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Administrated by the Vanderbilt Child and Family Center, this developmental kindergarten program offers an emergent curriculum informed by social constructivist thinking theories:

  • Children learn best through play, constructing knowledge and making meaning by exploring their big ideas through hands-on and hands-in investigations.
  • Peer engagement adds richness to the learning process.
  • A learning framework that prioritizes Nature Education - children’s knowledge creation will be informed by their exploration of the Vanderbilt University campus.
  • A learning focus on 21st Century Skills: creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.
  1. Children must turn five years of age by August 15, 2021
  2. VCFC will prioritize for enrollment in the Owls Program:
    • Children currently enrolled in VCFC’s The Acorn School a PK class 2020-2021
    • Children of Vanderbilt University faculty and staff, post-doctoral scholars, and students
    • Children of VUMC-affiliated employees
    • Children in Nashville and surrounding communities
  • Children will be eligible for 1st Grade in August 2022
  • OR parents may opt to enroll their child in an additional year of Kindergarten
  • August 10, 2021 – June 3, 2022
  • Monday – Friday, 8:30 AM – 3:00 PM
  • On-site Before and After Care is available
  • The Owls Program will be closed for all holidays observed by Vanderbilt University
  • Convenient to Vanderbilt University’s main campus off Edgehill Avenue
  • One of VCFC’s The Acorn School childcare facilities will host this program in an appropriate classroom designated for that sole purpose.
  • Program activities will take full and frequent advantage of the Vanderbilt University campus and arboretum.
  • A joy-filled life-long learner ready to engage with children
  • An Early Childhood Educator with an MA/MS and a TN K-8 teaching credential
  • A teacher adept at fostering language development and critical thinking skills in young children by empowering them to observe, listen, speak, investigate, and reflect
  • $900/month August 2021 – May 2022
  • A non-refundable application fee of $100 is required by December 15, 2020
  • A non-refundable instructional supplies fee of $1200 is required by March 1, 2020
  • Lunch and snacks, a child’s t-shirt, and field trips will be included in the tuition
  • Before and after care will be offered on-site by The Acorn School for an additional fee:
    • 7:00 AM - 8:30 AM $150/month
    • 3:00 PM-6:00 PM $300/month
    • For children not signed up for Before and After Care there is an early drop-off and late pick-up charge of $1 for each minute the child is on site before 8:25 AM and after 3:05 PM.
  • One or more parents/guardians will attend the Owls Information Session at 12:00 PM on January 21st email Linda Wilson, VCFC Administrative Officer that you are interested (Rsvp and the zoom link will be provided.
  • Parents will complete the VCFC Owls Program Whoo Are You form and return it with their $100 application fee no later than February 15, 2021.

*Vanderbilt Child and Family Center recognizes that families interested in the Owls Developmental Kindergarten are taking a leap of faith by engaging in this pilot program and we are grateful. 
Families are encouraged to continue to enroll in their public school options as this presents no conflict.

**Due to the investment of time and resources required by the development of innovative programming, VCFC reserves the right to cancel this program offering if an insufficient number of families (less than ten) choose to participate. If the Owls program is cancelled, VCFC will notify families by February 1, 2021.

Owls Pedagogy

Owls is a developmental kindergarten program that achieves state learning standards by crafting a Nature Education “experience of learning” utilizing a project-based Emergent Curriculum.

The Owls developmental kindergarten places a high value on children’s playwork, recognizing that play is the optimal learning method for children’s exploration and enactment of their big ideas, and development of learning confidence, self-esteem, and unique self-expression. The learning environment is designed to engage children through small groups in interest centers for most of the day, to foster their focus on critical thinking for problem-solving while supporting meaningful relationships with peers that will encourage communication and collaboration.



Owls seeks not merely to teach children to read but has the expressed goal of teaching children to love to read. Books will be encountered as a wonderful adventure and exciting place to explore big ideas. Owls supports children’s joyful acquisition of literacy through a Whole Language philosophy that demonstrates how language is a system of parts that work together to create meaning by encouraging learners to speak, listen, write, and engage with high quality literature. Activities will include: Circle Time (music, games, public speaking, and storytelling), Journals, Library visits, and Writing Center. Phonics games may be incorporated into individualized or small group learning opportunities as phonic learning can be helpful to children that need a boost with reading comprehension and the creative writing process, as this can support them with word recognition and pronunciation; however, phonemic awareness will be supported playfully and only in coordination with other learning goals.

The only “homework” Owls assigns: Parents will help their child to get a public library card. Families are required to read together at home, in any language, at least two hours weekly (this may look like 30 minutes most nights or twice a week) and to keep a log of their book titles and authors for the child to share with their teacher monthly.



Each student has a portfolio comprised of teachers’ anecdotal notes and the child’s work samples. Parents will review this during conferences. Owls will utilize the ASQ/ASQ-SE developmental tool in the Fall and again in the Spring. This process asks the parents to reflect on their child and complete a checklist. The teacher will do the same and score both checklists to inform the semester Parent-Teacher conference. Parent-Teacher conferences are an important opportunity for adults to recognize the student’s strengths, where they may be struggling, and to understand the Whole Child.

Assessment is simply one point of data it is not the story of the Whole Child. Owls will not “test” kindergarteners recognizing that it is not the child’s job to prove to adults they are learning, it is the responsibility of adults to observe children’s growth and development.



In alignment with credible research that finds no benefit to children or their families from homework, the Owls Program does not assign it. Your nightly parent chores will not include helping your child complete worksheets. Your family’s nurturing routine: making dinner together, taking a walk, playing board games, reading, counting the stars, snuggling a pet is so much more important.

How children interpret the adults’ attitudes about school informs their self-concept as a learner. The most important influence is home. Parental encouragement helps the child to perceive themselves as a capable and competent learner. It is important to remember that the course of a school year, ten months, is a long time in the life of a young child. It is not that a child cannot do something (their skills are still emerging), it is more accurate to claim a child cannot yet do something. Parents may need support managing their expectations of what is developmentally appropriate and consider what information they need to be a great support to their child as they navigate the August to May kindergarten learning journey.