Excitement is the official mood of the Clifton School child
care center’s new Claimont Campus on a Tuesday morning in
As the school’s staff happily greets students and their parents
in the mellow mid-morning sun, they look at each other with wide
eyes and clasped hands. The “adult furniture” has arrived.
As rolling chairs and office desks make their way to the building,
Clifton School Executive Director Dixie Bradley waves at the students
and stands on her tiptoes to see the new furniture, often glancing
around at her surroundings and smiling.
Since July 29, younger scholars—ranging in age from six weeks
to 5 years—have been spending their days at the newly opened
Clifton School. This marks the second location for the nonprofit
center, which first opened in 1988 on Clifton Road, for the children
of Emory, Children’s Healthcare and Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) employees.
Designing and building the single-level, villa-esque school took
almost three years, Bradley says. “It was a long, long process,
but they did a beautiful job,” she says.
With a 216-student capacity, the 27,000-square-foot building (which
houses 18 classrooms) is twice the size of the Clifton Road facility.
A new school with an identical floor plan (the outside will reflect
the architecture of the CDC) will open on Clifton Road this winter.
The increased size of both schools has created openings—a
rarity to those who know the popularity of the school—in both
locations. Open spaces are not avaliable for infants, but do remain
for toddlers and pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) students.
The style of the building mirrors Emory’s trademark Mediter-ranean-inspired
buildings and fits in with the Clifton School’s Italian-based
teaching philosophy. Finding its roots in teachings that originated
in the Italian town of Reggio Emilia, the school centers on a “triad”
premise: every child has a great learning potential; parents are
an integral part of the educational process; and children use artistic
and symbolic means to express their ideas. This philosophy is implemented
in a comfortable, homelike environment filled with learning possibilities.
“We look upon the child as strong and capable,” Bradley
says. “As teachers, educators and researchers, we’re
trying to learn where the children are. So we’re not directing
them, we’re not following them—we’re moving with
In addition to fostering strong relationships through the Reggio
concept, the Clifton School also strongly emphasizes small class
sizes and low teacher-to-student ratios.
Reflections of Reggio concepts are found everywhere in the school,
starting with the flood of sunlight streaming through the building’s
wide, clear windows. Gone are the cookie-cutter classrooms and fluorescent-hued
hallways of a typical elementary or preschool. Here, wide walkways
floored in light, honey-colored wood lead to piazzas with rocking
chairs, sturdy play equipment and, in some cases, aquariums filled
with darting goldfish.
Each piazza is circled by classrooms named for trees, many indigenous
to the Emory campus. There are the Primrose and Virginia Creeper
Rooms (infants), named to reflect their smaller inhabitants. Move
down the hallways to different piazzas, and the trees—like
the students—grow. For toddlers, there are the Dogwood and
Mulberry rooms; Pre-K students are in the Oak and Birch rooms. The
library, which will double as a room for summer campers, is the
While each room may be a separate world for its inhabitants, teachers
are connected by open hallways and common areas between classroom
spaces. Half-doors separate cooking prep areas, and fully windowed
“ateliers” (art classrooms) let students see what is
going on in the classroom beside them.
Outside, compact courtyards resembling a typical neighborhood backyard
are designed for each age group. Infants have flowered, meadow-like
retreats with benches, while the Pre-K students have a mini-track
and a playground.
As Bradley strolls the hallways with center director Carrie Vincent,
the two women frequently stop to greet the students, knowing each
child by name and, in some cases, by nicknames.
Back in the front rotunda, Bradley sits for a moment on a curved
bench that circles the perimeter of the room. She has been with
the Clifton School since it first opened 14 years ago and admits
she is amazed at its recent growth, among other things.
“It’s exciting to see institutions [like Emory, the
CDC, Children’s Healthcare] support the philosophy we are
implementing [and] who were willing to take that leap, that step
for their children,” Bradley says. “I think that in
itself is exciting.”
For more information on both campuses of (including enrollment and
employment), contact Bradley or Vincent at 404-636-4073 or www.cliftonchildcare.com.