Part-day program

The part-day program at the Child Development Laboratory School is open to families who are not affiliated with the University of Minnesota. 

Children in the part-day program meet for three hours per day on certain days of the week, depending on their age and classroom placement. 

Our part-day program can trace its roots back more than 90 years, when it was formed as part of the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development, which was organized in 1925. Throughout our long history, we have incorporated the latest research in child development into our curriculum to ensure we are providing the highest quality education possible to each child. 

Our approach

Our curriculum reflects current best practices in cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.

Research shows that children learn best through experiences that match their developmental stage. Children also learn best in environments where they have warm, nurturing relationships.

We aim to spark children’s sense of wonder, curiosity, and delight in learning. We also aim to help each child build their knowledge and a framework for academic concepts.

Classroom environment

Each part-day program classroom is staffed by one lead teacher and two to three teacher candidates. The lead teacher remains with the children through the entire school year, and the teacher candidates rotate every 16 weeks. The adult-child ratio is generally 1:6.

All lead teachers have master’s degrees, are highly knowledgeable of child development, and are experienced in working with young children in classroom settings. In the event teacher candidates are not available, we hire well-qualified assistants.

Learn more about our part-day program

How we teach

Each classroom is a rich environment where children can explore, experiment, and use what they learn. We emphasize the math, literacy, science, and social studies lessons embedded in daily play activities at school.

For example, children learn about number and math operations best when they have interesting objects to sort, match, order, and count (in other words, play with!).

Our teachers then step in and talk with a child about what they’re doing and thinking. This helps the child remember and apply what they know in new situations.

Through play-based learning, we help children prepare to attend school and study every academic content area.

Small group projects

Small group projects are an important part of the curriculum for both children and teacher candidates. Teachers start small group projects when they notice that a group of children takes interest in a particular topic.

At the beginning of each project, teachers create a “web of possibilities” and gather resources to inspire the children. They also develop questions to ask the children to open a dialogue about what the group will do. Teachers and the small group use these materials as a guide throughout the project.


At the end of the project, teachers create documentation panels or books that show what children learned.

The goal of documentation is to capture children’s interests, ideas, theories, and their learning process. Documentation also promotes children’s meta-cognitive skills (thinking about thinking). When children talk about “what they know,” it elevates their understanding.

Documentation may include:

  • photographs;
  • samples of children’s work;
  • direct quotes; and
  • a teacher’s interpretive comments.

Teachers also learn through documentation. Teachers become more effective when they’re aware of how their actions connect to children’s learning and development.

For more information

Interested in finding out more about our program? We’d love to hear from you. Fill out our brief form, and our team will get back to you.