Playful, authentic engagement with the world” is the way administrator Shelley Jorgensen describes the educational emphasis at the Early Learning Community, which opened in 2008 and is midway through its sixth year on the Pacific University campus in Forest Grove. by: COURTESY PHOTO - Students from the Early Learning Center form a line and run across the lawn adjacent to Pacific Avenue on the Pacific University campus.

The ELC enrolls children ages 3 to 6 in two mixed-age classes of 3- and 4-year-olds, and its program extends through kindergarten. Preschool and kindergarten classes are held Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. An extended-day option is available beginning at 7 a.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m.

All classes are led by teachers who hold a master of arts in teaching degree and Oregon licensure for early childhood/elementary education.

Teacher-to-child ratios are 1 to 7 in preschool and 1 to 10 in kindergarten.

The curriculum and activities at the ELC, Jorgensen said, are “a synthesis of best practices and materials drawn from a full range of early childhood pedagogical models. Our approach to learning emphasizes playful, authentic engagement with the world and themes that emerge from the interests of the children, [all] in the context of a caring community of children and adults.”

Teaching at the ELC “supports the development of the whole child — intellectual, physical and emotional,” she added. “Children grow to conceive of themselves as readers, authors, mathematicians and scientists, as well as good friends and community members.

“We work to cultivate in each child the excitement, curiosity and independent thinking that will instill a lifelong passion for learning ... and the social and emotional competence to contribute to the well-being of self and others.”

Among preschools in western Washington County, the ELC is unique due to “the advanced qualifications of our teachers,” Jorgensen said, “[allowing] for the most responsive and individualized teaching, as they apply a broad and deep understanding of child development to the assessment of each child’s needs and the creation of optimal learning experiences that correspond to those needs.”

Beginning at age 3, a child can remain in the school through his or her kindergarten year. “The philosophy and approach to teaching is consistent, the learning cumulative, the understanding of each child deepened — and the bond of community strengthened over this important period in a child’s school life,” noted Jorgensen.

Springtime will bring a variety of enrichment activities to ELC children, including “gardening, hatching chicks, exploring our beautiful campus environment and discovering the plant, insect and bird life that surrounds us,” said Jorgensen.

For more information about the Early Learning Community, email Jorgensen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 503-352-1481.

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