Citizens of the World

by | Jan 2023

Boys playing at Edina’s Early Learning Center.

Photo: Edina Public Schools

The Edina Early Learning Center prepares toddlers for the future.

Designed to prepare young children for the future, Edina’s Early Learning Center (ELC) is committed to developing emotionally and socially competent toddlers, preschoolers and parents. The ELC is a part of the Edina Public School system—though it offers open enrollment—and features Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) programming and preschool classes.

“ECFE is what makes us different,” ELC coordinator Leah Byrd says. “We are very clear that we’re not childcare with a curriculum; we are a school … [and] we have a full curriculum and standardized assessments. Our teachers attend the same developmental programs as normal teachers, and we operate on school calendars.”

ECFE is a curriculum-based program and education model that actively includes parents in the education process. At traditional preschool and daycare programs, parents simply drop off their children (which ELC also offers), but with ECFE programming, parents attend classes with their children.

Byrd says parents are an integral part of the classroom, since they are truly a child’s first teacher. “Families are the other teachers in all of our classrooms,” she says. “They are our partners, and so we are teaching both kids and their families.”

At the ELC, classrooms are separated into grade-like groups, including ECFE programs for ages 0–12 months, ages 1–3, ages 3–5 and more, plus traditional preschool programs for older toddlers. Byrd also notes that the ELC follows an inclusive model, so classrooms include both general education students as well as students in special education, including those receiving speech support or those with a complex individual education plan.

The ELC’s mission is to prepare students for challenges and opportunities that await them; they’re prepared through schools’ six “future-ready competencies”—being a responsible, engaged citizen; an effective communicator and collaborator; a globally competent individual; an innovative thinker and creator; a motivated lifelong learner; and a well-rounded person.

The school also operates under three rules that help develop social and emotional frameworks in children and parents: 1. Be kind; 2. Be safe; and 3. Solve problems.

“I often say to teachers that our job is to put out good citizens of the world,” Byrd says. “Our children will thrive in early childhood education.”

Edina resident Christina Hansen Cohen enrolled her son, Carl, in the ELC after it was recommended to her. “We decided it would be good for our son to participate in a community school in hopes for more diversity … It was amazing,” Hansen Cohen says. “Our son presented initially as timid and somewhat insecure in light of the pandemic and instantly found his groove. His confidence grew quickly and he quickly made friends.”

She says her son would often come home singing the songs he learned in class and would ask on Saturdays if it was a school day. “[He would] be disappointed when it was not,” she says. “Our son loved ELC.”

Though Carl only attended ELC for a year before heading off to kindergarten, Hansen Cohen says, “I am so grateful for our brief time at ELC … it was an incredible experience.”

Registration for the 2023–2024 school year opens on January 24, though registration for the current school year is ongoing and open year-round. To learn more about the ELC’s programming and to register, go to

Edina Early Learning Center
5701 Normandale Road; 952.848.3908
Facebook: Edina Community Education
Instagram: @edinacommunityed


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