The University of Montana’s Learning and Belonging (LAB) Preschool has a rich history in providing early care and education for Missoula area children while simultaneously serving as a best practice clinical field-experience site for UM students. The program began its operation as a nursery school affiliated with the former Home Economics department back in!
Preschool operations were transitioned to the College of Education in 1988. In 2009, the program moved from McGill Hall to its current location in the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education building. A recent 2019 addition includes two more classrooms with accompanying observation rooms as well as a second seminar room. Today, just as in 1936, the LAB continues to meet the needs of young children, their families and future early childhood professionals.
"I really don't have words to express how grateful we are for you and for LAB. The past two years have encouraged our Ziggy to blossom, grow, learn, and love school. You've been kind, patient and full of incredible thoughts and advice for us. We wish you only the very best as LAB grows and moves forward.
-Ziggy and Family
While there is not a single curriculum that has been identified as “the best” for meeting the early care and education needs of children, the following practices are linked with positive learning outcomes and form the foundation of our curriculum. The LAB Preschool is committed to:
- Providing a rich, engaging verbal environment.
- Blending play, authentic learning experiences, and direct instruction so children have multiple opportunities for learning in key areas.
- Arranging a schedule and routines that are consistent but not overly structured or regimented.
- Developing respectful and reciprocal relationships with children and their families.
The day is guided by a routine developed to meet the needs of children in the preschool years. Through careful planning, each day offers a balance of large and small group experiences, child and teacher-directed time, and active and quiet activities. While the schedule remains flexible to meet the daily interests and needs of the group, a typical day includes:
- GATHERING: Children engage with manipulative toys, writing materials, books and one another while waiting for everyone to arrive. The teacher then gathers the group to describe the day’s center choices and activities.
- LEARNING CENTERS: Children choose from a range of play areas presenting opportunities for social interaction, project work, and learning. A nutritious daily snack is offered during center time and gives children an energy boost for a busy day.
- CIRCLE: A large group meeting time used to build community through sharing, songs, and stories. Project topics and investigations are often introduced through books, discussions, and presentations from visiting experts.
- SMALL GROUP: Children gather in small groups to complete a teacher-planned activity that often relates to the project topic and introduces social, science, math, and/or literacy concepts using age-appropriate materials and methods.
- OUTDOOR PLAY: Opportunities to run, jump, and climb are provided on the playground daily.
The Five-Hour and Extended Day classes also have:
- LUNCH: Children gather together with their classmates and teachers to enjoy a lunch brought from home.
The Extended Day includes:
- REST: A time for resting or napping is scheduled for 1 hour. Every child has an individual napping mat. It is not required that children sleep, but lights are dimmed and opportunities for quite activities are made available.
Class Schedules & Tuition
The Learning and Belonging Preschool maintains an ongoing waiting list for enrollment. It is never too early to put your child on our list!
Classes are filled in the spring prior to the next academic year. Priority is given to children already enrolled and their siblings. Once it is determined how many vacancies are available, families on the waiting list will be offered spots in the order they were placed on the list.
Please contact Kristin, Director, for further information regarding enrollment, to schedule a tour and/or to place your child on the waiting list.
- Days: M-Th
- Time: 9 AM - 12 PM
- Total tuition: $2,800
- Deposit: $280
- Days: M-Th
- Time: 8:30 AM - 1:30 PM
- Total tuition: $4,600
- Deposit: $460
- Days: M-Th
- Time: 8:30 AM - 5:15 PM
- Total tuition: $6,400
- Deposit: $640