the education department in 1928.  

For many years the two laboratory schools formed one school called the Smith College Campus School located on two sites of the Smith College campus: Gill Hall on Prospect Street housing the kindergarten through sixth grade program and Fort Hill on Lyman Road housing the preschool program.

The Campus School began offering full-day programs at the Fort Hill site in 1992 when an Infant and Toddler Program and an Extended-Day Program were established to provide childcare services for Smith faculty and staff.  Initially these programs were based entirely in the Fort Hill building. As the number of families utilizing the programs steadily increased, additional classrooms were added in adjacent buildings to accommodate the larger number of children enrolled.

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

A new facility was completed in August 2005 to house the early childhood program. The building has one classroom for infants, three classrooms for toddlers and three classrooms for preschoolers, as well as a visual arts studio, music studio, research lab, teacher workroom, two community rooms and a library. The playgrounds for the new facility were designed in collaboration with Denig Design Associates.

Our core values are based on the beliefs that:

  • Development is a dynamic process of genetic, environmental, social and biological processes interacting over time;
  • Knowledge is socially constructed; and,
  • Children are competent and strong and able to express their understandings and theories in many ways.

An environment that conveys respect for children and engagement in learning

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 are nurtured and communication is sustained.

Relationships as the basis for learning and development

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.

Time for reflection and mindful awareness of the present

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 and caring 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.

Collaboration among the children, families and teachers in our community 

Within a culture of collaborative inquiry and research, teachers actively engage in in-depth and ongoing professional activities to understand children’s thinking.  Teachers value listening, observation, documentation, and collaborative interpretation 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 collaborative investigations and explorations. 

Communication through documentation

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.

We strive to create and sustain a caring and respectful learning community dedicated to supporting the growth and development of each child. 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 openness to new ideas and willingness to take intellectual risks in the pursuit of knowledge. 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. In such a collaborative and responsive community, differences are valued and celebrated, and all relationships are based on respect.

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 researchers, guides, observers and collaborators with children in their learning and discovery. They are also partners with parents and collaborators with one another.

We view children as researchers of their world, constructing knowledge through social interaction, and strive to provide experiences through which they can pose and test their ideas.

We are inspired by Italian approaches to early childhood education.  The schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy have been recognized worldwide for their care of young children and their commitment to excellence.  We are fortunate that Smith College has a professional connection with Pistoia, Italy, where the philosophy and practice of the early childhood schools are similar to those of Reggio Emilia.

Our curriculum recognizes the importance of relationships for the well-being of young children. Within the context of supportive relationships, the curriculum emphasizes child-initiated problem-solving, long-term investigations, and social- emotional development. Teachers continually seek to understand and consider what the children know about their world and help them to articulate and test their hypotheses through ongoing exploration. We help children develop a love of learning as they come to appreciate themselves as learners. The materials in the classrooms reflect our interest in the natural world and recycled materials. 

We support children in acquiring a set of fundamental concepts and skills as well as the habits of mind and heart that enable them to understand and operate in their world as effective problem-solvers and responsible community members.


We offer children the opportunity to engage in experiences in the visual art studio and music studio, as well as in their classrooms. Certified teachers with experience and education in the art-form of the studio are full-time teachers. We consider the studios as laboratories; the children's classroom experiences are extended and deepened in the studio and new experiences in the studios are extended in the classrooms.

We offer children daily opportunities to visit the studio independently. Infants and toddlers have more limited access to the studios and in some cases the studio may not be available until the preschool years.

The studio teachers share weekly photo albums and Documentation to communicate with families about children's experiences in the studios.

Licensing Agency

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) licenses the program. The license number is 9097197 and the program number is P-177053/2911756. The regulations are available in the office at Fort Hill and on the EEC website. Allison Tassinari is the licensing specialist responsible for Fort Hill. The EEC may be contacted for information about the compliance history of the program.

Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care 
Western Massachusetts Regional Office
1441 Main Street
Springfield, MA 01103
Phone: 413-788-8401
Fax: 413-784-1227 

The program is licensed as detailed in the table below. Actual class size may be lower.

Classroom Licensed Capacity Licensed Group
North Room 7 infants or 
8 infant/toddlers
Infants, or Infants and Toddlers
East Room 9 Toddlers, or Toddlers/Preschoolers
South Room 10 Toddlers, or Toddlers/Preschoolers
West Room 9 Toddlers, or Infants/Toddlers
Group S 14 preschoolers or 
9 toddler/preschoolers
Preschoolers, or Toddler/Preschoolers
Group B 20 Preschoolers
Group A 20 Preschoolers


Fort Hill operates a 40 week academic-year program from August - May and a ten-week summer program, June - August (open only to families enrolled for an academic-year). Please click to see the annual calendar. Enrollment is for the entire academic-year or summer session. “The child’s age group is determined by their age at the start of the academic year, and they remain in the same age category, with corresponding tuition rates, for the entire academic year and the following summer.”

Age Category Age Effective Date
Infant 2 months to 15 months Time of enrollment
Toddler 15 months to 2 years, 9 months Beginning of the academic-year
Preschooler 2 years, 9 months to five-years-old Three-years-old by December 1st

Schedule Options

Program Days Arrival Departure
Preschool 3, 4, or 5 days 8:00 am 12:45 pm
2:45 pm
4:45 pm
Infant/Toddler 3, 4, or 5 days 8:00 am 2:45 pm
4:45 pm

Reporting Structure

The Center for Early Childhood Education is a department of Smith College.  The diagram below depicts the reporting structure of the CECE. 

Organizational chart for CECE.

Please feel free to contact us at any time. We welcome feedback and respond to e-mail and telephone calls promptly.

Questions and Concerns

Topic Contact
Finances Office Coordinator
Permanent schedule changes Assistant Director
Purchasing temporary extra time Office Coordinator
Child's experience Supervising teacher; Director
Concerns about a staff member The individual concerned, if possible, or the Director


Each of the classrooms has a telephone.  Ringing telephones can be disruptive and conversations on the telephone remove the teachers’ attention from the children. For these reasons, all calls are forwarded to the main office. If the call is an emergency, we interrupt the classroom and notify the staff to answer the call. Please feel free to call the main number, 585-3290, anytime if you would like to “check-in” and find out how your child is doing. We will be happy to go the classroom and transfer the call or relay a message.

Location Number
Main Office 413-585-3290
Fax 413-585-3292
Director 413-585-4329
Assistant Director 413-585-4280
Studio 413-585-4992
Group S 413-585-4991
Group B 413-585-4990
Group A 413-585-4984
West Room 413-585-4203
South Room 413-585-4587
East Room 413-585-4588
North Room 413-585-4589
Cell Phone 413-335-3389
Emergency Phone 413-586-5216


Contact E-mail
General Address
Office Coordinator Lori McKenna
Assistant Director Laurie DeMello
Director Jen Godlesky