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Where We Begin


Where We Begin: Early Learning Center and Kindergarten

Phillips Brooks School is an independent, co-educational day school offering a truly child-centered learning program for preschool through 5th grade, located in Menlo Park – neighboring Stanford University.

Our learning environment features a spacious, leafy campus with several classroom buildings, multi-use structures, and play spaces. Designed for a 1-classroom preschool and 2 classrooms per grade-level from pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade, PBS offers…

  • intimate student-to-teacher ratios
  • thorough teacher understanding of each child
  • a diverse family community committed to partnering in support of the learning environment

PBS is not only ambitious, creative, nurturing, and well-rounded; it stands out for its ability to live and practice each day our core values of kindness, courage, community, and love of learning. Our challenging academic curriculum and seamlessly integrated emotional intelligence program are enhanced through child-centered teaching practices.

PBS is accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools and is affiliated with the National Association of Independent Schools.

Key Entry Points

Key PBS Entry Points

Focused on the Foundations of Children’s Learning

Two ELC students working with clay


Early Learning Center (ELC) Preschool
8:20 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Monday through Friday

ELC Pre-Kindergarten
8:20 a.m. – 2:45 p.m., Monday through Thursday
8:20 a.m. – 1:45 p.m., Friday

8:20 a.m. – 3:05 p.m., Monday through Thursday
8:20 a.m. – 2:05 p.m., Friday

Extended care is available until 5:00 p.m. for ELC students and until 6:00 p.m. for K–5 students.

Early Learning Center

The ELC program features 3 lead teachers and 4 associate teachers for 3 classrooms of 15 students each. The ELC is located in a self-contained area of the PBS campus and features multiple classroom spaces and secure outdoor play spaces.

  • The preschool program, for 3- and 4-year-olds (must be age 3 by September 1), offers a 5-hour program, 5 days a week, during the school year and is designed for 15 students.
  • The pre-Kindergarten program, for 4- and 5-year-olds (must be age 4 by September 1), offers a full-day program 5 days a week during the school year and is designed for 2 groups of 15 students.


The Kindergarten program features a lead and an associate teacher for each of the 2 classrooms. The Kindergarten classrooms are located in a self-contained building with play spaces and specialist classes integrated into the main campus.

  • Kindergarten consists of 2 classrooms and runs for the full day throughout the school year, consistent with 1st–5th grades. PBS typically seeks 12 to 15 new Kindergarten students each year.

Beyond Kindergarten

Once your child is accepted to the ELC or Kindergarten, no further application is required to progress through 5th grade at PBS. We accept applications for 1st–5th grades, although openings typically occur in these grades through attrition only.

Early Learning Center

The Early Learning Center at Phillips Brooks School is a social-development and discovery-based whole-child learning program consisting of 2 age-based levels: preschool (ages 3 and 4) and pre-Kindergarten (ages 4 and 5). ELC teachers are dedicated to the principles that creativity flourishes in places of safety and acceptance, and kindness is paramount.

The ELC program is inspired by the world-renowned work of educators in Reggio Emilia, Italy, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs.

What is the ELC approach?

The PBS Early Learning Center is dedicated to providing a joyful and engaging environment that acknowledges and supports each child’s efforts to construct an understanding of the world in a creative and intrinsically motivated fashion. In the ELC, knowledge and learning develop through stretching and meaningfully exploring a dynamic, ever-changing view of the world.

The ELC is deeply committed to helping children experience social and cognitive development as a community of collaborative peers, learning to work together, share ideas, and trade leadership roles. In their one-on-one relationships with children and in developing a community of learners, ELC teachers facilitate, coach, and mediate as they encourage children to experience active, self-generated learning and to lead lives of empathy and thoughtfulness. This empowerment of the compassionate child is central to the ELC learning experience.

One of the most important opportunities the ELC program provides is to practice direct, respectful, and compassionate communication in a diverse, child-centered community.

Through roleplaying, modeling, creative experiences, and sharing of thoughts, the children practice leading lives of empathy, reflection, and thoughtfulness.

The Role of Play and the Daily Environment

Play is a primary mechanism through which young children develop higher-level thinking skills, enhanced language development, problem-solving capabilities, and empathy toward each other. In the ELC, play is at the center of much of the social, emotional, and cognitive learning.

The physical environment is considered a vital element of the ELC program: rich in materials and works both finished and in progress; incorporating the natural world indoors and out; scaled and focused for children and also for adults who interact with the children.

During a typical day in the ELC, children begin by meeting in their class groups. Meeting times provide opportunities to greet each other, develop understanding about expectations for the day, discuss and practice jobs and responsibilities, enjoy sharing time, and be together as a whole class. Children regularly participate in songs and movement, introductions to new materials and processes, group projects, and discussions. The core part of the day features classroom work time with a rich variety of materials; experiences and processes to explore and create, including project work, dramatic play, construction activities, cooking, writing center experiences, visual arts, and many other purposeful opportunities to practice cognitive and social problem-solving.

Children in the ELC are also involved in a variety of explorations facilitated by PBS specialist faculty, including art, library, music, physical education, Spanish, and technology.

Children learn to share ideas, develop their interests, grow in confidence, and gain new skills through purposeful activities and collaborative experiences.

Project-based Work, Documentation, and Portfolios

Project work is central to the ELC curriculum and emerges from the interests of the children. The ELC teachers are facilitators and co-learners in these projects, asking and prompting compelling questions to provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking and collaboration among the children and each other. Teachers also document and display the children’s social and cognitive learning; this enables children to see their efforts revealed and adults to understand the enormous amount of learning that takes place as the children develop ideas and pursue initiatives. As part of this process, each student in the ELC builds an ongoing portfolio of work samples that the family keeps upon completing the ELC program. These portfolios assist faculty in assessing and discussing with families the social–emotional, physical, cognitive, and creative growth of each child.


Each child’s seeds of knowledge continue to take root and grow in Kindergarten at PBS. As in the Early Learning Center, the Kindergarten program at PBS is both differentiated and collaborative, structured and exploratory. A rich collection of purposefully created experiences emerges from a Kindergarten program forged on this child-centered approach and designed to help children continue to develop their self-concept as learners.

Supporting Each Child’s Development

The Kindergarten learning community is thoughtfully designed as a bridge between the Early Learning Center and the continuum of elementary grades at PBS. As in the ELC, play is an important means for social and cognitive development; Kindergarten teachers skillfully facilitate the development of meaningful experiences and explorations that challenge Kindergarteners to construct ideas, learn new skills, and explore their own and others’ learning strategies. Children are encouraged to take active ownership of their learning and suggest class activities, projects, and themes that build on their interests.

At the same time, the Kindergarten program offers a scaffolding structure for developing each child’s learning – individually, as partners, in small groups, and as a classroom community – through a schedule design that incorporates daily morning meetings, literacy exploration, mathematical thinking opportunities, outdoor and indoor play, and an integrated approach to technology as a learning tool. Specialists programs in scientific exploration, Spanish, library, art, music, and physical education round out Kindergarteners’ weeks. The schedule also includes intentional “connection” time for homeroom and specialist teachers to provide integrated learning opportunities together. Each day is also designed to conclude with a closing reflection time.

In all these endeavors, Kindergarten teachers support each child’s individual development and consider themselves the strategic contributor to each child’s capacity to learn in self-directed and hands-on ways.

Each child is encouraged to take risks as they attempt new activities to become fluent in the use of many materials, confident in their expression of ideas, and flexible in their outcomes.

Expanding Social Learning Opportunities

Social learning is interwoven throughout each day in Kindergarten. In all grade levels, PBS believes that the development of social, emotional, and communication skills is as important as cognitive development. These skills are modeled, practiced, discussed, and improved on a daily basis across the curriculum, both inside and outside the classroom.

Co-curricular social learning programs available to Kindergarteners include weekly community assemblies, called GATHER, and service-learning projects. GATHER brings students, faculty, parents, and guests together as a community to explore life lessons and honor the common threads in all spiritual endeavors. Through service-learning, students develop empathy, awareness of the needs of others, and a commitment to contribute and participate in building and strengthening communities.

Kindergarten Program Highlights

  • Literacy, math, science, art, music, and other concepts interwoven and integrated throughout the curriculum, rather than each being experienced in isolation
  • A workshop setting for learning reading and writing in which literacy practices are modeled to ground children to act, work, and think of themselves as readers and writers
  • A workplace approach to mathematical thinking featuring mini-lessons and multiple learning centers in which students can apply strategies and build skills: Math workplaces allow for individualized work and one-on-one teacher checkins – differentiation by design.
  • Hands-on, lab-based scientific explorations that encourage children to ask questions, test ideas, observe carefully, and explore, seek, record, and discuss answers
  • An active and holistic physical education program that seeks to develop a sense of community, teamwork, and sportsmanship while overcoming challenges, increasing skills, and playing together
  • Studio art and music explorations designed to stimulate the growth of artistic perception, creative expression, sequential skill-building as emerging visual artists and musicians, cultural awareness, and performance practice
  • Library experiences designed to expose children to the best of rich literature and informational text and to encourage sharing of books and stories with classmates
  • An introduction to technology as a tool for communication and for enhancing learning
  • Multi-sensory exposure to Spanish to connect words meaningfully and memorably to specific actions while exploring the culture of Spanish-speaking communities around the world

Children in Kindergarten at PBS think of themselves as mathematicians, scientists, readers, writers, artists, and musicians who continually gain understanding of their world through these media.

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