Preschool & Kindergarten

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Welcome to the Children’s Learning Center!

Our 2020/2021 School Year Begins August 31, 2020.

Preschool and Kindergarten Classes are currently full for 2020/2021, but we are accepting applications for our waitlist. To register for the waitlist, please complete and submit just the 2020/2021 Registration Form; no registration fee to register for the waitlist.

Important Information about Fall 2020 Reopen and COVID-19...

To keep our staff, the children, and you as healthy as possible, the Children’s Learning Center will be following guidelines set out by the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, and we will be asking our families to follow these guidelines, as well. We appreciate your cooperation in helping keep our school community healthy and safe.

As guidelines are often changing in response to COVID-19 cases decreasing or increasing in the state, and as health officials learn more about prevention, we will keep you updated on any changes  as they are released. We encourage you to follow the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood’s response to the pandemic by visiting www.ctoec.org/covid-19 .


All adults in the CLC are required to wear masks. The only time masks can be taken off are while outside and 6 feet apart from children, and during direct instruction if the mask is impeding the instruction (we aim to limit this to moments where a child is struggling emotionally and/or behaviorally). Communication with young children is almost entirely non-verbal. We are committed to purchasing see-through masks to allow for children to see a teacher’s full facial expression. Children are not required to wear masks.


Group sizes have been capped at 14 and intermixing of groups is limited to as little as necessary. What this means is that your child’s class is a closed pod from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., with the same two teachers all week long. In order for us to maintain our operating hours, though, there will be two extra staff members, Ms. Ashley and Ms. Martina, that will interact with all groups, providing necessary support between classes. We will be washing hands when moving from one classroom to another. We have worked tirelessly to come up with a schedule that allows for as little of this intermingling as possible. If a teacher were ever to be out, we have one substitute teacher that we will be calling on. The only times when children from different classrooms will be together is before 8:30 a.m. and after 4 p.m. 

One major adjustment we have had to make in order to follow the State guidelines is a 5 p.m. closure. We are unable to stay open past 5 p.m. while staying in line with the guidelines. We apologize for the inconvenience we are sure this causes some families.

Drop-Off/ Pick-Up Routine

To reduce the number of people entering our facility, drop-off and pick-up will occur outside, in the parking lot. Please call the center when you arrive and wait for a teacher to meet you at your vehicle. Upon arrival, the staff member will need to perform a health check, which includes confirming your child does not have a fever, shortness of breath or cough as well as doing a visual check for any symptoms, which include flushed cheeks, rapid or difficult breathing, fatigue, or extreme fussiness.

Drop-off time occurs between 8 and 9 a.m., unless you are enrolled in before-care. If your child has an appointment and is arriving later than 9 a.m., please let the Director know ahead of time in order to allow us to plan for the right number of staff to aid in the drop-off process.

In order to drop-off before 8 a.m. and/or pick-up after 4 p.m. you’ll need to sign up for before and/or after-care so that we can plan for the right number of staff. You can do this by e-mailing the Director with your planned drop-off/pick-up time for the year. There is no additional cost for before and after care, but we ask that you only sign up if you absolutely need it.

At pick-up time, call the center and we will be outside with your child as soon as possible. The staff member doing pick-up will be bringing 2 children out at a time to help in a smooth transition. Pick-up times occur between 12:45 and 1 p.m. and between 3:45 and 4 p.m., unless you are enrolled in after-care. Due to staffing, you must arrive and pick-up your child no later than 1 p.m. and/or 4 p.m.

Our hours of operation under the current guidelines are 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.


It should go without saying, but we will say it anyway, if your child is showing signs of sickness, keep them home. If a child or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, that child’s classroom will close down for 14 days. This is a state rule, and will not change from program to program, so it is important to plan for a babysitter ahead of time or speak to your employer about this scenario. By keeping a child home if they are feeling sick, we are reducing the chances of this shut down occurring.


We are required to implement a “no visitor” policy until further notice. This is hard for us, as so much of our program is centered around our relationship and collaboration with families and community members. In line with our no visitor policy, we will be postponing our live-enrichment opportunities, family events, and student workers until this guidance has lifted. We may choose to engage in virtual enrichment, but as a program we try to limit screen time as much as possible.  

We will find creative ways to still host our monthly family engagement events in a socially distant way.


In accordance with Executive Order 7BBB, effective June 25, 2020, anyone traveling into Connecticut from a state that has a new daily positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average (this currently includes 31 states) are directed to self-quarantine for a 14-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state. Self-quarantine, of course, includes not attending preschool. Please plan your August vacations accordingly.

Communication with Teachers

Since daily personal interactions are limited between you and your child’s teacher, we are moving to weekly communication via e-mail or phone. Teachers will have designated times in the week where they are out of the classroom and able to do these check-ins with you. Communication with teachers will be restricted to these “office hours” so that teachers are able to be fully present with children while teaching. In order for teachers to check in with families on a weekly basis, communication with each family will be limited to once a week. This check-in is in addition to the weekly newsletters that teachers send out on Friday. When a teacher is in the classroom, their attention is with your child and the phone is used for documentation and emergency purposes. Of course, the exception to this is if your child is physically hurt or unwell, in which case you will be notified by phone right away. More about our incident and accident policy can be found in our family handbook.  

Items from Home

We are making an effort to reduce the amount of germs that travel between home and school. Toys from home will need to remain at home. The exception is having one stuffed animal or “lovey”. The lovey can come to school at the beginning of the week and remain in your child’s designated cubby where they can access it as needed. Bringing shares into school will be postponed until further notice. If there is something from home your child is interested in sharing, a photo of it may be emailed to your classroom teacher.

View this Items Needed List for more information on what to bring to school each week.


Lunches must come in containers that are easy for your child to open independently. There are no heat-up options available, so pack a cold-lunch and include an ice pack. If looking for a lunchbox, lunchboxes similar to the PlanetBox are easy for your child to open and close, and easy to clean.

We encourage healthy eating habits at the CLC. We will provide your child the option of milk or water to drink with lunch. Per guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, juice is not allowed in school. When packing your child’s lunch, we recommend focusing on having a main item, produce and another healthy option or two. While an occasional small treat is okay, desserts are for home (please, no pudding or Jello cups). We are a candy-free and peanut-free school.

We will provide a morning and afternoon snack, prepared on individual plates for each child by a staff member wearing gloves.


The College housekeeping team will be cleaning the CLC every evening as usual, which includes vacuuming, mopping, disinfecting the bathroom, and disinfecting counters and door handles. Additional daily cleaning precautions we are taking include:

  1. Disinfecting toilet seats and sink handles after every use.
  2. Disinfecting classroom materials (i.e. toys, markers, etc.) at the end of the day.
  3. Taking any materials that have been placed in a child’s mouth out of rotation for immediate disinfecting.
  4. Disinfecting tables before and after each meal.
  5. Limiting fabric in the classroom to individual-use items  – i.e. each child has their own stuffed animals.

Outdoor Learning

As a nature-based program, we have always prioritized outdoor time. We will be increasing the amount of time spent outside, and enhancing our outdoor play by “bringing the classroom outside” whenever possible. Dressing your child appropriately will aid in our ability to learn and play outside. See the Items Needed List for more information on what outdoor gear to bring to school.

Hand Washing

Hand washing will happen frequently at school. Children will need to wash their hands upon arrival, when interacting with sensory materials, after toileting, sneezing or coughing, coming in from outside and before and after meals. The handwashing method that we are required to follow is very specific, and we ask that you practice it at home to get your child used to it. It goes like this:

  1. Turn water on.
  2. Get soap.
  3. Scrub hands for 20 seconds (Singing the ABC’s or the Happy Birthday Song works too)
  4. Grab a paper towel to dry your hands
  5. Turn the faucet off with the paper towel. This last part is really tricky for little ones.

Please practice this with your child often by having them wash their hands before meals, after sneezing, coughing, or wiping their nose, and after coming in from outside.

Help Prepare Your Child

Your child may have been around a limited number of very familiar people recently. New social interactions are about to occur with other children and teachers. For children who have been in social settings before the pandemic, it will still be a huge change for them. To help transition your child into the school environment, we recommend preparing your child ahead of time.

Teachers will be in clear masks throughout the day. It would be good to let your child know ahead of time. Let them know that the teacher’s priority is to keep them safe. You can discuss how the job of a teacher has not changed, and the classroom expectations are the same.

Please Join Us…

We look forward to meeting with you virtually on August 28 at 5 p.m. via Zoom. We ask that all families attend whether you are new or returning. The first few minutes will be introductions, where your child will get to see their teacher and put a face to classmate’s names. Afterwards, the meeting will be information for families only. If this time conflicts with your schedule, please let us know so your teacher can make other arrangements with you. On August 28you will receive a welcome letter and curriculum packet from your child’s classroom teacher, along with the revised 2020-2021 Family Handbook. We will review these together during the Zoom meeting.

Please Submit by August 20…

This Medical Authorization Form and Family Questionnaire, along with your child’s most recent immunization records.

Please also have your child’s pediatrician complete the Health Assessment Form by August 20 available at: https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/SDE/School-Nursing/Forms/EC_HAR.pdf. If your child has a birthday coming up, you may have to wait until their annual physical to have it completed. If this is the case, please let us know.

Again, you may download the Items Needed List here.

You may find information on how to set up your Procare account here. All tuition payments must be made through Procare. 

We look forward to a curiosity-filled, wonder-driven, and inspiring school year!  

About the Program and Educational Philosophy

The Children’s Learning Center at Mitchell College has a curriculum nested in its environmentally rich surroundings. Based on principles that make children partners in the learning process, the curriculum is driven by each child’s unique curiosity.

Reggio Emilia Approach

At the Children’s Learning Center, children’s unique ideas, interests, and needs drive the learning process. Inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach, our program believes that children construct their own learning, express themselves, and make sense of their world through many “languages”. Our program provides children access to a wealth of open-ended materials and hands-on experiences to learn from. 

Learning from the Natural World

Children learn through exploration of the world around them. The natural and urban environment are an extension of our classrooms. Every day children spend multiple hours adventuring through Mitchell Woods, Mitchell Beach, the college campus and our local neighborhood.

Learning through Play

At the Children’s Learning Center, children are active participants in their learning. Through independent and collaborative play, children’s unique ideas and questions emerge, shaping the classroom investigations. Investigations lead to discoveries, which lead to more inquiry, and further exploration.

Laboratory School

In partnership with the Teaching & Learning and Human Services Cores, Mitchell College students are actively engaged in the Children’s Learning Center as researchers, interns, and assistant teachers. This partnership ensures that our program maintains an innovative approach that incorporates best practices in the fields of human development and early childhood education. To learn more about Mitchell College’s degree options, visit mitchell.edu/academics.

Hours & Typical Day (hours for fall reopen may vary due to state COVID-related requirements. See Fall Reopen above)

For the 2020/2021 school year, The Children’s Learning Center at Mitchell College will be open Monday through Friday from 7:00am until 6:00pm with:

  • Full Day hours from 8:00am until 4:00pm (before and after care included in tuition)
  • Half Day hours from 8:00am until 1:00pm (limited before and after care is $10 per hour per child)
  • Before Care from 7am-8am
  • After Care from 4pm-6pm

You may choose either M-F Full Day program or M-F Half Day program.

Typical Preschool Day

  • Outdoor Play
  • Morning Meeting
  • Free Play & Atelier
  • Snack
  • Outdoor Classroom & Enrichment
  • Afternoon Meeting
  • Lunch & Half Day Departure
  • Rest Time
  • Story & Snack
  • Outdoor Play

Typical Kindergarten Day

  • Self-Directed Learning
  • Morning Meeting
  • Tinker Time
  • Snack
  • Outdoor Investigation
  • Writers Workshop
  • Afternoon Reflection
  • Lunch & Half Day Departure
  • Yoga & Relaxation
  • Outdoor Adventures


2020/2021 School Year

OPENINGS: Preschool and Kindergarten Classes are currently full for 2020/2021, but we are accepting applications for our waitlist. To register for the waitlist, please complete and submit just the 2020/2021 Registration Form; no registration fee to register for the waitlist.

School Year: August 31, 2020 – June 18, 2021
*Note: Children turning 3 by January 1, 2021 may begin preschool on September 1, 2020.

2021 Summer Program: June 21, 2021-August 20, 2021


Registration fee (non-refundable): $50

Materials fee (yearly) : $40

Full Day Rate per week per child (includes before and after care): $240

Half Day Rate per week per child: $155

Additional fee per week for a child in diapers: $10

10% discount for more than one child; discount applied to the higher priced tuition

Other discounts & financial aid may be available


Download 2020/2021 Registration Form
Download 2020/2021 Health Assessment Form
Download 2020/2021 Financial Responsibility Form

Download 2020/2021 Financial Aid Application


Download 2020/2021 School Year Calendar
Download 2020/2021 Family Handbook 


Complete and submit all required forms with non-refundable $50 registration fee.

Check made payable to:
“Mitchell College” with “CLC” in the memo
Children’s Learning Center at Mitchell College
437 Pequot Avenue
New London, CT 06320


The Children’s Learning Center is located adjacent to the Mitchell College campus at 701 Montauk Avenue in New London, CT in the historic Chappell Cottage. Uniquely surrounded by the natural beauty and outdoor learning lab of Mitchell Woods, The Children’s Learning Center offers to its young learners access to a wetland pond, estuary and sandy beach on the Thames River at the mouth of Long Island Sound. Our setting naturally affords opportunity for discovery and exploration!

For tour information, please contact us at 860-701-5348 or clc@mitchell.edu.

Inclement Weather

The Children’s Learning Center will be closed or delayed for inclement weather when Mitchell College is closed or delayed.

Schedule a Tour!

Contact us today to learn more or schedule a tour!
Phone: 860-701-5348

Preschool & Kindergarten

The CLC enrolls children turning 3 by January 1, 2021. Although we are currently full for the 2020/2021 school year, we are accepting applications for our waitlist. To register for the waitlist, please complete and submit just the 2020/2021 Registration Form; no registration fee is necessary to register for the waitlist.

2020/2021 Fees

Registration fee (non-refundable): $50 
Materials fee (yearly) : $40
Full Day Rate per week per child (includes before and after care): $240
Half Day Rate per week per child: $155
Fee per week for a child in diapers: $10
10% discount for more than one child
Other discounts & financial aid may be available

Meet the Team

Our teachers have a strong commitment to provide inspirational invitations for exploring, discovering, and creating. They promise to be attentive, reflective, and joyful, but most importantly, to create the best possible learning environment for your child.

Martina Bottinelli, MA | Director

Martina Bottinelli holds a Master of Arts in Education from Goddard College, where she focused her studies on experiential and self-directed learning. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Hampshire College in 2010, and attended high school in Italy. Martina began her teaching career as a Pre-K teacher in Atlanta, Georgia, where she discovered her love of the Reggio Emilia approach. Martina returned to New England to pursue her Master’s degree, and founded a self-directed learning center for children of all ages right here in New London. Discovering the Children’s Learning Center at Mitchell College and returning to teaching in a Reggio-inspired program with a focus on nature-based learning was a dream come true. 

Martina was honored to be offered the opportunity to guide the CLC as we grow as a center for Reggio-inspired and nature-based learning and teaching. She is joined in this adventure by our experienced and knowledgeable Master Teacher, Ashley Willis, and Preschool Teacher, Kelsey Bazinet.  

Phone: 860-701-5348 

Ashley Willis, MA | Master Teacher

Ashley Willis earned her Master of Arts in Human Development and Education, with a focus in Early Childhood from the University of Colorado-Denver. In earning her masters, she participated in a teacher education program at Boulder Journey School. Ashley also earned a B.S. in Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Environmental Education at the University of Vermont. She began her teaching career at an outdoor education program in Vermont, working with children ages 3-15. Since then, she has been teaching in Reggio and play-based preschool and pre-k classrooms in several states as well as abroad. She believes in listening to children’s interests and ideas as well as turning natural moments into teaching experiences. Her love for nature is instilled into her daily teaching practices. Ashley loves spending time with her husband and dog, working and playing outdoors–her favorite place being the family’s property on Block Island and, of course, the beach!

Phone: 860-701-7720


Lillith Davies-Smith | Assistant Teacher

Lillith graduated from high school in the spring of 2020. As a homeschooler her experience was very eclectic and let her spend time outside, in cooperative classes, and learning on her own. She has always enjoyed the outdoors and spending time in nature. In 2019 she traveled to France on a cultural exchange program, Digging Into History, through the Connecticut State Library. She loves music, playing the violin, creating art, reading, and taking long hikes. In the future she plans to study early childhood development and psychology.

Phone: 860-701-5348

Danielle Lankerd | Preschool/Kindergarten Teacher

Hickory Classroom

Danielle is a recent graduate of Mitchell College as of Spring 2020. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education Studies. Before transferring to Mitchell College, Danielle attended Southern Connecticut State University where she majored in the studio arts with a concentration in painting. During a gap year from academic studies, she accepted a job as an assistant teacher at TVCCA in New London, realizing she can make a positive difference in children’s lives through Early Childhood Education as well as incorporate her passion and creativeness in the arts.

When Danielle transferred to Mitchell College in Fall 2019, she began working as a student worker as well as completing lab hours for various courses. It was during this time she had the privilege of having Master Teacher Ashley Willis as a mentor teacher and Director Martina as a professor, instilling the Reggio Emilia philosophy deep into the roots of her own growing practice as an educator.

The CLC’s support of Danielle’s artistic background and openness to creativity and individuality makes for a perfect match. The environment of the CLC is very comfortable to Danielle as she grew up locally, playing at the same beaches and in the same forests as the children do here at the CLC. Danielle believes that a vast amount of learning happens through a child’s environment and children have the right to an education that is supportive to their individual needs.

When Danielle is not teaching, or training as an amateur boxer she is most likely spending time with friends and family, including her puppy, Lola.

Phone: 860-701-5348

Kate Wells | Preschool/Kindergarten Teacher

Oak Classroom

Kate Wells has a passion for teaching and enjoys the company of young children.

She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Northeastern University. She has been teaching kindergarten and preschool children in both public & private schools for over 20 years.

Kate has a strong creative curriculum background and is excited to embrace the Reggio philosophy. She enjoys taking cues from the children and building curriculum and environments around their interests.

When Kate isn’t with her students, she enjoys spending time with her family. She has a husband, two sons and a sweet old golden retriever. She enjoys watching her sons play college football & lacrosse, walking her dog, boating, the beach and all the beautiful nature this area has to offer!

Phone: 860-701-5348

Julia Eager | Assistant Teacher

Julia is a visual artist, writer, gardener, hiker, biker, and all-around life enthusiast. She studied and tutored at Suffolk County Community College, obtaining her AAS in 2019, and has since been living in New London, fostering kittens, reading in parks, and climbing trees. She has always loved children, and believes in giving every child the chance to explore the beauty of the natural world. She is passionate about bringing curiosity, inquiry, and play into the classroom.

Phone: 860-701-5348

Katherine Turner | Preschool/Kindergarten Teacher

Birch Classroom

Katherine Turner is a creative and caring educator. Her experience working with children from infant to teenage and children on the autism spectrum has gifted her the patience and grace to guide young ones on their own exploratory learning paths. Katherine has worked on organic farms and volunteered at national parks and has a deep reverence for the natural way of things; implementing nature-based and sensory lessons comes intuitively. Children’s boundless imagination has always been the most inspiring thing to Katherine and she loves nothing more than to foster an environment that provides them with creative and imaginative freedom. Katherine is a mother to a bright two year old and loves poetry, swimming, and sewing.

Phone: 860-701-5348

“My passion is to provide young children with a nurturing, enriching, creative, and playful environment.” -Martina Bottinelli, Director

At the Children’s Learning Center, families, children and teachers partner in the process of learning.


By asking questions we discover the children’s ideas, hypotheses, and theories.

“I believe in listening to children’s interests and ideas as well as turning natural moments into teaching experiences.” -Ashley Willis, Master Teacher

A few words on fit.


"Fit” is the modern buzzword of the college search process. And frankly, rightly so. As you consider your college experience, we encourage you to look for a place that feels right. It’s also a good idea to make a list of the qualities and characteristics that make a college and you a winning combination.


If you are looking for a college that: 


  • Gets to know and understand each student as a uniquely talented individual

  • Identifies potential and encourages students in very intentional ways

  • Fosters growth in each student, giving them a foundation for life and career success

  • Is small enough to deliver on the promise of a personalized experience

  • Goes beyond “career services” and offers a progressive 4-year career development model, partnering with local businesses and nonprofits for professional experience

  • Promotes an inclusive culture that encourages students to experiment in new clubs and activities

  • Is nationally recognized for its academic support systems, from professional content tutors (not students) to proven comprehensive support for students with learning differences

  • Connects students to service opportunities that impact their world

  • Is in a location that offers access to New England’s natural places and some of America’s greatest cities




…Mitchell College delivers in a powerful way.

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