Our Mission

Educating the Whole Child

If the facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.
--Rachel Carson, Sense of Wonder



The George Mason University Child Development Center was established to support university faculty, staff, and students by providing an excellent on-site childcare and play-based preschool program.


Our Philosophy

The Mason Child Development Center (CDC) provides a positive and nurturing learning environment that encourages the overall development of each child while supporting each family’s culture, language, ethnicity, and structure. Our program’s curriculum, activities, and schedule grow out of the characteristics of each classroom’s diverse population, children’s needs and interests, as well as the teacher’s strengths and interests. Our emergent philosophy emphasizes “following the child” through observation and meaningful interactions whereby activities develop out of the interests of the children and scaffolding or “stacking” of skills, supports the ongoing development of each child. During early childhood, the support and development of the whole child is essential to success in both school and life. Our holistic approach, nurtures the healthy growth of children in each area of development through family partnerships, a nutritious whole food menu, and activities which provide children the opportunity to learn skills for self-regulation, and develop awareness of their own body and emotions.


Play-Based Program

Our play-based program emphasizes the principles of Emergent Curriculum and the Developmental-Interactionist Approach. Developed and studied at the Bank Street College of Education, the guiding principles of this educational framework are:

  1. Work with children is based on one’s deep knowledge of child development, and especially the interdependence of social-emotional, physical, and intellectual growth.
  2. Our understanding of children occurs through daily observation and recording achieved through teacher-child interactions, reflection of children’s work, and conversation with family members as well as colleagues who have also worked with them.
  3. A well-prepared physical environment is created for children’s active participation in their own learning
  4. The social-emotional needs of children are supported with respect and kindness. While the overall program emphasizes a sense of community, it values each individual as a unique part of that community


Social-Emotional Learning

Happiness and well-being are actually best regarded as skills, according to neuroscientist Richard Davidson. Educators and advocates of young children have a responsibility to help children develop skills to pay attention, identify and understand their emotions, and self-regulate their behavior during social interactions. Through games, activities, yoga, group reflections, and nature-based learning we support children’s well-being from the inside-out while teaching them how to reach their fullest potential as compassionate, and self-aware human beings.


Healthy Nutrition

Through our partnership with Sodexo, Mason’s food provider, we offer a menu that emphasizes whole food nutrition and locally-sourced produce (when available). Our menu is free of processed sugar, soy, and canned foods to ensure we provide meals that effectively nourish young children. Breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack are served daily. The Mason CDC is a nut-free environment, and we implement systems during meals to ensure the safety of children with food allergies. View Menu >>


CDC Garden and Sustainability

The CDC Garden program allows us to demonstrate for children first-hand, the origins of nutritious food. With the support of CDC families, staff, and members of the greater Mason community, we work together with children to nurture our garden and harvest its rewards. Our work together builds community, brings children and families closer to nature, and develops each individual’s potential as a steward of our earth. The CDC is proud to take part in Mason’s sustainability mission through gardening, composting, and rain-water recycling.


Mason Partnerships

Partnerships formed with constituents across campus enhance our program and add value to our sense of community. Countless departments support our efforts to share unique experiences, whether it be in the art studio, robotics lab, HR, CEHD, Mason Shuttle, or the Department of Sustainability to name just a few, which enhance our program with diverse expertise and learning spaces. CDC children experience the beauty and spirit of Mason’s campus throughout the year during class walks around campus. WE ARE MASON!