Our inside-out approach to caring for young children is part of what makes us unique – and one of the most critical ingredients missing in our early care and education system as it exists today. We have developed a model, The Spheres of Understanding, that integrates three interdependent developmental lines, each of which is critical to developing the whole child:

Values & Character Development

Values and character develop in an environment that models trust, empathy, and compassion as children live, internalize, demonstrate behavior, and ultimately embody these core values that are reflective of the culture.

  • Trust
  • Empathy
  • Compassion

Psychodynamic Development

 A psychodynamic approach to the understanding of human development and relationships promotes autonomy and resiliency in children and develops their ability to successfully regulate themselves in their environment and interactions with others.

  • Temperament
  • Attachment
  • Self Regulation
  • Autonomy
  • Identity
  • Resiliency

Early Literacy Development

Early literacy and language promotes the development of cognitive skills and improves comprehension levels, all of which are important for academic success. Establishing a strong foundation of brain architecture early on in childhood makes it easier to build more advanced cognitive, emotional, and social skills as the child grows.

  • Oral Language and Vocabulary
  • Listening Skills
  • Emergent Writing
  • Emergent Reading

The Spheres of Understanding support intentional teaching practices. We integrate each sphere into daily practice. Within each sphere, there are key elements of children's growth that are based on developmental theory, observational research, and current brain research. Our responsibility is to provide educational experiences that are driven by best practices.

Our approach is an ambitious conceptual understanding for teachers of early childhood, when the norm emphasizes product, not process or understanding the inner world of children. We must create a school that can heal and is emotionally responsive to the needs of children and families. Yet as ambitious as this may be, we believe it is the key to systemic family change. The integration of disciplines creates a model for early childhood education unmatched in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

UCCC uses the MO Accreditation-approved Creative Curriculum.


UCCC Curriculum 

The Center follows the Developmentally Appropriate Practices established by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

In addition, we believe that the curriculum has established standards that support the whole child. The UCCC program uses The Creative Curriculum, which guides teachers in creating quality learning environments and facilitating learning experiences to support positive outcomes for children. 

Teachers guide the children through the learning process by intentionally exposing them to experiences, both indoors and outdoors, that support their development in the following areas: literacy, language, math, science, social studies, and fine and large motor skills.

Each day, children engage in learning experiences that are a balance of teacher-directed and child-initiated activities through interaction with their peers and adults in the classroom. Individualized learning experiences are implemented daily to assist children to develop and gain skills that focus on individual needs as well as to build on their learning interests. Diversity is cultivated throughout the learning experience so that children learn to appreciate the differences of others, and includes children with extra support needs. Children may occasionally participate in field trips that enhance program themes for which parental permission will be obtained. 



  • Early learning and development is an integrated experience.
  • The expectation of children must be to succeed, regardless of their background.
  • Children are individuals who develop at different rates.
  • Children learn through exploration of their environment in child-initiated and teacher-facilitated activities.
  • Teachers, staff, and families must work collaboratively to ensure that children are provided optimal learning experiences.


  • Children will show the capacity to think about important people when they are out of sight.
  • Children will be able to identify and name emotions (positive and negative affects).
  • Children will find pleasure in relating to other children.
  • Children will anticipate and participate in routines, activities, and transitions most of the time.
  • Children will use pretend play, symbolic play, storytelling, drawing, painting, and clay modeling to process experiences and to express thoughts and feelings.

Adapted from Creating Schools That Heal by Lesley Koplow (2002).