Classes & Curriculum

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Welcome to the Donald S. Collins Early Learning Center! We are committed to forming strong partnerships between our families, children, and staff. We work hard to create a safe, nurturing, and loving community for you and your child. Our trained teachers are dedicated to the welfare of each child in the center. You will find exciting classrooms where children are free to grow and develop at their own pace through play based, developmentally
appropriate education.


Collins Early Learning Center Parent Handbook_PDF

Our Classes

For more information, please contact Director, Monnie Wright at (828) 669-6617 or by email at


6 weeks – 12 months

10:2 child/teacher ratio



 12 – 18 months

6:1 child/teacher ratio



 18-24 months

11:2 child/teacher ratio



 24 – 35 months

9:1 child/teacher ratio



 36 – 47 months

18:3 child/teacher ratio



 4-5 years

18:2 child/teacher ratio


School Age


13:1 child/teacher ratio


What Does Play Based Learning Look Like?

The intentional, purposeful play and learning experiences we foster for our children are based on years of research and observation on the importance of play for children.  This play may be solitary or with small groups of children or with an adult.  Play will look differently in each classroom, but learning through play is self-selected, creative, enjoyable, and encourages the child to be fully engaged with body and mind as well as with other children and adults.   Teachers will be close by to interact when needed, to provide additional materials, or to help solve a problem.  These adult-child interactions form the core of the early childhood curriculum as teachers and children learn together.   

Block Center

Blocks of various sizes and materials-soft for younger children, wooden blocks of varying sizes for older children along with cars and trucks and little people to create great buildings and cities.  Block building activities give children their best introduction to math, balance, design, and creativity. Children learn a great deal through the problem solving that occurs as disruptions frequently take place in the block center, but teachers give children the skills to figure out how they can work together.

Dramatic Play Center

Materials and props for creative dramatic play fill this area. There will be kitchen toys, baby doll toys, dress up, and other materials to enhance the children’s pretend story making.  Children explore life experiences and their own wondering ideas of how things work. Children begin using items to represent other items, making up stories, and playing pretend with their friends in this popular area.  In these first two mentioned centers, children at a young age begin the understanding of symbol making as they use different toys to represent their ideas in play.  It is from these pretend and imaginative times that children will grow an understanding of words as symbols of thought and that will enable children to one day understand how words can be used in books. Toys used will be open ended and creative allowing children to pretend their own stories. Our learning materials will not make use of cultural, cartoon type toys that limit the pretending to just what children have seen on tv. We want children to create new pretend play scenes.

Fine Motor or Manipulatives

Table top and manipulative toys facilitate development of small motor skills and figuring out how things fit together and work.  These might include stacking toys, legos, bristle blocks, shape sorters, puzzles, bead stringing, and counting toys.  This area is where many problems are solved both with the materials and in conflict with other children.  

Art Center

Art materials and tools help children explore the process, not a final product, using a variety of creative materials such as paints, crayons, markers, collage materials, scissors, and tape. You will not see any teacher made models, coloring sheets, or other predetermined adult standards setting the child up to feel as though they cannot meet the expectations.  The art center at school is for creative, child initiated, and experiential work, whether we know what it is or not does not matter.  It is the child’s work. Adults will not draw for children but guide them in creating their own pictures.  We want the child to feel proud of their work and not just for a finished product to please the adults.  Manipulating these creative art materials also grows those small muscles which will one day handle a pencil for writing.

Out of respect for all our families, you will not see jello, pudding, rice, beans, pasta, or grits or other food stuff being used in a careless manner in the art center as an item to glue or play with.  These are staple foods for families and should not be wasted in play. 

Sensory Play Materials

There are sensory tables in toddler and preschool classrooms giving children time to play in water or sand, ice, mud, or snow or other creative ways teachers design for children to learn through their senses. Infants are exploring the world through chewing on toys and scooting along on the floor. They get to experience the different floor coverings, mats, cushions surrounding their space. Measuring, pouring, comparing and experimenting with materials enable children to learn, feel, and figure out what to do with these materials.  Sometimes it will be messy, but that is ok. Water and towels will clean it up.


A book area stocked with quality, interesting books both fiction and nonfiction will be available for all ages of children.  Through planned and spontaneous times there will be lots of books read and shared with the children.  Children love stories and we want to share all kinds of stories, giving them puppets and flannel board materials to act out these stories or retell them to others. Children will dictate stories which will be acted out within the classrooms.  Books will permeate the room being placed in all centers, but the library area will have a quiet space to really relax and look at books.

Writing Center

An area for practicing writing and making marks and provides opportunities for children to make the connections between words and writing and ABCs. Using a variety of materials such as pencils, stamps, markers, paper of different sizes, and scissors, children will practice writing their names and other important things they want to say.  This is the area where children learn how marks on paper stand for words and communication and they create books and illustrate them. They will not be forced to write but encouraged when those small muscles are ready to begin making their marks which will become words, especially their name as they grow into a time of readiness.

Storytelling / Story Acting

Our preschool age children will participate daily in storytelling story acting, a literacy program which fosters creativity as well as social emotional and literacy learning. Each day one child “author” will dictate a story to the teacher who will write down their words in the storytelling book.  At group time the children will listen to the author’s story, with the teacher choosing different children to be the characters as they act out the story. Children not only learn more about the written and spoken word but also how it feels to tell a story and have their peers enjoy that story through acting.

Math & Science Centers

For all children at their developmental level there will be explorations of physical science of weight, size, and shape, life science observing living plants and animals, and earth and environmental science.  Through blocks of different sizes children will explore shapes, graduated sizes, balance, and construction.  Children are learning basic math components of number concepts, one to one correspondence, patterns, spatial awareness, geometric shapes, measurements, sorting, and classifying.  All of these experiences will give the child an opportunity to ponder “what if?” and learn about thinking creatively and critically.

Music & Movement

An area where children can enjoy the types of sounds different instruments make, discovering rhythms and beat.  Music tapes of various genres will be played, danced, and sung with the children.  For young children music should permeate the room at times, so that dancing and singing, while you play, are typical in that early childhood classroom.

Outdoor & Gross Motor Play

This will occur outside each day, weather permitting.  When children are not able to be outside because of severe cold or heat, they will have large muscle play within their classroom. Children need to grow and stretch those large muscles, strengthening them and using them in running, hopping, skipping, jumping, and climbing.  Many learning activities can happen out of doors and teachers will be aware of how these can be set up and integrated into the out of doors. Paints, water, outdoor blocks, sand, and a blanket with books and puzzles expands the outdoor learning, giving children opportunities for additional activities. Even our playground has a space for our youngest to be able to be outside each day weather permitting.

Donald S. Collins Early Learning Center

120 West Street

P.O. Box 835

Black Mountain, NC 28711

(828) 669-6617